The United Methodist Church has narrowly voted down an amendment to the denomination's Book of Discipline that would have said God is not "male or female."
Delegates from the UMC's annual conferences voted on whether to ratify five proposed amendments that were approved by the 2016 General Conference.
Proposed Constitutional Amendment I was centered on gender equality and included the statement that "it is contrary to Scripture and to logic to say that God is male or female, as maleness and femaleness are characteristics of human bodies and cultures, not characteristics of the divine."
According to official results that were released Monday, Amendment I received 66.5 percent of the vote, less than a half percentage point shy of the minimum 66.7 percent majority. The necessary supermajority was defeated by about 100 votes.
In a statement released Monday, the UMC Council of Bishops expressed disappoint at the failure of Amendment I and also Proposed Constitutional Amendment II, which added the term "gender" to a litany of identities that the Church will not discriminate against.
"While we are not completely clear concerning the motivation that caused them to miss the two-thirds required majority by slim margins, we want to be clear that we are unequivocal in our commitment to the equality of women and their full inclusion in our Church," the bishops said.
"We recommit ourselves as individual bishops, and the Council of Bishops, to leading the church toward the goal which Christ has given us to fully include both men and women in the life and ministry of Christ's church."
Amendment I sought to add a new paragraph to the Book of Discipline, which would have addressed gender justice.
"As the Holy Scripture reveals, both men and women are made in the image of God and, therefore, men and women are of equal value in the eyes of God," read Amendment I.
"The United Methodist Church acknowledges the long history of discrimination against women and girls. The United Methodist Church shall confront and seek to eliminate discrimination against women and girls, whether in organizations or in individuals, in every facet of its life and in society at large."
Many in the UMC expressed concern over how Amendment I included the claim that "it is contrary to Scripture and to logic to say that God is male or female."
"Does this mean Jesus is not male? Or does it mean that Jesus, who is obviously male, is not divine? Either position is contrary to our doctrinal standards," noted Good News magazine in 2017.
"While this statement is well-intentioned, and we support its strong emphasis on the equality of women, we are concerned with its theological fuzziness being written into our Constitution. The church's advocacy for women's equality is well-stated elsewhere in the Book of Discipline."