The Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church says it will continue to enforce church rules against clergy officiating at same-sex unions.

The bishops announced their plan Thursday in response to petitions signed by more than a thousand clergy pledging to defy the ban and officiate at same-gender ceremonies.

The United Methodist Book of Discipline considers gay relationships "incompatible with Christian teaching." Clergy who officiate at the ceremonies can receive a range of punishments, including suspension or defrocking.

The United Methodist Church has 7.8 million members in the United States. Several other mainline Protestant denominations have been moving toward full acceptance of gay marriage, including The Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.