Unexpected Gifts, by Christopher L. Heuertz

What does it mean to be mainline Protestant? For some it means being Christian, but not evangelical, or not Catholic, or not a member of some other group perceived to be inadequate. Others imagine the tall steeple on Main Street, or the majority of the electorate, or some other icon of Christendom’s passing power.

What I want the mainline to be like is Word Made Flesh, a 22-year-old mission organization headquartered in Omaha and led by Christopher L. Heuertz, author of Unexpected Gifts. The people at WMF have the zeal for Jesus and the passion to change the world that are hallmarks of their Wesleyan heritage. They add the contemplative spirituality of Franciscan friar Richard Rohr and friendship with the most vulnerable of the world’s poor, which Heuertz learned personally at the feet of Mother Teresa.

The folks at WMF also engage in the critical inquiry and pursue the life of reading and learning that are still sometimes the hallmarks of us magisterial Protestants. Phyllis Tickle has deemed Heuertz and his cohorts (“Fleshies,” as they call themselves) exemplars of the new friars movement. In contrast to new monastics, who can tend to pursue community for community’s sake, new friars are Protestants in radical engagement with the world’s need. The result is great fruit for the whole church. WMF doesn’t just talk about need; it comes near to it. It doesn’t just assert that God doesn’t want children to be sexually exploited; it helps them escape exploitation.