Author and Co-founder of Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism
Chris Heuertz has spent his life bearing witness to the possibility of hope among a world that has legitimate reasons to question God’s goodness.
Originally from Omaha, Nebraska, 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–creating a safe haven for children impacted by the global pandemic.
A forerunner in the New Friar movement, Chris and his wife 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. This has taken Chris to over 70 countries working among the most vulnerable of the world’s poor.
In 2012 Phileena and Chris launched 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:
Simple Spirituality: Learning to See God in a Broken World (IVP, 2008) shows how a lifestyle of humility, community, simplicity, submission and brokenness sustains us through the challenges of life in a broken world.
Friendship at the Margins: Discovering Mutuality in Service and Mission (IVP, 2010) the 4th title of Duke Divinity School’s Center for Reconciliation’s book series.
Unexpected Gifts: Discovering the Way of Community (Howard Books, 2013) offers insight on how the soul is shaped through fidelity in difficult relationships.
Chris Heuertz’s office reveals his quirks. Toys neatly line the border of his desk, everything from Star Wars action figures to tiny, plastic breakfast foods smoking cigarettes. To his left, he has pinned up pictures of such historical figures as Gandhi, Romero, Che, Mother Teresa and Bob Marley. Behind him is a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf filled with magazines like Harvard Business Review and Adbusters, International Bulletin of Missionary Research and Rolling Stone and books by authors like Henri Nouwen and Arundhati Roy. On the wall to his right is a portrait of a beautiful young Indian girl, Suryakala, whose life and death have deeply shaped who Chris is today.
Chris brings stories of friends like Suryakala into conversations to provoke a new Christian consciousness. And while he is an important voice in today’s progressive Christian scene—recently publishing his third book, Unexpected Gifts: Discovering the Way of Community (Howard Books, 2013); speaking at conferences like Catalyst, Urban Youth Workers Institute, Passion, and Faith, Film and Justice, as well as at several colleges each year; offering counsel at Lausanne, Urbana, Project InterFaith, Freely in Hope and To Write Love on Her Arms; and writing for Christianity Today, The Other Journal and Lausanne World Pulse—Chris is real, and his life is shaped by the lives of his friends like Suryakala.
Having made friends throughout several years of travel to nearly 70 countries, Chris has seen God’s heart for the vulnerable revealed. As he comes to know God’s heart, Chris stands as a prophetic voice, calling the church to act. An activist, author, ordained minister through the Association of Evangelical Churches and Ministries, adjunct professor at Lakeview Seminary in Chennai, visionary and public speaker, Chris believes in nurturing imaginations toward a revolution of peace, justice and simplicity in the face of a world marked by appalling disparity.
Chris grew up in the Midwest in a large, working class family as the oldest of six children, a couple of which were adopted. He attended a mix of Catholic and Protestant schools and aspired to one day own an aquarium shop. At age 16 he spent part of his summer engaged in a service project on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico, there his life was changed forever.
Those days among some of North America’s most repressed people set him on a vocational trajectory that would eventually bring him to Kolkata, India. But before that could happen he transitioned from captain of his high school football team to Asbury University in Kentucky where he double majored in theology and missions with a minor in ancient Biblical languages. In 1992 he spent a summer term and fall semester studying in Jerusalem. It was through kicking a soccer ball around with Palestinian children in the Hinnom valley that Chris’ vocation began coming into focus.
The following summer Chris poked around some of the poorest mega-cities in Asia looking for signs of hope, places where the church was present among those in poverty. One fateful afternoon he knocked on the door of the convent were Mother Teresa lived and she put him to work—2 months later he had carried out 50 dead bodies from the House for the Dying. He moved to India where he would have a dozen meetings with Mother as his heart and mind where opened even further to the needs of the people around him.
In 1994, Chris helped start the first pediatric AIDS care home in South Asia and since then has helped grow Word Made Flesh to an organization with over 300 members serving in 13 countries.
He has been an active member of the Lausanne Movement, contributing to the 2004 Conference in Thailand, the 2006 Younger Leaders Gathering in Malaysia, the 2007 International Leadership Meeting in Hungary, the 2009 International Leadership Meeting in Korea, and he presented at the 2010 Lausanne Congress in Cape Town, South Africa.
Along with his wife Phileena, Chris was awarded Asbury University’s “Distinguished Young Alumni Award” in 2005. In 2007 after walking the Camino de Santiago across northern Spain, Phileena and Chris were the “Visiting Practitioner Fellows” with the Center for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School.
Chris serves as an Advisory Board Member for the Center for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School, on the Board of Advisors for Freely in Hope, an Advisory Board Member for Project Interfaith, on the Lausanne Young Leader Advisory Council and as a Board Member for To Write Love On Her Arms.