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Gravity Board’s Summary of Third Party Inquiry Findings

This post is an update to our previous statement on June 14, 2020 in relation to allegations of misconduct made against Chris Heuertz. The Board of Directors of Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism (“Gravity”), requested an inquiry conducted by an independent third party. That inquiry has concluded and in the spirit of transparency we would like to present the findings.

On June 1, 2020, a letter was sent to Brené Brown’s team alleging Chris committed sexual misconduct, psychological and spiritual abuse, and other forms of inappropriate behavior during the final years of his tenure at Word Made Flesh (“WMF”). Brené and her team requested the removal of her foreword from Chris’ book, The Enneagram of Belonging, and removed an episode of her podcast recorded with Chris. Brené then issued a public statement on June 17, 2020 that seemed to affirm the vague and largely unsubstantiated allegations.

On June 10, 2020, these allegations were made public through a Medium blog post. The accusations in the blog post were both sweeping and vague.

In response, Chris published a statement on June 12, 2020 in which he acknowledged three specific incidents of inappropriate behavior during his tenure at WMF. Those incidents were known, investigated and responded to by the Board of Directors at WMF. They were also known to the Board of Directors of Gravity. The accusations in the Medium blog post did not accurately reflect the circumstances of those three incidents, which occurred from 8 to 13 years ago.

With the intent to remain transparent, to guarantee unbiased reporting, and to ensure the perspectives and accounts of all had the opportunity to be heard, we, as the Board of Directors of Gravity, determined the best way to get clarity on the allegations made was to commission an independent third party inquiry. After reaching out to three potential firms, we hired attorney Susan K. Sapp of Cline Williams on Friday, June 19, 2020 to begin the inquiry. Ms. Sapp has over 30 years of legal experience, including a civil trial practice, with a focus on, among other things, labor and employment issues. Ms. Sapp has no personal or financial ties to, or conflicts of interest with, Chris, Gravity or the staff. What follows is consistent with the findings shared with the Board of Directors of Gravity at the conclusion of Ms. Sapp’s inquiry.

The scope of Ms. Sapp’s inquiry was to determine the following:

  1. Whether or not evidence supports the occurrence of the complained about behaviors while Chris was employed at WMF;
  2. Whether Chris engaged in more inappropriate behaviors than those reported to the WMF Board;
  3. What actions the WMF Board took in response to the situations of which it was aware;
  4. Whether any of the behaviors were illegal; and
  5. Whether any of the same or similar complained about behaviors have occurred while Chris has been employed at Gravity.

Over the course of Ms. Sapp’s inquiry, she interviewed 15 people, including former employees of WMF, current employees of WMF, past Board members of WMF who were on the Board at relevant time periods, former employees of Gravity, and current employees of Gravity. Her interviews also included both Chris and Phileena Heuertz, separately, without the other present.

Ms. Sapp also attempted to interview as many people related specifically to the online allegations as she could. She reached out to more than a dozen people who were directly or indirectly identified in the various social media posts on Twitter and Facebook, the letter to Brené Brown, and the Medium blog post specifically. However, she encountered a surprising unwillingness to speak with her among the people determined to be part of the complainant group. 

None of these individuals would agree to meet with Ms. Sapp or provide any corroborating information, under any terms, including promises of confidentiality and anonymity. In addition to this outreach, Ms. Sapp attempted to research as much as possible online and in social media, but when she requested communication through these channels, she was blocked by people who were closely associated with the complainants. Ms. Sapp observed that the complainants had numerous posts on Twitter and other social media forums, making similar broad brush but unsubstantiated allegations against Chris and Phileena.

Ms. Sapp was also able to review a significant level of Chris’ personal and professional correspondence, various WMF Board communications with Chris, WMF Board Minutes, and correspondence among WMF Board members between 2007-2012. This includes material that has not been shared publicly. Additionally, Ms. Sapp was able to study and review in detail the Medium blog post, the notes and documentation of the nearly 100 co-signers, the letter to Brené Brown, Brené’s public response, Chris’ public response, the June 12, 2020 statement from current WMF Executive Director Clint Baldwin, the December 10, 2012 statement from then WMF Board Member Robert Mabrey upon the Heuertz’ departure from WMF, and hundreds of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram posts.

