Dear Lighthouse Trails:
I recently began reading A Time of Departing. A very well-documented book. I am blown away by the amount of research Ray Yungen put into that book! Thank you for publishing it. Thank you also for your posts dealing with the Spiritual Formation movement, contemplative prayer, etc. I do not know exactly how I first got onto the scent of the Spiritual Formation trail about two years ago, but I think it was through research I was doing into some “worship” songs that were being used at our church. While concerned for different reasons, I was introduced into Bethel Church (directly through our church’s music selection) and Spiritual Formation indirectly as I was becoming aware of the broader things that ail the “evangelical” church. Initially, I was concerned enough about what I was discovering about Spiritual Formation to learn more about it, but at the same time I was thinking, “this is important to know about, but I can’t see this affecting the Christian circles I run in.”
I was wrong.
After gaining a basic understanding on the ideas and players in Spiritual Formation, I moved on to other things. It was about six months later that our church (a small rural church) called a new pastor. It was kind of a “shot-gun” marriage so to speak. The elders announced they had found their candidate, he would preach in church on the following Sunday, a Q&A would follow the service, and a vote would be held two days later. Yikes! As the Q&A began that Sunday, there was the initial awkward silence. No questions. I was thinking, “Good grief, this most likely will be our new pastor, we know next to nothing about him, and no one has any questions!” So I raised my hand to ask a question. Keep in mind that I am in introvert extraordinaire so I am about the last person to ordinarily speak in such a situation. What question(s) does one ask in such a situation when rightfully a million questions should be asked? I asked this: “What pastors/theologians do you read?” I figured as with a book, the footnotes would give as much information on the content of the book as could be ascertained in such a short time. His reply, among other names, included Brennan Manning and John Ortberg. . . . That day there were one or two other questions on his philosophy of ministry and that was about it. The rest of the questions were small talk: dogs, cats, kids, weather, etc. I was quite disappointed that the members of the church seemed to care so little about his beliefs. . . . The pastor was voted in as fully expected.
A few months later, a message went out to the women of the church from the pastor’s wife inviting them to go to an area church for the IF:Gathering. I had never heard of the IF:Gathering before, but thought I’d look it up. As you know, it is quite new so I could not find much information on it. Since the conference seemed to be flying under the radar, I began looking up who past speakers had been. Needless to say when I saw the likes of Jen Hatmaker and Christine Caine, I became concerned. It didn’t take me long to stumble across one of the speakers referring to “contemplative prayer.” Then another woman making the same reference. I began looking for connections between the other women and Spiritual Formation/Contemplative Prayer; it seemed like it was one right after another. Now this stuff IS showing up in the circles I run in! It just took a pastor and his wife who are big into the “conference culture” to bring it to us; the “conference culture” is new to our church and its absence had spared us from many of the things that ail evangelicalism.
At this point, I knew I could not be silent. I approached our pastor about my concerns. This is the first time I have approached a pastor about something that I have adamantly disagreed about, and that is no small thing for an introvert like me. One evening, we met and I read for about 1.5 hours the things that these women had written, said, and people that they quoted (the heretical, mystical, universalist Richard Rohr seemed to be their favorite person to quote). I think the pastor was taken aback both by what these women believed and that I was able to produce so much horrid material on them. I only read him their own words; I did not read him your blog (or anyone else’s) because I figured anything that was not original source material might be dismissed as opinion/speculation. He agreed that the mysticism was bad, but that they didn’t teach this stuff at the conference because his wife has gone before and she has good discernment. To me it does not matter if they teach this stuff or not, you are leading people to teachers who are into dangerous things. The claim that they do not “teach” this stuff at the conference may or may not be true, but IF:Gathering does sell on their website books on the Desert Fathers and Mothers, books written by Catholic spiritual directors, they include Richard Foster in their material, and they gave away Pete Scazzero’s book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality to the live conference attendees this year.
Our pastor said he would think about what to do. Fortunately, he told the church that the church would no longer advertise the event due to some of the beliefs of the speakers. Unfortunately, his wife hosted the webcast conference as a private event in their home; about 1/3 of the women of the church attended.
There have been additional things that have occurred at church since then that very much make my future in that church quite uncertain.
I wanted to bring to your attention Chris and Phileena Heuertz. You mention each in passing in a couple of your blog posts, but nothing too in-depth. I first became aware of Phileena when I was researching Shauna Niequist for the IF:Gathering. Shauna is big into contemplative spirituality, and Phileena is the one who taught her Centering Prayer. Also, Shauna has written the foreword to one of Phileena’s books. Phileena Heuertz is a very memorable name, so while I did not devote too much attention to her in my research of Shauna, the name stuck with me.
Recently, the ladies of our church were invited to another upcoming women’s conference. Two of the speakers have been speakers at IF:Gathering. But there are two new faces, one of which is the “campus pastor” of the “conservative” Christian college hosting the event. She has a degree in Spiritual Formation and is into the Enneagram. When I looked further into her, I found that she has written an endorsement of Chris Heuertz’s book, The Sacred Enneagram. Furthermore, she has had Chris Heuertz [Phileena’s husband] speak a few times at that college’s chapels. Chris recently spoke at a local church on the Enneagram. He and his wife are constantly traveling and speaking at such events. Richard Rohr is a spiritual mentor to them both; Rohr serves on the board of directors of their organization (https://gravitycenter.com/home-page/host/community/board-of-directors/); another board member is a Muslim woman.
Anyway, I keep seeing this couple appear. I don’t know if their presence is growing or if I am just seeing them more because I know the name. I have never seen anything from either of these two that remotely approaches the Gospel. They are very much into interspirituality.
Much could be said about this couple, but here are a few things for your consideration:
This short video by Chris on his book is so un-Biblical it’s unbelievable that he would be permitted into a “conservative” evangelical college: https://gravitycenter.com/sacredenneagram/
A recent tweet from Chris showing his un-biblical worldview:
Here is a flavor of Phileena’s view on spirituality as seen in her recent reTweet: We are all of one religion? Really? More evidence where this mysticism really does lead.
Her tribute to Thomas Keating [who just died] (what an apropos photo to choose):
Anyway, I want to put this couple on your radar as they are up to no good and they are gaining acceptance into the evangelical church.
(photo: from bigstockphoto.com; used with permission)