I spent much of my adult life learning from my father-in-law, Howard Butt Jr., and growing into my present position. He often affirmed me as an organizational leader, but he pulled no punches in pointing out areas where I would need extra support. One such area: keeping the H. E. Butt Foundation rooted in faith and theologically aligned.
I’ve learned that he was right. I’m not a theologian, yet I oversee a Christian organization. And, of course, the Foundation isn’t a church.
While much of our work in the Canyon is faith-forward and explicitly Christian, our newer work with nonprofits and our storytelling initiative—Know Your Neighbor—does not lead with faith language. Yet all our efforts and relationships are fulfilling our Christian commitment to love our neighbors as ourselves. As we balance when to express our faith in words and when to express our faith in actions, it is more important than ever for those of us in the Foundation to be aligned on why we do what we do.
My friend Andy Crouch has challenged us to be clearer about our beliefs and practices. He speaks of Benedictine monasteries where anyone who showed up at the door was welcomed with generous hospitality. That hospitality was provided by monks who had made radical vows to lives of Christian discipline. Their profound generosity was driven by a distinct and deep faith.
Andy said, “The deepest clarity and the deepest hospitality actually go together.”
“The deepest clarity and the deepest hospitality actually go together.
This year, we created a formal theological advisory group led by Steven Purcell that includes a pastor, a theologian, and a spiritual advisor, along with me and my wife, Deborah. We consult with this group often about balancing words and actions while remaining relevant in a culture of constant change and challenge. Those conversations helped us clarify our own distinct and deep faith—and see the importance of articulating our convictions and sharing them publicly.
Around the time we finalized these faith convictions, we hired Scott Heare as our Executive Director of Congregational Mental Health Initiatives. Scott is theologically trained, and he has served locally as a pastor for 28 years. In his experience, faith statements are often used to distinguish one Christian group from others, but a statement of convictions is an invitation. Convictions are ideals that move an organization forward in a dynamic world.
Like all our staff, Scott did not have to sign these convictions—this is not a statement of faith required of all H. E. Butt Foundation employees. We’ll continue to hire the best people we can for each position, and we’ll continue to welcome a wide range of guests into all our programs and work with a varied mix of partners. Our intent is not to put a border around who can belong, but to be clear about who we are and the convictions that drive everything we do. As Howard always expressed, we want to stay “in the fairway.”
Also, these convictions are not new. They come from the legacy of faith that has always been at the heart of the H. E. Butt Foundation. If you’ve been around us for very long, nothing expressed in these convictions will surprise you.
Back when I was meeting with my father-in-law regularly, we often began in prayer. Before discussing our work, we started by listening for the will of God. Today, we are still listening.
“Today, we are still listening. “