Ms. Sapp is confident that with these sources of information, she has been able to assess the veracity of the allegations in the blog post regarding Chris’ behavior at WMF; discern what, if anything, has taken place during Chris’ leadership of Gravity; and otherwise sort through the various allegations without assistance from the primary complainants.

Ms. Sapp did determine, as Chris has acknowledged, that three separate incidents of an inappropriate relationship occurred between 2007-2012, only one of which involved a subordinate employee. Ms. Sapp found that while there was merit to the contention of inappropriate behavior with three women while Chris was employed at WMF, there was no evidence of any complaints regarding spiritual or psychological abuse or sexually predatory behavior. There was a crossing of healthy boundaries, but it appears to have been consensual, it did not involve sexual intercourse, and does not appear to have any elements of quid pro quo.

Ms. Sapp further found that there is no truth to the contention that the Board failed to take action at WMF. The Board of WMF took steps to correct Chris’ behavior in response to all three events. Reasonable actions were taken and there is no basis to “re-litigate” events that occurred 8-13 years ago and were handled in the best judgment of the WMF board at that time.

Contrary to the allegations that Chris never apologized or acknowledged “this part of his story,” Ms. Sapp confirmed that there is documentation of apologies extended and forgiveness independently offered to Chris in two of the situations. In the third situation, an apology was sent through a trusted intermediary, who had initially reported the issue to the WMF Board. There is no evidence it was either accepted or rejected; however, after the apology, the intermediary communicated via email on May 19, 2010 to Sarah Baldwin, who was WMF Board Chair at the time (and wife of WMF’s current Executive Director, Clint Baldwin, neither of whom would respond to requests for interviews during the inquiry): “Thank you for faithfully working on this – for not trivializing it. I delight to watch Chris’ ministry blossom and grow.” Sarah, in communicating this message to Chris, emailed him on May 19, 2010, saying: “I hope that you experience this as closure.”

In her research for this inquiry, Ms. Sapp also found that various social media posts related to the Medium post have accused Chris of “sexual violence” and “sexual assault.” In this regard, Ms. Sapp determined that there was no evidence that sexual assault or sexual violence had ever occurred at WMF, Gravity, or elsewhere for that matter.

Further, in investigating the working conditions of WMF, she found that much of the complainants’ issues regarding “financial indebtedness” had to do with the financial system of raising their own support, and receiving low pay in an effort to reduce the disparity between WMF staff members and the poor communities they worked among. In describing this, Ms. Sapp concluded that none of this amounted to “spiritual or psychological abuse,” nor was this business model that led to so much discontent the responsibility of Chris and Phileena, but that it had existed prior to their arrival at WMF and was perpetuated by the WMF Board. The requirement that staff raise their own support and pay back the organization any shortfall in their support account, often resulted in a situation where paying the organization back was required, even after a departure. In fact, this was the business model Chris and Phileena functioned under during their tenure at WMF as well, and likewise were required to pay back an overdrawn amount on their support account.

The nature of the Medium post has made it unclear just how many alleged victims there are, but it is clear that many people in social media have assumed that the 33 men and women referenced in the Medium post are among them. In this regard, Ms. Sapp concluded that there is no support for the contention that there were “33 victims” of the behavior described in the Medium post or other social media posts.

Finally, contrary to allegations that “the board of directors finally asked Chris to leave,” and there was a “great deal of secrecy and misinformation [that] surrounded Chris’ dismissal so that even those who were in leadership remain confused about the details,” the inquiry revealed that the Board of Directors at WMF were fully aware of the circumstances of Chris’ departure. Chris officially tendered his resignation to the WMF Board of Directors, and in consultation with the Board of Directors, Chris transitioned into a different paid role for a period of almost nine months following his resignation, until Phileena later resigned as well. In WMF Board Member Robert Mabrey’s 2012 public letter upon their resignation, this was acknowledged, saying, “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.”

