BOOK | THEOLOGY OF THE OPEN TABLE | EOJIN LEE
The Eucharist is one of the most significant sacraments in Christianity. But the question of who is welcome to receive the Body of Christ has generated much debate amongst theologians and biblical scholars over the centuries.
While some churches such as the Uniting Church practice an ‘open-table’ policy, others, like the Presbyterian Church of Korea (PCK), retain a ‘closed-table’ model where only baptised members over the age of 15 can receive communion.
In Theology of the Open Table, Eojin Lee advocates for an open table approach to the Holy Communion. He traces the history of Eucharistic practices from the early Christian communities and challenges the traditional belief that the Eucharist originated from the Last Supper. Drawing from a range of historical and biblical sources, Lee calls on the Church to instead focus on the Eucharistic significance of other meals Jesus shared during his ministry. Jesus dined with sinners, tax collectors and prostitutes; everyone had a seat at the table of God.
This book is accessible to people unfamiliar with the open table debate. Lee introduces readers to the biblical basis for the Eucharist without resorting to excessive theological jargon.
The cross-cultural approach adopted by Lee presents an opportunity for readers to glimpse the Eucharistic practices of other churches. Lee’s chapter on the development of the Eucharist in the Presbyterian Church of Korea may be particularly insightful for UCA readers.
He explores the historical roots of the PCK to explain how Confucian values influenced a church culture that is inherently hierarchical and resistant to change.
Rather than dismantling traditional understandings of the Eucharist, Lee argues that an open-table approach reinterprets the Eucharist to broaden the Church’s understanding of the grace of God. Using the example of the UCA, he explores how churches can still preserve their traditional understanding of the Eucharist while opening the sacrament to unbaptised people.
Theology of the Open Table is an invitation to extend the blessed sacrament to those who are unbaptised and a challenge for the church to invite all people to the table of God.