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Methodists won’t budge on same-sex relationships

TAMPA - The United Methodist Church has decided to keep doctrinal language that calls same-sex relationships “incompatible with Christian teaching.’’

Methodists took the vote Thursday in their national legislative meeting in Tampa. Delegates voted by roughly 60 percent to 40 percent to reject proposals that would have softened the language on homosexuality in their Book of Discipline.

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Gay advocates protested by singing hymns that briefly shut down the assembly.

The denomination has been debating the issue for four decades, and Thursday’s vote indicated little change in the deadlock.

United Methodist Church, which has nearly 8 million US members, is the nation’s largest mainline Protestant denomination. The church’s membership inside the United States is shrinking, but it is growing in conservative countries abroad.

In debate Thursday, one delegate from Africa compared homosexuality to bestiality.

The Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have voted in recent years to end their bans on openly gay clergy members. But in the United Methodist Church, theological conservatives have blocked the change.

The Methodist meeting, called General Conference, is held every four years.

In Wednesday’s session, the church voted against two proposals to divest from companies that provide equipment used by Israel to enforce its control in the occupied territories.

The divestiture vote followed months of intense lobbying by US Jews, Israelis, and Palestinian Christians.

After impassioned debate and several votes, the delegates overwhelmingly passed a more neutral resolution calling for “positive’’ investment to encourage economic development “in Palestine.’’

However, the Methodists also passed a strongly worded resolution denouncing the Israeli occupation and the settlements, and called for “all nations to prohibit the import of products made by companies in Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.’’

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