Ms. Sapp further concluded that there is no evidence of any conduct consistent with the allegations while at Gravity. Ms. Sapp was able to speak with nearly all of the past and current employees and interns of Gravity and found that they speak very fondly of Phileena and Chris. None of them reported being manipulated, abused, subjected to unhealthy crossing of boundaries or grooming behaviors. They said there were no inappropriate jokes or flirtations and that there was no chaos, confusion, self-doubt, tokenism, manipulation, or bullying. They felt supported and encouraged by both Chris and Phileena and were “shocked” by the allegations when they heard them.

It is clear that there remains much pain and hurt surrounding the final years of Chris’ nearly twenty-year tenure as an employee at WMF. We are hopeful that there may be an opportunity for healing to occur, and we affirm Marion Gilbert’s invitation in her post “A Call for Reconciliation”. Chris and Phileena have expressed their commitment to reconciliation with those willing, and we offer our full support for efforts made to that end.

In light of the findings of our inquiry, and as it pertains to our fiduciary obligation to Gravity, we consider this matter concluded and we look forward to continuing the important work of the organization going forward.

For questions, please contact inquiries@gravitycenter.com

A Statement from Gravity’s Board of Directors

This statement is being released by the current Board of Directors of Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism.

For nearly a decade, Gravity has committed to creating a work environment that models humility, vulnerability, growth, and transformation. Gravity takes seriously the responsibility to lift up and value vulnerable people and communities, and therefore, our organization has a zero tolerance policy regarding harassment or discrimination of any kind. 

We have recently learned of allegations made in an internet blog post regarding Chris Heuertz during his tenure at Word Made Flesh. Because we take allegations of this nature with the utmost seriousness, we formally began a due diligence process at the guidance of our legal counsel and with the unanimous support of the board. In order to ensure that all parties are properly heard and any necessary action is subsequently taken, and in order to guarantee a fair and unbiased reporting of the facts, this inquiry will be conducted by a third-party with no personal or financial ties to or conflicts of interest with Gravity or our staff.

Both Chris and Phileena have requested a voluntary sabbatical while the inquiry into these matters is conducted. With the approval of the board, they will step away from their active roles as directors of Gravity effective immediately and until the satisfactory conclusion of this process. 

It is the board’s intent that the process moves forward in the spirit of full transparency, which means that all perspectives and accounts will be heard. The board will provide further updates as they become available.

For questions, please contact inquiries@gravitycenter.com

 

A Statement from Gravity’s Board of Directors

This statement is being released by the current Board of Directors of Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism.

For nearly a decade, Gravity has committed to creating a work environment that models humility, vulnerability, growth, and transformation. Gravity takes seriously the responsibility to lift up and value vulnerable people and communities, and therefore, our organization has a zero tolerance policy regarding harassment or discrimination of any kind. 

We have recently learned of allegations made in an internet blog post regarding Chris Heuertz during his tenure at Word Made Flesh. Because we take allegations of this nature with the utmost seriousness, we formally began a due diligence process at the guidance of our legal counsel and with the unanimous support of the board. In order to ensure that all parties are properly heard and any necessary action is subsequently taken, and in order to guarantee a fair and unbiased reporting of the facts, this inquiry will be conducted by a third-party with no personal or financial ties to or conflicts of interest with Gravity or our staff.

Both Chris and Phileena have requested a voluntary sabbatical while the inquiry into these matters is conducted. With the approval of the board, they will step away from their active roles as directors of Gravity effective immediately and until the satisfactory conclusion of this process. 

It is the board’s intent that the process moves forward in the spirit of full transparency, which means that all perspectives and accounts will be heard. The board will provide further updates as they become available.

For questions, please contact inquiries@gravitycenter.com.

 

 

Joining the Anti-Human Trafficking Movement

As Shandra Woworuntu and Chris Heuertz speak at Gravity’s anti-human trafficking Vocare Speakers Series, many of those attending may ask what can be done.

Shandra and Chris have put together this list of first steps to get involved in the fight for freedom for today’s modern victims of human slavery.

Ways to Respond

Educate yourself, your family, your friends, and your community about the reality of human trafficking.

Raise Awareness in your community and congregation.

Stay Informed by following these survivors on Twitter: Minh Dang, Rani HongIma Matul, Holly Smith, Shandra Woworuntu, and others.

