Statement on the Wrongdoings of Past Leadership

June 12, 2020

In recent weeks, victims of abuse by former director of Word Made Flesh, Chris Heuertz, have come forward and named some of the harms that they suffered.

Word Made Flesh’s then Board of Directors and Chris and Phileena Heuertz severed their working partnership just under a decade ago in 2012.

Word Made Flesh recognizes and condemns the abuse and patterns of abuse that did occur. These harmful acts consisted of manipulation, bullying, psychological, and spiritual abuse of power. We apologize for the fact that these events took place in the setting of Word Made Flesh and under past leadership. We apologize for Word Made Flesh’s past failure to protect staff. We grieve with the victims, acknowledge the pain that they have carried and still bear, and support their courageous action to publicly state the wrongdoings.

We at Word Made Flesh also support and join the victims in their hope to bring accountability and transparency and to prevent future abuse. We believe that restoration and healing should always be the goal in cases involving injured parties and that there are no exceptions to the recognition of another’s value and humanity. To demean or manipulate another is contrary to our belief that all people have intrinsic and inestimable worth.

Word Made Flesh International is dedicated to the well-being and safety of all staff and of anyone that we work with and walk alongside. We are committed to reflecting on our history with truth and honesty as part of building a stronger, more life-affirming future.

Over the last decade, our commitment to our principles of ministry has extended to the additions of organizational policies and procedures that underscore our commitments. The policies and practices are created to safeguard staff, constituents, and the vulnerable among who we serve from the past patterns of abuse. Our policies include:

  • Community Standard
  • Vulnerable Person Protection Policy
  • Grievance, Harassment, and No Retaliation Policies
  • Policy for Spending Authority
  • Policy for Signing Authority
  • The elimination of the Executive Director’s conflict of interest in raising funds for the organization and raising funds for personal support
  • Annual review of the Executive Director by the board
  • Board policy for confidentiality and conflict of interest
  • Board policy for Effectiveness
  • Review of the Board Chair every 2 years

Word Made Flesh is currently working on ways to provide compliance training for the above policies for its staff and will continue to work to develop practices that safeguard staff and communities.

We affirm the bravery of all of the victims of abuse in speaking truth and mourn the fact that they have needed to practice such bravery because of the suffering they have experienced.

 

With sincerity,

On behalf of Word Made Flesh International and the Word Made Flesh International Board of Directors,

 

Clint Baldwin
International Executive Director

 

The public letter stating concerns about Chris Heuertz can be found at: https://medium.com/@daphneeck/open-letter-lets-talk-about-chris-heuertz-3ca661a58437

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7 thoughts on “Statement on the Wrongdoings of Past Leadership

  1. Teresa says:

    When the relationship was severed in 2012, was it severed by WMF, by the Heuertzes, or by mutual agreement? Was it severed because there were abuses by Chris known to the WMF Board of Directors at that time? If so, were there other steps taken to address the problem of his pattern of abuse?

    • David Chronic says:

      Hi Teresa,

      Thank you for your concern for those who have been harmed and for your prayers for the betterment of Word Made Flesh.

      Your question is not easy to answer as there were various plans for Gravity to be launched well before 2012.

      The WMF Board of Directors was aware of some of the harms done by Chris and took action in those instances, the last of which ended with his removal in 2012.

      Sincerely,
      David Chronic

  2. Audra McAvaddy says:

    As a current and long time supporter of Word Made Flesh (I mean way back- I remember when Shane handed things over to Chris Heuertz’s leadership) and a former staff member (WMF Romania 2005- 2008), I want to thank the current leadership for responding to the issues that are being brought to the light right now. Yet, I have to say that the response is lacking. There is more here that you need to be honest about.

    It saddens me that the victims were the ones that had to bring Chris’ wrongful actions to light. In listing Chris’s harmful acts, why did you leave out the mention of Chris’s sexually predatory behavior toward young women? Leaving it out reeks of continuing to cover it up. I call to you to not just be “reflecting on our history with truth and honesty,” but to lead the way in revealing the truth and speaking honestly about what took place and how it was handled by leadership at the time.

    As was stated in your response- “We at Word Made Flesh also support and join the victims in their hope to bring accountability and transparency…” I encourage you to not just join in hope for accountability and transparency, but to be accountable and transparent. Don’t just address the victims’ current brave actions, and Chris and Phileena’s wrongful past actions, but address the WMF Board’s wrongful actions at the time. Is there no recognition of the harm caused by allowing (and financially supporting) Chris and Phileena’s move out of WMF and into another position of leadership and ministry, as the consequence for their psychological and spiritual abuse of power? Where is the apology for staying silent and keeping things hushed up and hidden from your staff and supporters? Those in leadership now have been aware of what took place and have not clearly addressed it either. Sadly, Word Made Flesh should have been the first to expose all of this, yet here is your chance to lead the way in repentance and advocacy.
    You have an opportunity before you right now that will quickly disappear. Don’t make the same mistakes again. Don’t try to protect WMF— be open and honest. Speak the truth and God will be your protection. I plead with you as someone who’s heart, prayers, and money are invested in the work being done by Word Made Flesh among the most vulnerable around the world.

    • David Chronic says:

      Hi Audra,

      It was great to speak with you a bit via Zoom but I’ll also respond briefly to your comments, as others may have the same questions you do.

      First of all, thank you for caring about those who have been hurt and about Word Made Flesh as an organization. Your desire for justice, truth-telling, and restoration is evident in your questions and advice.

      Let me try and respond to some of your questions:

      While WMF desires transparency, some of the language used and the extent to what can be stated publicly is limited due to legal reasons and out of respect for victims who have not given WMF permission to tell their stories.

      The recent communication from the Board speaks to some of the other issues you raised. (https://wordmadeflesh.org/leaning-in-action-steps-for-increased-organizational-health-and-flourishing/). Also, the Board will be issuing another statement that will give some more light on how the Heuertzes left WMF.

      Of course, there is more to be done in both listening to those who have been harmed during their service with WMF and in ensuring that the current organizational structures and culture prevent them from recurring.

      Please do continue to help us with the questions you ask and the suggestions you offer.

      With sincerity,
      David Chronic

  3. Cathamndu says:

    I echo Audra’s comments. Restoration and reconciliation cannot occur in a vacuum of silence. Just like our current race climate, true healing cannot occur simply by playing nice with those we have systemically wronged. We have to truly recon with our history in order to forge a new future with our sisters and brothers of color. In much the same way, WMF must recon with it’s past in order to move forward in any way that is more than words. Please take this opportunity to do just that.

  4. Prefer to remain anon but have left my email privately says:

    As someone who has suffered under similar abuse myself, I am saddened by your lack of response to the wise & thoughtful comments on this post. It speaks volumes.

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