A Book Review by Tricia Dykers Koenig
From Presbyterian pastor Chris Neufeld-Erdman, published by Cascade Books – A Table for All: How I Came to Understand the Gospel Means Full Inclusion of Gays and Lesbians.
Written by a Christian leader with a passion for evangelism who also happens to be the father of two gay sons, A Table for All explores Scripture and church history and how the authorities to which Christians turn to guide our lives have informed his own journey (and that of his congregation) in issues surrounding sexual orientation and marriage – taking seriously the individuals and families affected by the church’s deliberations. Neufeld-Erdman emphasizes what he calls “the twin pillars of evangelical faith,” “the outworking of Christ’s Greatest Commandment,’ and the New Testament’s vision of the ‘new creation.’”
Among the questions he asks, from the perspective of one who yearns to share Christ with the world:
We believe the gospel of Jesus Christ is good news for all and that we must put no obstacle in anyone’s way that would prevent them from receiving an unmistakable and unqualified invitation to embrace the love of God in Christ (2 Cor 6:1–10). If young Americans were an unreached tribe, one we were seriously failing to reach, wouldn’t we reevaluate our mission strategy? Wouldn’t we listen to this tribe’s people, exploring their way of life, looking for ways the gospel is calling us to change just as much as it’s calling them to change? Wouldn’t we also expose the unnecessary roadblocks between them and the fullness of life they seek but cannot find elsewhere? And wouldn’t we ask, as any missiologist worth his or her salt would ask, what can we learn about the gospel from this tribe?
Says the author:
I tell people on both sides of the aisle that they need to understand what they believe as a Christian and why they believe it… What I try to do in the book is to explore how and why I changed my mind. In the book, my primary goal is not to get people to agree with me, though that would be nice, I suppose. Instead, I’m trying to urge the reader to take their own journey, to formulate their own views with me or against me.
This brief volume, which includes a Guide for Reflection and Conversation, demonstrates serious grappling with the issues while remaining accessible to readers without theological training. The book will be a useful addition to the church’s ongoing discernment about ministry with persons who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer; plan to buy it to help you formulate or express your own views, and to give to family and friends who are on their own journeys of understanding.
The Rev. Dr. Chris Neufeld-Erdman has been Pastor of University Presbyterian Church in Fresno, CA, since 1999, and was recently called as Pastor of Davis (CA) Community Church. He was a commissioner to the 221st General Assembly (2014).