Support and Collaborate with local organizations working against modern slavery by volunteering or making financial investments in the work they’re doing.

Thoughtful Consumption, be aware of what you’re purchasing and the potential trail of forced labor used in manufacturing products.

Use Your Talents to Join the Movement, not everyone needs to start a new organization, but everyone has something they can offer.

Report Suspicious Activity by calling the National Human Trafficking hotline: 888-837-7888.

Lobby your local Congress(wo)men and Senators to implement stronger laws to prevent trafficking as well as legislation to support survivors of human trafficking.

Pray daily for freedom for those enslaved in modern-day slavery.

Donate a scholarship for a human trafficking survivor to attend a Gravity sponsored retreat.

Books

Walking Prey: How America’s Youth Are Vulnerable to Sex Slavery, by Holly Austin Smith

The Slave Next Door: Human Trafficking and Slavery in America Today, by Kevin Bales and Ron Soodalter

Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade and How We Can Fight It, by David Batstone

Sex Slaves: The Trafficking of Women in Asia, by Louise Brown

Sexually Exploited Children: Working to Protect and Heal, edited by Phyllis Kilbourn and Marjorie McDermid

Refuse to do Nothing: Finding Your Power to Abolish Modern-Day Slavery, by Shayne Moore and Kimberly McOwen Kim

Organizations

Freedom for All partners with on the ground organizations that create long-term, systemic change to end slavery in the countries where they work and to save lives by freeing people who are held in slavery.

Mentari is a survivors network working to mentor and train persons who have been victimized by human traffickers, enabling survivors to lead stable lives (an organization founded by Shandra Woworuntu, coming soon).

National Survivors Network brings together communities of survivors of human trafficking by creating a platform for survivor-led advocacy, peer-to-peer mentorship, and empowerment that embraces all survivors, regardless of gender, age, nationality, or type of trafficking experience.

Nomi Network is a nonprofit that creates economic opportunities for survivors and women at risk of human trafficking.

Polaris is grounded in a set of values and organizational beliefs that provide a foundation for all their programs and activities. Polaris strives to embody and model these values within the Polaris community and within the anti-human trafficking movement: Service, Reality and Impact-Centered, Empowerment, Non-Violence and Respect, Transformative Innovation, and Holistic Approach.

Restore exists for every survivor, the promise of a new life. For our nation, the end of modern-day slavery.

Sari Bari offers freedom to women trapped in the sex trade and provides opportunity to women who are vulnerable to trafficking. Sari Bari does this by providing employment in a safe, loving environment, where women are trained as artisans. Women create beautiful, sustainable, handmade products, while making their lives new.

Two Wings used education, mentoring, and life coaching to empower at-risk youth and survivors of sex trafficking in achieving their dreams in the greater Southern California region.

Introducing Gravity’s 2014 Africa Solidarity Pilgrims

ritah

Ritah Buguzi

In her local Ugandan language, Ritah Buguzi means “owner of good things.” She’s an active member of Refreshing Assembly Church, a worshipping community within the Pentecostal tradition. Her parents are committed Christians who deeply love their family, and as the first daughter in a family of 8 children, Ritah knows she’s beloved. Currently Ritah is in her first year as a student at Uganda Christian University in Mukono working on her Bachelors in Business Computing. When she’s not in class she works part-time as a sales executive at a stationary shop in Kireka, supporting a local family business she believes in. Dynamic and adventurous, Ritah’s passions include singing, dancing, working with the youth at her church, and traveling—just this past year she was able to make trips to Rwanda and Tanzania.

chris

Chris Heuertz

Chris has spent his life bearing witness to the possibility of hope among a world that has legitimate reasons to question God’s goodness. Chris studied at Asbury University in Kentucky before moving to India where he was mentored by Mother Teresa for three years. While living in India, he helped launch South Asia’s first pediatric AIDS care home. A forerunner in the New Friar movement, Chris and Phileena served with the Word Made Flesh community for nearly 20 years, working for women and children victimized by human traffickers in the commercial sex industry. In 2012 Chris co-founded Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism. Named one of Outreach magazine’s “30 Emerging Influencers Reshaping Leadership,” Chris is a curator of unlikely friendships, an instigator for good, a champion of collaboration, and a witness to hope, Chris fights for a renewal of contemplative activism. Chris is a frequent contributor or frequently highlighted in such publications as Christianity Today, Duke’s “Faith & Leadership,” Q Ideas, Relevant Magazine, The Work of the People and the Washington Post’s “On Faith” section. He is known for his provocative storytelling, and has written 3 books. Follow Chris on Twitter here.

