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The United Methodist Church held to its traditional rules on homosexuality Wednesday (April 30), refusing to support or celebrate same-sex unions and maintaining language that calls homosexual activity "incompatible with Christian teaching."

While many Methodists gathered here acknowledged sharp disagreement within their church on sexuality and biblical interpretation, delegates voted down efforts that would reflect that division in church rules or social policies.

A measure to remove the "incompatible" phrase and replace it with a mandate to "refrain from judgment regarding homosexual persons and practices as the Spirit leads us to new insight" was defeated 517 to 416.

Nearly 1,000 delegates here at the quadrennial General Conference spent almost all day debating Methodist policies on homosexuality, continuing a sometimes contentious discussion the church has held for almost 40 years.

Many Methodists rose to speak in favor of a clear continuation of traditional teachings, especially for the purpose of evangelizing to a world that they said is beset by moral confusion.

"Friends, this is serious business," said the Rev. H. Eddie Fox, director of evangelism for the World Methodist Council. "It is an urgent matter for our church. It matters what we believe and what we practice and we do not meet here in isolation."

Indeed, several delegates warned that actions taken here directly affect Methodists in Africa and Asia, many of whom are conservative and whose churches are experiencing explosive growth. About 30 percent of the 11.5 million-member church now lives outside the U.S.

The resolution calling for the church to refrain from judgment until a wider consensus is reached offered more than an opportunity to recognize differences of ...

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