The United Methodist Church has moved further away from embracing LGBTQ people.
Delegates from the country's second-largest Protestant denomination voted Tuesday in a conference against easing its ban on LGBTQ clergy members and same-sex marriages, reports the Associated Press.
A 449-374 vote defeated a proposal that would have allowed regional and local congregations to enact their own policies regarding these issues. Two separate LGBTQ-affirming efforts were also rejected Monday.
Instead, delegates voted to advance a so-called Traditional Plan, which would tighten the church's ban on LGBTQ clergy and encourage allies to leave the denomination. The Traditional Plan was favored by many of the delegates from Africa — where the church also has a large presence.
"The church in Africa would cease to exist" if it became more LGBTQ-inclusive, said Rev. Jerry Kulah of Liberia. "We can’t do anything but to support the Traditional Plan — it is the biblical plan."
The move may cause defections and a schism in the denomination to create two groups: one LGBTQ-affirming, the other not. Many in attendance at the conference were moved to tears by the vote.
Rebecca Wilson, a former Methodist, told the AP she was feeling "devastation" over the news. "As someone who left because I’m gay, I’m waiting for the church I love to stop bringing more hate," she said.