phileena

Phileena Heuertz

Author, spiritual director, yoga instructor, public speaker, and retreat guide, Phileena is passionate about spirituality and making the world a better place. With a rare gift for communicating the dynamics of the inner life, Phileena gracefully guides others toward interior growth and bringing harmony to their outer life. In 2012 she co-founded Gravity to support the development of Christian consciousness in the 21st century, by making contemplative practice accessible to individuals, communities, and organizations who engage the challenging social justice perils of our time. Phileena’s primary work is public speaking, teaching, and writing on contemplative spirituality, facilitation of contemplative retreats, and spiritual direction. Named “Outstanding Alumni” by Asbury University and one of Outreach magazine’s “30 Emerging Influencers Reshaping Leadership,” Phileena believes that contemplative spirituality is crucial to authentic, creative, liberating social change. Phileena is a member of the Red Letter Christians, is featured on Q Ideas, The Work of the People and Darkwood Brew and known for her provocative theological narrative, Pilgrimage of a Soul (IVP 2010). Follow Phileena on Twitter here.

gloria

Gloria Katsuiime

Whether studying at a MorningStar University, a missions training institute in South Carolina or the years she spent serving in Nepal or representing a new generation of social entrepreneurs in South Africa at the Lausanne Movement’s conference in Cape Town, Gloria’s willingness to respond to God’s call on her life is inspiring. Originally from Uganda, Gloria makes her home in Kampala where she’s taken her innovative imagination to open Endiro Coffee. Endiro’s restorative spirit is captured in its very location—a corner property that was formerly a garbage dump is now home to one of the city’s most beautiful cafés. As a successful small business owner, Gloria’s motivation has always been for the youth—Endiro Coffee exists to support organizations that work with child- headed households and families impacted by the global AIDS pandemic.

nikole

Nikole Lim

From documenting a widow with leprosy in the jungles of Vietnam, to providing scholarships for survivors of rape in Zambia, furthering social justice through the arts has been a vital part of Nikole’s international vocation. By providing the platform for voices to be heard, Nikole strives to shift paradigms by fighting against stigmas of oppression. Nikole is the co-founder and executive director of Freely in Hope, a non-profit organization dedicated to restoring dignity to survivors of sexual violence by providing educational opportunities and platforms for women to fulfill their dreams. Operating in sub-Saharan Africa, Freely in Hope provides psychological counseling, health care, entrepreneurial courses and high school and university educational scholarships for young women who are survivors of or vulnerable to sexual violence in slum communities. Nikole graduated with a degree in Film Production from Loyola Marymount University and resides in the Bay Area. Her heart beats for young women whose voices are silenced by oppression and desires to see every heart restored. Follow Nikole on Twitter here.

janai

Janai Marshall

Janai M. Marshall is a native of Washington, DC. Growing up, she struggled with low self-esteem, often feeling isolated from peers.  These feelings led her to start actively searching for God around age 11, during a time that she was being made to attend her grandmother’s aging, traditional Episcopal church. During this time, after several months of fruitlessly muddling through agnosticism and Islam, she began a relationship with Jesus Christ. But even so, the next 5 years to follow were marked with great self-loathing, broken & self-medicating relationships, and depression. However, it was during her experience as an undergraduate student at Hampton University that she met God in a way that spurred her to start a deeply loving, committed, and brand new walk. She later served as a leader for the Student Christian Association, led a women’s campus Bible Study for two years, and helped coordinate community service and outreach events. After graduation in 2008, she returned to DC to serve in local ministries, and worked as a residential counselor to high-risk traumatized adolescent girls. It was doing this work that prepared her to enroll in graduate school in 2009 to earn her Masters of Science in Mental Health Counseling.  She is now completing her degree, focusing research on sexually traumatized females, and is employed as a Case Manager serving families living in DC Public Housing to help them become self-sufficient.  She loves helping people to more clearly see the beauty and purpose of whom God created them to be.

