LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) _ United Methodists Monday night authorized churchwide study of homosexuality, but reaffirmed the church's condemnation of practicing that lifestyle.

The actions came after more than three hours of debate at the 9-million- member denomination's governing General Conference, sometimes ruffled by foot-stamping protests in the galleries.

Delegates overwhelmingly approved study of a lengthy homosexuality report ''across the whole church'' They also upheld the church stand that that homosexual practice is ''incompatible with Christian faith.''

It was the third major Protestant body in the last year to uphold their positions against homosexual activity, but continuing study about it.

''We lost,'' said the Tex Sample, a Kansas City theologian, who had backed a failed move for the church simply to state it lacked a ''common mind'' on whether homosexual practice was acceptable in Christian faith.

''It will take another 10, 20 or 25 years to change our position,'' he told a news conference. But he said the churchwide study would ''be helpful to people who have deep fears.''

The Rev. David Seamands, a Wilmore, Ky., seminary professor said media influences tend to portray homosexual activity acceptable and this may require the church to become ''more vocal'' in resisting it.

''We may say two ideologies in real conflict.''

The church voted 710 to 238, a 75 percent majority, to maintain its rejection of homosexual practice.

But it also approved a section upholding homosexual civil rights, including when they have partnerships sharing resources and responsibilities, but deleted a phrase referring to same-sex relationships.

An opponent, Terrell Sessums, a Tampa, Fla., lawyer, said that nevertheless the section still aimed at giving legal protection to ''homosexual marriages.''

The Rev. Philip Wogaman, a Washington, D.C. seminary professor, pleaded for replacing the specific condemnation with a non-judging stance.

This ''would be a giant step beyond the polarization that has plagued American Protestantism,'' he said. But his effort lost out.

Delegates strongly overrode an attempt to shelve the 40,000-word study report extensively exploring various aspects of the issue, including arguments for modifying the church's ban on homosexual activity.

A homosexual caucus staged a rumbling and persistent demonstration when their representatives were refused the floor to speak. A dozen of them unfurled a huge black-and-white banner in front of the podium, saying:

''The Stones Will Cry Out.'' The words referred to Jesus' saying that would be the reaction if his message were silenced. Demonstrators in the galleries stomped their feet, creating a low growl like distant thunder.

The presiding officer, Bishop David Lawson of Sun Prairie, Wis., several times appealed for a halt to the commotion and for the demonstrators to leave with their banner, but to no avail.

''If you would refrain from stomping and remove your sign, it would be very helpful,'' he said. But that only brought more low rumbling from the stands.

The session finally was recessed, and representatives of the 9-million- member denomination later went into a different more sedate subject of covenants with overseas churches.

Sharp skirminging marked both the afternoon and latter night sessions spent on homosexuality, opponents seeking to block dissemination of the report for churchwide study.

James W. Holsinger Jr., chief medical officer for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, and a strong critic of the homosexual study, wanted it only referred to the church publishing house.

That would have scuttled the phrase directing it be made available for consideration throughout the churches regional units and 37,250 local churches.

The Rev. Maxie Dunnam of Memphis, Tenn., said most Methodists don't want ''any implication'' of endorsing a report that ''rejects Scripture and 2,000 years of church tradition.''

But the Rev. Richard Hamilton of Indianapolis said the tactic would ''bury'' the report despite the fact that providing it for churchwide use was ''entirely central to the whole church'' in making the study.

The Rev. Charlene Kammerer of Tallahassee, Fla., who had chaired a legislative committee on the issue, also said Holsinger's effort would ''violate the intent of the committee.''

Delegates voted 773 to 183 to distribute the report.

That three-year study involved consultations with religious and scientific experts in various fields and hearings across the country. A study group majority had recommended dropping the condemnation of homosexual relations. teaching.''

The conference also voted to move the church's General Board of Global Ministries out of New York to a yet unchosen site. The board is the church's largest agency, employing about 500 and with a budget of $l24 million annually.

The lengthy homosexuality report says ''the church clearly is on trial'' on the issue as well as society at large.

Detailing hostility and violence toward homosexuals, the report says: ''As a voice, the church must be an advocate for the human rights of people suffering from repression.''

The study group notes it could not reach a consensus on some points, with some members believing homosexual practice is an ''expression of sin'' while most members believe ''it is not necessarily an expression of sin.''