A United Methodist Church conference in Florida has determined gay relationships are ‘incompatible with Christian teaching’.

Delegates at the US conference voted 61 to 39 percent against changing doctrine to accept gay relationships, a position it will hold until its next conference in 2016, the Independent reports.

The paper also reported that gay equality advocates had protested at the meeting by singing and wearing rainbow stoles, with the vote leaving some in tears.

With growing influence in Africa and Asia and a shrinking presence in the US an African delegate reportedly compared gay relationships to bestiality through a translator. According to the New York Times, the translator apologised while relaying the message.

1,000 delegates from around the world had gathered in Tampa, Florida for the conference.

In 1972, a phrase to the effect that homosexuality was “incompatible” with Christianity was added to the official compendium of the denomination’s doctrines, called the Book of Discipline. That phrase will remain for at least another four years.

The Rev. Troy Plummer of the equality-advocating Reconciling Ministries Network, said: “I’m tired of being compared to beasts in our church. Even if our world understandings differ, it’s just horrendous. That our perspectives differ is the truth, and we just voted 61 to 39 percent that we can’t tell that truth.”