joseph

Joseph Rurangwa

Joseph Rurangwa is a Democracy and Governance specialist at the US Agency for International Development. His work and interests revolve around political reforms, reconciliation, and peace building in post conflict societies. He is married to Nathalie Uwishimwe with whom he has three girls: Angel, Heaven, and Michela. Since the late 90’s, he has been involved in negotiations and peace initiatives within and outside Rwanda. He then joined Rwanda’s Ministry of Local Government where he worked on several governance reforms that included coordinating the drafting of new laws, and coordinating the implementation of Rwanda’s good governance program. In 2010, he joined the United States Mission where he advises the US Government on governance trends in Rwanda, in addition managing projects in the areas of peace building, media development, police strengthening, civil society strengthening and human and institutional capacity development. Joseph is the chairman of the US Mission local staff community. Joseph works tirelessly within the Rwandan political structure, building consensus and fighting for reform.

aaron

Aaron Strumpel

Aaron Strumpel grew up in a hundred year old house surrounded by corn in Iowa, where he began collecting sounds and textures, ratty and sublime, including a trumpet his parents bought him in fifth grade. Since then he’s lived faithfully into this vocation as a songwriter based in Boulder, Colorado. A collaborator by nature, he’s partnered with Restoration Village, Enter the Worship Circle, Agents of Future, and others to help in making art that speaks to the heart of God for the oppressed. Aaron won the Bandspotting competition at the 2009 Festival of Faith and Music at Calvin College for his album “Elephants,” and since then his work has been featured in Christianity Today, Relevant Magazine, and Paste Magazine. He spent the fall semester of 2012 as the Artist Practitioner in Residence in partnership with the Peace and Justice Institute at George Fox University. Currently he is writing for another worship project called “Bright Star.” Follow Aaron on Twitter here.

rebekah

Rebekah Witzke

A college drop out with a circuitous vocational path, Rebekah Witzke is hard to pin down. In the last five years she has worked in Admissions at a Classical Christian School in Manhattan and then served as Director of Partnerships for Q– a Christian Non-Profit that exists to advance the common good in all spheres of society. At Q her eyes were opened to social good and the role Christians can play in the restoration of our culture. Currently, she is co-proprietor of a lifestyle boutique in Queens – a neighborhood in which she is actively involved and where she makes a home with her husband and three children-two of whom are teaching her to play the ukulele at the moment. Also a trained actor, she is consistently auditioning and just finished a commercial shoot; this spring she will be writing and producing a comedic web series. In all her varied work, Rebekah longs to hear people’s stories, discover her own, and see people come to an authentic understanding of God’s grace which covers us all. Follow Rebekah on Twitter here.

Hearing The Voice Of Love

We must connect to and listen to the voice from which we come, the voice that calls us beloved. In opposition to the many other voices that try to define us, this voice grounds us in a love of self that frees us to love others well. Contemplative practices help bring congruence to our inward and outward practices of love.

Film produced by The Work of the People with music from Sleeping at Last

 

Why the Name “Gravity?”

We often get the question, “So why did you choose the name ‘Gravity’?” It’s a great question. One of our teachers, Thomas Keating, O.S.O.C., helps shed light on the concept.

Keating, a 90 year old Cistercian monk of the strict observance is one of the leading voices illuminating the relevance of Christian faith in the 21st century. He finds himself in the company of other great Western Christian teachers like Richard Rohr, O.F.M. and Cynthia Bourgeault, Episcopal priest.

The impact of Keating’s teaching on Christian faith today and in centuries to come is and will be of a magnitude that the world has probably not seen for 400 years—since the time of the Reformation.

If you don’t know of Keating, it’s time to pay attention.

