This article was originally published by The Mennonite

All are welcome at the Table of Christ

The Table of Christ is not of the church but of Christ.

It is made ready for all those who love God and want to love God more. The Table of Christ, welcomes all without exception:

  • those who have been to the table often,
  • those who have not been there for a long time
  • those who have tried to follow Christ and those who have failed.

All who are invited to come to the table are invited by Jesus our Lord, regardless of age, gender, race, sexual orientation or marital status. If we come to the Table of Christ who invites all, then should not the church consider inviting all as well?

  • all who have sinned and seek forgiveness and healing?
  • all wish to give thanks to the Lord for His work of redemption on their behalf?

If we as the body of Christ could, without exception, invite all to the Table of Christ unconditionally would this not be following the example of Christ? Perhaps the answer to this question is more important than agreeing on the issues of “same sex marriage,” etc.

Some of our Mennonite congregations have declared themselves as “welcoming congregations,” meaning especially around the issue of homosexuality. Does this imply that all others are “unwelcoming congregations” (at least in relation to the matter of homosexual persons)? I don’t think so.

As we respect and support congregational autonomy in decision making, should not this discernment happen at the congregational level rather than the conference or denominational level?

Is not this question of who is welcome at the table of Lord more important than basing our welcome on our understanding of what the Bible teaches in relation to this issue?

I doubt that as a Mennonite Church we will be able to agree on what the Bible teaches about homosexuality.

Even though we have many different views about homosexuality or any other issue, like who can be called to leadership positions (perhaps most of our churches would not turn away those with whom they do not agree in relation to the issue of homosexuality), we can still all come together to the Table of the Lord if we welcomed all—no exceptions—as Christ did.

Even though we may see others as “sinning” by living a homosexual lifestyle, we can still commune together as those who also need forgiveness and grace. Each local congregation, after considering the counsel of the conference and denomination, should be respected and not judged for their discernment even if other congregations discern differently.

My own family—both my children and siblings—have different views in relation to homosexuality yet we have committed ourselves to continue to share our love with each other and to not break relationships. I don’t ask them to agree with my point of view nor to change theirs. They in turn do not try to change where I am at on this issue or any or any others. I am so grateful for the unconditional love we share with and for each other.

A friend of many years who has struggled and has not been stable in his relationship to the Lord and to the church recently returned and gave witness to a deep sense of regret and sorrow for his unstable and wandering ways. He committed himself to not waste any more of his life by his sinful behavior and instability. (His issues did not include his views or practice of homosexuality).

Following our morning celebration of the Lord’s Supper in a circle of some 30 persons including several children, I passed the peace of Christ to my friend and him to me.

My friend said: “Dave, I can’t tell you how much I needed this participation in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.”

For my friend, like for me, it was a time of confession and forgiveness, as well as healing and a time to give thanks for what Christ has done for us by His life and death. As my friend and I gave each other a big hug, I said to him, “I too am a repenting sinner in need of grace, and grateful for the work of Christ on my behalf and I also needed and benefitted from this celebration of the Lord’s Table this morning!

Thanks be to our Lord Jesus Christ.

David Helmuth is a retired missionary, pastor and church leader. He lives in Goshen, Ind., and is married to Naomi Ketcham Helmuth. He was born and raised in Louisville, Ohio.


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