by Chris Neufeld-Erdman
Cascade Books, Eugene, Ore. 118 pages
REVIEWED BY BILL CRAWFORD
This book is a faithful inquiry into a subject that has been controversial and a source of division in the life of the church. In “A Table for All,” Chris Neufeld-Erdman addresses: homosexuality; the nature of the gospel; the authority of Scripture; the pastoral needs of LGBT persons; and the related missional issues facing the church. “A Table for All” is a concise compendium for discernment and the practice of ministry. Highly useful and richly resourceful, it is a consummate guide for our faith communities.
Neufeld-Erdman — pastor, theologian, evangelist — takes the reader through the journey of his congregation’s study of the Bible and homosexuality. Impressively designed by a judge, psychotherapist, church historian and theologian, it is a balanced study experience. Specifically intending to avoid polarization among participants, the study lays out the issues for full exploration without promoting one view over the other. The commitment of the pastor and congregation to engage in this faithful study is remarkable. The author notes that some members left the church because they couldn’t be a part of conversations about what was clearly wrong to them. Across the course of the experience, the pastor himself notes that he changed his mind about the issues, but many in the congregation did not and yet “we found ways of sitting at the table together.” With his congregation’s experience of study and reflection as a prime feature of the book, he beseeches the reader to engage “so if you disagree with my position and continue to do so after reading this book, you at least will better understand what you believe and why.” His position is based in the gospel of Jesus Christ that includes and welcomes all into the life of the church and, with grace, to “a table for all.”
The care and organization of the book makes it accessible and profoundly practicable. Following an impassioned forward and perspective by Gary Demarest and a terse testimonial-preface by Colleen Townsend Evans, Neufeld-Erdman proceeds with the discourse for discernment. He does so with aplomb and dispatch. Across six substantial chapters, this book presents the issues and the inquiry along with historical perspective and pastoral implications. The author is deliberate and devoted in all this. Not only does the sequence of chapters present the points of conversation with keen clarity, but within those chapters the individual paragraphs are denoted numerically — albeit in a chapter and verse mode — thus making this book all the more useful. Each of the chapters presents sound nuggets of scholarship and pedagogical steps in this path of discernment.
“A Table for All” invites the discussion and reflection like no other guide or study-series I have encountered in this area — and there have been many across recent decades. It brings thoughtful care and critical attention to Jesus’ teaching; biblical authority and interpretation; the historical convictions; pastoral and missional implications; and change in the church. Neufeld-Erdman sets the table with this book, so that all might be fully included.
BILL CRAWFORD is the senior pastor of Larchmont Avenue Presbyterian Church in Larchmont, New York.