A student of Yale University and Fordham and student of psychology and philosophy, Keating helps us understand the implications of theological and scriptural concepts on faith and spiritual practice. Knowledge of psychology and human development theory unavailable 2,000 years ago at the time of Jesus and New Testament writers breaks open for us concepts like, “In Christ you are a new creation;” and “Why is it I do what I don’t want to do…” (Romans 7; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:11 & 15). Drawing on St. Paul’s teaching on the old and new creation and Thomas Merton’s 20th century language “true self” and “false self,” Keating illuminates what human transformation is all about.

In his book, Invitation to Love, Keating explains the formation of psychological programs for happiness is based in infantile biological needs for security and survival, power and control, and affection and esteem.

“As a consequence [of the formation of the false self], our emotional life ceases to grow in relation to the unfolding values of human development and becomes fixated at the level of the perceived deprivation. The emotional fixation fossilizes into a program for happiness. When fully formed it develops into a center of gravity, which attracts to itself more and more of our psychological resources: thoughts, feelings, images, reactions, and behavior. Later experiences and events in life are all sucked into its gravitational field and interpreted as helpful or harmful in terms of our basic drive for happiness. These centers are reinforced by the culture in which we live and the particular group with which we identify, or rather, overidentify.” (Invitation to Love, Keating, p. 27)

“The false self develops in opposition to the true self. It’s center of gravity is the self as separate from God and others, and hence turned in on itself.” (Invitation to Love, Keating, p. 59)

Needs that are fundamental to a child become a problem as we grow into adulthood and one can’t help but overidentify with them. Overidentifying with these programs creates the false self and leads to much of the breakdown of family and community, as well as violence, exploitation, poverty, war and terrorism.

The Christian invitation is to change our behavior that leads to so much destruction of ourselves and others and grow up (Acts 26:20; 1 Cor 3:1-3; 2 Corinthians 7:2 & 9, Ephesians 4; Hebrews 5:11-14; Hebrews 6:1; 2 Peter 3:9).

To use language that speaks to 21st century people, the Christian spiritual journey is an invitation to subvert the center of gravity within us that is controlled by the false self and allow that center to be replaced with the presence of God who holds our true self, unleashing unimaginable goodness in the world (1 Corinthians 6:19; Ephesians 4:5,9).

The name ‘Gravity’ was chosen for our Center to support this transformation in your life. It IS possible to live from the Divine center of gravity within us that orders our chaos and frees us to live the values of the Gospel: freedom, reconciliation, peace and unconditional love. Values that can change the world.

Together we can do good better. Thanks for joining this revolutionary movement.


See also, Greg Richardson’s thoughtful blog post on Gravity.

The Road Ahead: Connections, Connections

The Road Ahead: Connections, Connections :: by Julian Collette

Rummaging for God: Praying Backwards Through Your Day

“Rummaging for God: Praying Backwards Through Your Day” :: By Dennis Hamm, SJ

About 20 years ago, at breakfast and during the few hours that followed, I had a small revelation. This happened while I was living in a small community of five Jesuits, all graduate students in New Haven, Connecticut. I was alone in the kitchen, with my cereal and the New York Times, when another Jesuit came in and said: “I had the weirdest dream just before I woke up. It was a liturgical dream. The lector had just read the first reading and proceeded to announce, ‘The responsorial refrain today is, If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.’ Whereupon the entire congregation soberly repeated, ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.’” We both thought this enormously funny. At first, I wasn’t sure just why this was so humorous. After all, almost everyone would assent to the courageous truth of the maxim, “If at first…” It has to be a cross-cultural truism (“Keep on truckin’!”). Why, then, would these words sound so incongruous in a liturgy?

A little later in the day, I stumbled onto a clue… [read the rest of the article here]

A “Starter Library” for Contemplative Activists :: The Must-Reads on Contemplative Spirituality for People with Active Lives

A Grounding Place To Root Social Engagement In Contemplative Spirituality

Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism, is a grounding place for people to root their social engagement in a deep, contemplative spirituality in order to do good better.

Gravity doesn’t exist simply for social justice activists, but for anyone and everyone who wants to make the world a better place. This is tough work and everyone involved needs to be grounded in the effort to bring love, hope and peace to the world.

Through Gravity we will host 3-4 day contemplative retreats and 1-day contemplative sessions to introduce contemplative spirituality—demystifying and dismantling the intimidating barriers that often keep people from cultivating contemplative practices that nourish the soul.

