Delegates to the General Conference of the United Methodist Church have voted 61% to 39% to keep the denomination’s doctrine that being gay is “incompatible with Christian teaching.”
The vote came Thursday at the conference in Tampa, Fla. By a similar margin, delegates also voted down a compromise saying that Methodists could acknowledge their differing opinions on homosexuality, The New York Times reports.
LGBT rights supporters responded with an impromptu protest, singing and interrupting the meeting. The conference was briefly shut down.
Gay issues have come up many times in the General Conference, held every four years. The Methodist Church, the largest mainline Protestant denomination in the U.S., with nearly 8 million members, stands out among its brethren for refusing to liberalize its stand on homosexuality. The Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have all done so in the past few years, and the United Church of Christ has long been a gay-accepting denomination.
Much of the Methodist Church’s recent growth, however, has come in African and Asian nations where homosexuality is condemned. The church has 4.4 million non-U.S. members, and about 40% of the delegates to this year’s conference were from overseas, the Times notes. At the conference, the paper reports, “a delegate from Africa said in Swahili that saying that a homosexual person was created by God was like saying ‘that God created me to live with animals.’ The translator apologized while rendering the remarks into English.”
The executive director of the Reconciling Ministries Network, which lobbies for LGBT equality within the church, responded strongly. “I’m tired of being compared to beasts in our church,” the Reverend Troy Plummer told a Times reporter. “Even if our world understandings differ, it’s just horrendous. That our perspectives differ is the truth, and we just voted 61 to 39 percent that we can’t tell that truth.”