Episcopal clergy and lay delegates Tuesday rejected a demand from fellow Anglicans that they temporarily stop electing gay bishops, leaving little chance the proposal could be revived at a national church meeting.

Anglican leaders, angered by the 2003 consecration of an openly gay Episcopal bishop, had asked the Episcopalians pass a moratorium — at least for now — on homosexuals leading dioceses.

But in a complex balloting system, a majority of the Episcopal House of Deputies voted against the measure, which church leaders had seen as critical to keeping the embattled Anglican Communion together.

The critical debate in the Episcopal Church came on a day when another American Protestant denomination, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), coincidentally planned to decide on whether to allow leeway on the ordination of gay clergy and lay elders and deacons.

Mainline Protestant groups, including the Methodists and the largest U.S. Lutheran branch, have been struggling for decades over the traditional Christian prohibition on gay sex as lesbians and gays push for full inclusion in their churches. The issue has frequently dominated debate at national Protestant assemblies.

The Episcopal General Convention ends Wednesday, and the House of Bishops could still try to resurrect the ban on gay bishops. But such a measure would still need the approval of the very same deputies who have now rejected it.