The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has discouraged the ordination of homosexuals but did not formally bar them from the ministry.
The church's General Assembly, meeting in St. Louis, adopted a task force report that reaffirmed the long-cherished right of regions of the church to make their own decisions on fitness of candidates for ordination.
At the same time, the report said that the task force found no evidence to indicate that homosexuals should be ordained.
It was the first time that the Assembly, the legislative body of the denomination, had ever ruled on the issue of ordination of homosexuals, although two years ago the body supported civil liberties for them.
The Disciples action is in keeping with the trend of other Protestant denominations in recent years to discourage the ordination of practicing homosexuals to the ministry.
In other actions, the 4,500 voting delegates set in motion a study process that could lead to a merger with the United Church of Christ, possibly within the next decade.
The disciples approved their part of an agreement, which the UCC had endorsed earlier this year, to launch a detailed study process over the next six years to determine whether such a merger is workable.
The agreement calls for a detailed study at all levels of the church, between now and 1985, on issues of theology as well as practices of the two churches in such matters as baptism, the ministry and church government.