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The highest court in the United Methodist Church will review its 2005 ruling that allowed a clergyman to bar a noncelibate gay man from joining a congregation.

The Judicial Council will take up the issue when it convenes Wednesday, Oct. 27, through, Saturday, Oct. 30, in New Orleans, according to United Methodist News Service.

The ruling five years ago came in the case of the Rev. Ed Johnson, who was senior pastor at South Hill United Methodist Church in Virginia. He had refused to allow a gay man, who said he was not celibate, to become a member of the congregation. Like many other Christian groups, Methodists are divided over how to interpret what the Bible says about same-sex relationships.

At the time, the Judicial Council effectively ruled for Johnson. The court said a pastor in charge of a local church has the authority to decide whether a layman is ready for membership.

Three other regional church districts — Northern Illinois, Minnesota and Arkansas Annual Conferences — are now asking the high court to reconsider. The Judicial Council includes some newly elected members who were not on the court when the 2005 ruling was made.

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