We will develop a brokerage for trained and certified spiritual directors to connect with those who are in search of capable spiritual direction.

We will equip people for personal retreat and sabbatical.

We will facilitate pilgrimage to significant spiritual centers such as Assisi, Italy and Santiago, Spain. Harmonizing the dissonance between our inner and outer lives, these pilgrimages offer opportunities of spiritual awakening.

We will organize immersion trips of solidarity with those enslaved in the commercial sex industry, victimized in sweatshops, dehumanized in slums and red-light areas. Small, thoughtfully selected groups of conversation partners will travel to cities like Calcutta, India; Kathmandu, Nepal; Bangkok, Thailand; Lima, Peru; and La Paz/El Alto, Bolivia.

Through Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism we will support those who want to do good better.

No More Illusions : Contemplative Activism, A Model for Mission

“No More Illusions :: Contemplative Activism :: A Model for Mission” in Catalyst Groupzine by Phileena + Chris Heuertz

Live Better. Love Better. Serve Better. …Do Good Better

Though activists and social justice workers live faithfully into compelling vocations of compassion, they are sometimes the grumpiest, crustiest and meanest people out there—often down right unpleasant folks to be around.

Many who fight to alleviate poverty are unhappy. Loneliness and sadness are familiar companions in their work for hope.

Sometimes the stereotypical “dirty hippie” social justice advocate offers an uninviting example of how to serve beautifully for the common good.

Many practitioners involved in causes, charities or communities of hope often do a much better job of taking care of those they serve than they do taking care of themselves.

Sadly, many social justice activists are unhealthy—physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Of course this is understandable given that most folks involved in grassroots work in places of poverty experience versions of secondary post-traumatic stress disorders. What they see, the work they do, and the solidarity of suffering with their exploited friends ultimately takes a toll on their personal health.

It is the luxury of the non-poor to be able to make healthy choices and options for themselves, but in many cases this comes with a price—feelings of guilt or undue self-critiques of entitlement.

Often those engaged in the difficult work of justice perpetually teeter on the edge of burnout. Countless young people sign-up for volunteer opportunities, internships and even careers of service and while some find ways to sustain and thrive in these callings most are not as fortunate. It’s not uncommon for activists to leave vocations of service disillusioned. Some even walk away from their faith.

We can live better.

We can love better.

We can serve better.

…we can do good better.

It Will Take a Movement…

For 20 years we (Phileena and Chris Heuertz) have given ourselves to grassroots movements of hope among some of the most vulnerable of the world’s poorest people. We’ve helped establish multi-ethnic, multi-national and ecumenical communities all across the globe.

In South Asia we founded the region’s first pediatric AIDS care home, offering safe haven and family to children orphaned because of AIDS or suffering with the disease themselves.

During West Africa’s infamous “Blood Diamonds” civil war, while rebels controlled 60% of the territory in conflict, we brought vision, volunteers and resources—ultimately establishing a community to address the needs of children who were forced to fight in battle.

Throughout Eastern Europe, South America and South East Asia we’ve supported women and children—many of them trafficked into prostitution— journey from the commercial sex industry to freedom.

Around the world we have invested in communities of youth who live on the streets, in sewers or slums. Some of these children work on trash heaps scavenging for recyclable or resell-able items. Many are so hungry they “smoke” cellophane bags of paint or glue to curb the hunger pangs. In the worst cases some are forced to sell sex as their only option for survival.

Our vocation of hope has literally taken us all over the world, having lived on four continents and traveled to nearly 70 countries. 

We’ve seen a lot. We’ve sacrificed a lot. We’ve received a lot. We’ve learned a lot.

There’s much good being done in the world and there’s much more that needs to be done.

It will take awakened individuals to make change. It will take transformed communities to forge lasting partnerships towards hope. It will take a movement.


Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism is established to support such a movement.

Becoming A Contemplative Activist: Transforming the World Through Spiritual Practices

Becoming A Contemplative Activist: Transforming the World Through Spiritual Practices by Phileena Heuertz for Immense (May/June 2012)