A Presbyterian Church (USA) commission has voted 15-5 to allow non-geographic presbyteries. The move, which would allow churches to choose their own groupings for "missional purposes," follows defections over the denomination's vote to ordain noncelibate gays and lesbians. The recommendation needs approval at the General Assembly this June.

"Geographical proximity allows for more spiritual, emotional, pastoral support. When you cannot coexist spiritually with another church in the same denomination, functionally you probably have two denominations and it might be better simply to separate."

Carl Trueman, professor, Westminster Theological Seminary

"If a theological conviction runs deep enough, why wouldn't you walk away from a denomination that disagrees? If it's just preference, then you're thinking like a person with options: 'I'll go to the church that reflects me rather than the Bible.' That seems more consumeristic than gospel-driven."

Greg Peters, professor, Biola University

"I respect those whose conscience calls for separation in order that denominations can survive. But I wonder what it does to our souls when we increasingly use our rights and freedoms to disassociate. According to Jesus in John 17, the disunity of the body dilutes our witness."

Bob Thompson, past chair, Association for Church Renewal

"Ideally, churches of one denomination would share so much theological commonality that it would be quite natural for them to group themselves geographically. With the theological diversity and tension in many denominations today, that's just no longer possible."

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

"Of all the ways of organizing the church, geographical proximity is not the best. It worked fine when we were all on the same page in regard to fundamental beliefs. That homogeneity seems to be passing. Affinity groupings may be the wave of the future."

Will Willimon, bishop, North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church

"As theological diversity broadens among many denominations, theological affinity trumps geographic proximity as a catalyst for vision and ministry. Structures need to conform to this reality. Geographical organization belongs to a bygone era. We need to let it go."

Paul Detterman, executive director, Presbyterians for Renewal


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