Greetings from Omaha.
We want to share an important update with you.
Early in May we announced our transition out of the leadership of Word Made Flesh. For a few years now we’ve needed a change and believe WMF has needed a change as well. Over the past few months we have been discerning a possible transition with our core team and have finally come to a place of deep peace regarding a transition.
Though we will no longer serve as the International Co-Executive Directors of WMF, we will both remain part of the community in reimagined roles that are better aligned with our evolving vocational passions.
We still desperately need your support. We still need those of you who have so faithfully and sacrificially sent in gifts to help cover our ministry and service with WMF. So please continue sending your gifts towards our staff account, any amount helps tremendously.
Okay, now if you’re still reading here’s a little more background on the transition and what it means for WMF and for us.
Last fall Word Made Flesh celebrated its 20th anniversary. It has been one of our greatest privileges to serve with the community for 18 of those years. The work WMF does and the communities we have formed inspire us. We marvel at the sacrifices our WMF community members have made to faithfully follow Christ into some of the world’s most desperate neighborhoods.
Our sabbatical in 2007 was an extraordinary time of making pilgrimage—not only physically, but spiritually and emotionally. During our sabbatical some stirrings began deep in our souls, stirrings that have taken years to begin to understand.
As I (Phileena) embraced my feminine awakening, the dawning of a dream emerged—to establish a center focused on contemplative spirituality, particularly the intersections of contemplation and action. For the past 5 years, the dream has only intensified. With the publishing of Pilgrimage of a Soul, more public speaking invitations have emerged at universities, churches, festivals and for various non- profits. And opportunities to give contemplative retreats have materialized. A second book proposal is underway on contemplative spirituality and more are expected.
With the development of this part of my (Phileena) vocation, came the establishment of a Co-Directorship for the International Executive Director Position. My responsibilities for the Co-Directorship have focused on operations, while Chris’ focused on partnership.
With my (Phileena) responsibilities, came the establishment of our senior staff team working in closer collaboration. The Co-Directors, Associate Directors and Regional Coordinators have been meeting about ten times a year to discern direction for the community, establish an effective tactical plan that brings unity to our growing community and provide support for one another and our regions.
Simultaneously after 12 years of dreaming about a Partnership Platform, I (Chris) was thrilled to host our first Covenant Council meeting on the 20th anniversary of our community. Hearing international voices from each of our communities discuss some of our most pressing concerns provoked hope for what new kinds of partnerships could emerge in WMF.
This kind of collaboration is at the heart of what I (Chris) have hoped to see WMF make greater strides in. And in a spirit of growing partnership it is exciting to see WMF grow in our ecumenical identity continuing to celebrate the inclusion of Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox and Evangelical Christians. It is also exciting to see WMF grow in our commitment to a robust, theologically grounded expression of diversity that celebrates greater multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-racial participation.
Much like Phileena, I (Chris) have also found a good part of the past 5-6 years filled with new kinds of vocational awakenings. As my own writing vocation has developed there have been more opportunities than I have been able to keep up with. I do feel a strong urge to develop my vocation of advocacy as it relates to speaking and writing but have felt some of this has had to be paced while Phileena and I have navigated quite a few crucial staff transitions and the subsequent real and pressing demands of organizing the community around the vision of WMF.
So with our reinvigorated simmering vocational imaginations and our growing writing and speaking vocations, it’s become critical for both of us to begin thinking about our successor(s). After months of collective discernment with our Senior Staff team, we have determined that it is indeed time for change.
Thankfully we have a committed Board that is prepared to lead us through the upcoming changes our resignations provide. We are also incredibly fortunate to have tested and proven leaders within our community who are prepared to lead WMF into the next 20 years with fresh vision and vibrant energy, further testifying to the gift that change can offer our WMF community.
We have asked Liz Ivkovich and Bo White to move immediately into an Acting Co-Managing Directorship until the Board’s job search process is complete.
So, what does this mean for Chris and Phileena?
We are not leaving WMF, but will be repositioned within the community.
I (Phileena) will focus on establishing a center for contemplative activism—an initiative of WMF. I will be studying during the next three summers, working on my Masters in Christian Spirituality at Creighton University. I have also been accepted into the renowned Halo Institute—a three-month entrepreneur fellowship that will provide much needed support in helping launch a center.
I (Chris) will serve the community as a Senior Strategist focusing on partnerships, community development and fund raising. I will lead focused Discovery Teams, consisting of thought-leaders and culture makers who have potential to be significant advocates for our work by nurturing networks that can assist our communities. And I will spend considerable time developing my writing and speaking vocation, giving the best of myself as an advocate for the causes we all have given our lives for. In fact, this fall my 3rd book will be published and I’m already in the middle of planning a book tour around the launch.
We are full of hopeful anticipation that our new positions within WMF will allow us to continue serving together in deeply satisfying ways. And we are confidant that new leadership for WMF will provide the necessary spaciousness for continued growth of the movement.
Thank you for partnering with us in our shared journey of hope.
With love & gratitude,
Phileena and Chris