One of the Evangelical Lutheran Church's regional synods voted on Saturday to uphold the denomination's policy banning non-celibate gay and lesbian clergy.
The South Dakota Synod voted 362-233 during its annual assembly against changing the ELCA's current ordination policy and social statements on sexuality.
The vote is a recommendation to the denomination's highest governing body which will consider proposals on homosexuality at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in August.
Earlier this year, the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality released a long-awaited report acknowledging that there is neither a consensus nor an emerging one in the denomination on homosexuality while at the same time recommending that individual congregations be allowed to choose whether to allow gays and lesbians in committed relationships to be ordained.
Currently, the ELCA allows the ordination of gays and lesbians if they remain celibate.
The task force agreed that the denomination cannot responsibly consider any changes to its policies unless it is able and willing in some way to recognize lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships but it recommended that the ELCA commit itself to finding ways to recognize such relationships.
Voting members of the South Dakota Synod debated over the task force's recommendations on Saturday. Those supporting the changes argued that adopting them would be a way of treating others with love while members against the changes argued that Scripture has for over 2,000 years been against non-celibate same-sex relationships, as reported by Keloland Television.
Overall, the synod stood against liberalizing their sexuality statements and ministry policies.
Since the release of the task force's documents on sexuality, Lutheran pastors, theologians and teachers have come out either in support of or in opposition to the recommended changes.
A majority of the faculty at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago released a statement backing the documents.
"The crucial question before the church is not whether the current recommendation on ministry policies challenges long-standing scriptural interpretations and ecclesiastical practices," the statement said, according to the ELCA News Service. "It obviously does."
"Rather, the ultimate question is whether the recommendation on ministry policies proclaims Christ … and his message of grace more faithfully than older interpretations and practices," it said. "We, the faculty of LSTC, are convinced that it does and, therefore, support the approval of the recommendation."
A conservative group of scholars and church leaders say otherwise.
In an open letter addressed to voting members of the upcoming churchwide assembly, the conservative group cautioned against changing the teaching of the church on sexuality especially "without clear biblical and theological support."