12 June 2020

A Statement from Chris Heuertz Addressing Past Failures


It has come to my attention that a group from my former non-profit has been circulating a letter with their concerns about my failures and the hurt I caused. The pain I inflicted while leading that organization hasn’t lessened over the last 8 years, and time has driven that pain deeper for some. I grieve because of that.

My closest friends won’t be surprised by this news. And if you’ve heard me speak or have read my books, you’re aware that I made some inexcusable mistakes. Because those mistakes have been transformative in my life and my work, these mistakes have not been a secret.

Over the years, I failed to maintain suitable boundaries in some of my friendships with women. Some of those became inappropriate in nature and this pattern caused great harm to my marriage.

While none of these relationships crossed physical boundaries, with the exception of one extended embrace, they were still inappropriate. I didn’t realize then how the dynamics of power surrounding these friendships could be so damaging. It’s one of the deepest regrets of my life.

After a decade of processing and countless steps of awakening, healing and growth, I realize my lack of my of self-awareness sometimes prevented me from even absorbing how much hurt I inflicted on others. Especially those closest to me.

But in moments when I can let down my defenses and open myself up to vulnerability, I feel overcome with sorrow for having been the source of that hurt—to anyone, but especially to my wife Phileena. When I learn of the impact of the hurt I’ve caused people and can begin to grasp the damage I’ve inflicted, it’s paralyzing and leads me to some difficult places of shame.

As I’ve owned my mistakes over the years, I realized I needed some specific tools for honoring boundaries within my personal life and my work:

  • Accountability: It’s been essential to submit to relationships that support accountability in my personal and professional life. Mentors, teachers, guides, and leaders who mirror back to me my behavior and speak the truth in love, have helped me take responsibility for my life and actions. I am submitted to accountability and welcome it.
  • Psychotherapy: Working with a therapist over the years has helped me do the heavy lifting of inner excavation, discovering more of my unconscious motivations. Additionally, marriage counseling has helped me become more vulnerable with Phileena and helped heal the hurt I’ve caused her.
  • Spiritual Direction: Regular meetings with my spiritual director/confessor is a non-negotiable. This person in my life has helped me bring my hurtful patterns into my mindfulness practices so I can bring them into awareness. If we can’t self-observe then we can’t self-correct.
  • Transparency: I now strive for my life to be an open book. It brings down my defense mechanisms and helps me open to vulnerability. Transparency means I don’t have anything to hide from my wife, my co-workers, my friends, my family, and you.
  • Confession: I have and am committed to living confessionally. Over the years I have owned my mistakes. I have confessed them. I will continue to live into this value in all of my relationships.

It is important to me that there is no doubt of my sincere commitment to transparency, vulnerability, and accountability.

It grieves me to no end to learn that I was—and am still—the source of anyone’s pain. Although I have taken steps over the years to make amends, I have been unable to sufficiently express my sorrow. I want you to know that I have learned from these experiences.

To anyone I’ve hurt, the failure was mine. Know that I am so sorry for betraying your trust. I am forever open to making amends, and I welcome the opportunity.

21 Responses

  1. Jim Benefield

    I have been studying the Enneagram for a little over two years. For me the program is about transformation. I appreciate your comments and they seem to be genuine to me. Thank you for sharing and being open with your experience. I wish you the best as you continue in your journey of transformation. I look forward to your future programs and I am thankful for having your program as a stepping stone in my own journey.

    1. Jodi Melissa

      Chris, while I don’t know you, I honor your transparency and vulnerability. I know that it isn’t easy. Life can be difficult at times, making mistakes is a part of our humanity, repenting and learning from those mistakes is what God requires of us all. I pray that in the days and weeks to come that you totally lay down the garment of shame and allow his grace to be your armor!

    2. Johannah

      Oh Chris,
      I’ve been there. I’ve maimed and wounded and felt the weight of the hurt it caused. Thank you for being wide open. Therein lies freedom. Supporting you in prayer and solidarity.
      Jo (8w7 and everything that comes with that.)

    3. Nancy Lopez

      Chris, your books and podcasts have been monumental in my inner work and ministry. I truly hope that your work will stand on its own and continue to bless. And, of course I pray for every healing to come to you and to all those affected by what has now been brought to Light. May all be the better for it.

  2. Karen Petersen

    Thank you Chris. As a woman who has known you well, and walked with you (albeit mostly from a distance except when you stayed in our home in Toronto), I want to honour your openness. You have shared some of this with us and I so love seeing where you and Phileena are now. Much respect and love to you both!

  3. A brave and honest acceptance – although I don’t know what of. I am only aware of allegations about something involving relationships.. Wishing healing and peace to all concerned. .

  4. Anne-Marie

    I am so thankful for your work. Keep it up in whatever way you need to do it. You have blessed me with your writings and your podcasts. Love it all. Bless you and your wife. In my prayers, Anne-Marie

  5. Hi Chris,
    I don’t know you personally but I’ve listened to you on several podcasts and have read about your work. I look forward to getting your new book. I just wanted to say that, as an enneagram 8 I am sceptical & would have been shocked & probably hurt by your actions (my nature is to run from people who hurt through betrayal), but since this experienced has happened to me, my husband was unfaithful to me, I intimately understand your journey. He too has done the hard work (counselling, recovery program, spiritual direction) and has completely confessed with honesty & transparency and has taken full responsibility for his actions. It’s been a long journey of healing. There’s a lot of pain. Yet, God has been transforming our pain into sometimes purposeful ~ we now share our story of infidelity to help other couples going through the same thing. Since his confession we’ve learned how several things affected his choices which were kept secret or were attacks of the enemy on our marriage. As we have both become more aware of ourselves & have extended forgiveness we now live in a marriage that has been repaired by truth & God’s love.

