DENVER – Despite evolving secular laws in several U.S. states, the high court of the United Methodist Church has ruled clergy may not perform same-sex marriages or consecrate gay civil unions. Those who violate the ban risk losing their ministerial credentials.

The UMC’s General Conference, the denomination’s legislative body, last year voted to retain the prohibition on same-sex unions, even though the ban placed some ministers at odds with local law and their own consciences.

Growing unrest within the church over diverging opinions about same-sex marriages precipitated resolutions from two regional Methodist groups in support of clergy who wished to break with church doctrine over the matter. The California-Nevada Annual Conference supported retired ministers who agreed to perform the ceremonies. The California-Pacific Conference recognized “the pastoral need and prophetic authority of our clergy and congregations to offer the ministry of marriage ceremonies for same-gender couples.”

The matter was settled Monday in “church court” with the Judicial Council’s ruling in Denver.