Posted by WMF International Office | August 19, 2020 (Addendum to original 2012 post)
Word Made Flesh is committed to ongoing listening, learning, and taking action to continue organizational progress of facilitating healthy and safe settings (structures and systems) for all staff and for all with and to whom the staff minister.
As part of our commitment to progress, the WMF Board of Directors (BOD) is repudiating the inaccuracies of the below December 2012 letter written by a former board member during that period.
While no current board member was either on the BOD or present in the organization at that time, the BOD has come to understand that the 2012 letter does not accurately reflect the departing process of the then Executive Director (ED). The tone of the 2012 letter was inappropriate in its positivity toward the departing ED and served as a roadblock to healing for affected current and past staff members.
The past ED that is mentioned in the 2012 letter engaged in harmful and inappropriate behavior leading up to and during 2012. His behavior was a moral and leadership failure; he misused his position as director. His actions broke with Word Made Flesh standards as an organization and failed to maintain boundaries to ensure the well-being of Word Made Flesh staff. The BOD asked for his resignation in 2012.
As you will see upon reading the 2012 letter, the above is not the message that was offered in that communication. We are writing now in order to note our understanding of the differentiation between what was written at the time and what transpired at the time.
Through review, overall, we see due diligence done on the part of the BOD at the time, but we reaffirm our assessment of the unhelpful nature of the December 2012 letter as noted above.
Since 2012, Word Made Flesh has put in place numerous industry best-practice organizational structure and system safeguards. We are 100% committed to ongoing implementation and practicing of the safeguards put in place since that time. As well, we are also 100% committed to continue enacting new industry best-practice safeguards to always be organizationally in the process of moving forward in a healthy manner for all staff. WMF will continue to implement additional best practices to provide a best-workplace system within which all staff can flourish.
On behalf of the Word Made Flesh International Board of Directors,
This letter from the Board was republished in our Winter edition of The Cry:
A Time for Everything
An Important Message from Our Board
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
One of the strengths of Word Made Flesh over the past 18 years has been the shared and consistent leadership provided by Chris and Phileena Heuertz. Together they raised Word Made Flesh from a mere vision of crazy college kids inspired by Dr. Sam Kamaleson of World Vision, Mother Teresa, and the world’s most vulnerable to an international community partnering across five continents, fully living the call of the Gospel to be the hands and feet of Christ. Under their leadership, Word Made Flesh has affected the lives of thousands served, opened the hearts of hundreds of staff, and significantly influenced the missiology of Christian international service and care for the most vulnerable.
Chris and Phileena embodied Word Made Flesh and it’s Lifestyle Celebrations. They served, they inspired, they celebrated, they cried, they transformed, and they grew from young 20-somethings with a calling and passion to serve Christ into mature leaders of an organization with an annual budget in excess of one million dollars. Along the way, we were continually amazed at their wisdom that defied their youth.
Eighteen years is a long season for any leader. For a few years now, the Heuertz’s have felt like they have needed a change and believe Word Made Flesh has needed a change in leadership as well. When they began this Odyssey the internet had not yet come into common usage, calling internationally was a rarity, and the idea of technology and missiology rarely interacted.
We all have come to realize a new season is upon WMF. During the first few months of 2012 Chris and Phileena have been discerning a possible transition with our core team and board and have finally come to a place of deep peace regarding a transition. Early in May they announced their transition out of the leadership of Word Made Flesh.
Though they will no longer serve as the International Co-Executive Directors of WMF, they will both remain part of the community in reimagined roles that are better aligned with their evolving vocational passions. By now you have probably heard of the new ministry venture they are starting, with Word Made Flesh’s financial support, which is Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism. Over the next year they will imagine what the Center can become and together we will discern the relationship the Center will have with Word Made Flesh as we all move forward on our journeys. Consequently, it is a time to mourn the loss of Chris and Phileena but it is also a time to rejoice as they plant the seeds of the new vision that Jesus Christ is giving them for their Center.
It is also a new season for Word Made Flesh. The Word Made Flesh board realizes that the mission has some challenges in front of it. The most notable are staff attrition and developing more diversified funding sources as well as the obvious task of selecting a new Executive Director. In light of these challenges, the board has united around its call to ensure Word Made Flesh stays true to its mission and provides guidance and support for the Word Made Flesh leadership.
In June, the board voted unanimously to enlist Bo White and Liz Ivkovich as Interim Co-directors while a full search process was conducted for Executive Director candidates. The board spent many hours over the past few months conducting teleconferences and interviews of potential candidates. They have spent time in prayer seeking Christ’s discernment and have also drawn on ‘best practices’ for leadership changes, particularly executive leadership changes.
Desiring to set Word Made Flesh up for long-term success, we have asked our senior interim leadership to complete the assessment work they have started and to propose a strategic plan to the board at our October meeting that will clarify what new roles are needed, and a resource development plan. We will then seek to fill roles based on these recommendations. We don’t want to simply duplicate what has been done, nor do we want to rush to put a person in place, without them being set up for success. According to philanthropic literature, the average executive change takes 5-9 months, so our timeline has been ambitious and aggressive from the start. Our research this summer has brought us in contact with candidates we consider to be potential leaders for WMF and we continue to evaluate their vision for the role.
After 20 years, it is often good to not only appreciate where we’ve been, but to seriously assess where we’re headed. The scriptures state that “there is wisdom in the counsel of many”. I think that you would all agree that that in these days we need all of the wisdom that we can garner.
As a result, would you please partner with us in prayer as we seek the will of Christ for this new season of Word Made Flesh? Together, with your support, we will continue to serve the most vulnerable of the world’s poor as the “word made flesh”.
Board of Directors
Word Made Flesh