    I wish you & Phileena well. Thank you for being both broken & brave to share this with us.

    Be blessed,

  6. Jane

    I give thanks for your transparency, vulnerability, and. accountability.
    As I am currently spending time in the writings of Teresa of Avila, I see so clearly the parallels of this recent statement from you and how Teresa shares that “by witnessing our transgressions we are able to surrender ourselves to the mercy of our Beloved so that our Beloved can draw goodness out of our negativity and we can be even more pleasing to the Beloved.”
    May we all be witness to our own transgressions, and always know that it is through GRACE. that we are drawn out of our negativity!
    Blessings and deep Healing for all !

  7. Arlene Guina

    My husband and I respect you and appreciate your compassionate way of teaching the Enneagram. I’m enjoying the Enneagram of belonging now. And in the Arizona any a gram group I am in a book club we were discussing the sacred any a gram. We are praying for you and know that this will all work out. Thank you for sharing your heart. Arlene

  8. We are all humans, you were simply the brave teacher to reveal and admit our humanity failures. Hope this opens eyes, hearts and minds to deeper layers of healing for all of us.

    Respect & compassion..

  9. Whitney

    Chris, I’ve been listening to these podcasts over and over. The depth of knowledge and material that this body of work has provided is beyond measure. Thank you so much for putting the work in on these, they’re amazing.. I went today to listen for maybe the 5th time and they were gone. I was embarrassingly a little frantic, I parked and sat in my car to investigate why they were missing. After reading a couple of articles I quickly concluded that this gift to the world, the one that you’ve created is far more important that this ugly part of your past. All of us have parts of our past that we regret, but if we continue to hold them against ourselves or against each other the beauty that can come from the muck and the mud will never be allowed to bloom. I appreciate what you’ve done here and I will be buying your book. Keep your head up my friend. Hugs to you and Phileena, bless you both on this journey.

  10. Kathryn

    I pray with and for you brother. Keep seeking the highest as you bear this time. Our Father in heaven’s deep aware love to you.

  11. Chris,

    Your self-awareness, humility, honest, and confession are admirable and laudable. I appreciate and love those who are able to recognize their own version of things for which they are “owning.”

    We all have “stuff.” Your journey is a model situation.

    Thank you for genuine.

  12. Grant

    Chris – I love you and respect you for your honesty and commitment to do the inner work you’ve needed to do. We all have work to do, and entering into it is the first step towards change. Our choices stick with us, either in our own minds, and/or through outward impacts socially. You’ve guided me through the Enneagram to be accountable with strengths and weaknesses, to own them, embrace them, and express them in ways that bless and enrich others. I respect your transparency and desire to right wrongs and not withdraw and duck for cover. Continue to ‘be there now’ in who you are and how you live.

  13. Chris: I want to say thank you. Thank you for being authentic. I am reading through your Enneagram books and am really enjoying the material in “The Enneagram of Belonging.” I just began my Enneagram journey and studies this year following the termination of a sixteen year career. I am grateful for a lot of sojourners that have given me some tools to understand my self and my journey. It was your video “Nine Paths to Wholeness: An introduction to the Enneagram” That I pass along to others for their introduction. My husband had to watch it three times to figure out his type… but he did… and it was because of your video, not because of any test.

    My husband says that life needs to be all about “Love, Grace and Mercy” That must define us as humans. If we need to learn anything while we breathe on this planet… is Love, Grace and Mercy. I am not interested in learning the Enneagram from people who are not on the journey themselves to wholeness. There are no teachers, only sojourners…. People willing to pass along wisdom learned on the journey. To elevate any human above us is to remove their humanity from the equation.

    I would hope that my mistakes of the past, don’t impede the wisdom I have to pass along. Because there have been mistakes and I am willing to own up to them. But let them be forgiven, and remain in the past as I journey forward to wholeness.

  14. Name


    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:

    Whether or not evidence supports the occurrence of the complained about behaviors while Chris was employed at WMF;
    Whether Chris engaged in more inappropriate behaviors than those reported to the WMF Board;
    What actions the WMF Board took in response to the situations of which it was aware;
    Whether any of the behaviors were illegal; and
    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 all except one 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.

  15. Shelley C.

    So sorry you had to go through all of this Chris, yet so grateful that such thorough due diligence was done. I know you are doing everything you can to live humbly and peacefully. I hope you know that doesn’t mean you have to endure being perpetually held to account. Where’s the grace in that, for you, and for those who might still be struggling for whatever reason? You might have had a role in their pain, but you are not the cause of how it is playing out now. “If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.” – 1 John 3:20


    “Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” – Romans 8:34

    Carry on with the ministry God has given you, strengthened by the things you have learned, by the truth that has been revealed, and by the friends who pray for you.

    Peace to you, friend!

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