The United Methodist Church’s high-court is refusing to reconsider an earlier ruling that allowed a Virginia minister to deny a man church membership because he is gay.

According to the Associated Press, the 5 to 4 ruling was handed down yesterday by the Judicial Council, saying there was no basis to revisit the case.

“We believe that reopening this matter, especially where no grounds have been demonstrated to do so, will further polarize the various parts of the church,” the majority wrote, according to the AP.

The council reinstated the Reverend Edward Johnson in October after Virginia church leaders put him on involuntary leave as senior pastor of South Hill United Methodist Church.

Leaders in Virginia argued that Mr Johnson’s actions violated the denomination’s pledge of openness to anyone seeking Christ. But the church court has since ruled that pastors reserve the right to determine who joins their congregation.

Council members in dissent from the majority called the ruling “legally flawed” and “imprudent,” according to the AP. Several members of church groups nationwide made public their disapproval.

“Determining who is eligible for life in the church is not the vocation of the pastor,” they wrote. “It is the Holy Spirit who makes us members of the church.”

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