The Fetzer Institute’s Next Phase: Serving a Shared Sacred Movement

by Bob Boisture, Fetzer Institute President and CEO
April 11, 2022

After an intensive planning process, the Fetzer Institute is moving forward with a bold framework to accelerate a powerful global movement grounded in the ineffable Love that the great spiritual traditions have found at the very heart of reality itself. This framework will set the trajectory of our work for the rest of this decade and beyond.

We are at a point of great promise and great peril in our human journey. For the first time in human history, we have the knowledge, technology, and resources to build a world in which all people and all life can flourish. But too often we are using this power in ways that diminish and destroy life. Our course is unsustainable; we are headed for disaster.

Facing this sobering reality, in 2016 we at Fetzer made a momentous decision. We rejected the conventional management wisdom of rightsizing our mission and programs to fit our staff and financial resources, and instead committed to rightsizing them to meet the urgent needs of the world.

As a spiritually grounded workplace and community, we started with our shared belief that Love is at the heart of reality, calling and empowering all of humanity to open our hearts to each other and the natural world. We were and are persuaded that only if a critical mass of persons around the world experience and manifest this profound inner transformation can we build a flourishing world.

Scanning the horizon, we identified a variety of Love-based initiatives for personal and societal transformation existing and emerging around the globe across virtually all fields of human endeavor. These efforts constitute the building blocks for a shared sacred movement, a comprehensive global movement to reimagine and repair the world through the lens of Love. This movement engages the life-affirming worldviews of historic religious and spiritual traditions, as well as more modern philosophical and scientific paths.

We committed to do everything we could to accelerate this emerging movement’s growth. As a next body of work, we have identified three catalytic opportunities within this movement: the articulation of an animating and uniting vision, knitting together stronger connective tissue, and mobilizing ever greater financial resources. Given Fetzer’s history, mission, networks, partners, and resources, we see a meaningful opportunity to contribute to all three areas.

For several years we have been laying the foundation for our long-term capacity to support such a shared sacred movement in all of these ways. Our work has focused on spiritually grounded initiatives to heal American democracy, to infuse constitutionally respectful spiritual development into education, to foster spiritual innovation, and to amplify faith-inspired initiatives. Through this work we have broadened our network and gained valuable experience in bringing leaders, organizations, and donors together to co-create strategies for spiritually grounded transformation. Our Study of Spirituality in the United States has given us new insights into the importance of spirituality as a source of meaning, connection, and inspiration for service to others. Over this period we have also significantly expanded our staffing and continued to deepen our spiritual ground. We have doubled down on our commitment to not only doing the outer work of spiritual transformation, but to also doing the inner work, including excavating the roots of racism and exclusions in our own institution, our own community, and ourselves.

Building on our learning, over the next two years we will transition from funding independent projects that illuminate this emerging shared sacred movement to a more ambitious strategy that strengthens the movement itself. This strategy will deepen into three areas of opportunity, as outlined below.

Catalytic Opportunity 1: Uniting Vision
The heart of this next phase of work will be the 2024 launch of an intensive effort to lift up a shared sacred story that can provide a deep ground and unifying vision for this emerging shared sacred movement.

Like every generation before us, we stand before the ultimate mystery of existence and ask whether reality is on our side. Is there something more beyond the physical world that infuses meaning, purpose, value, and sacred connection into the fabric of reality?

Over the millennia each of the great religious and spiritual traditions has found this “something more” in its own radically transformative experience of Love at the heart of the mystery. Each of the traditions’ stories about the sacred mystery has animated and sustained countless lives and enduring cultures.

But today we stand as a single human family in need of a shared sacred story—not to replace the sacred stories of our respective traditions, to which many of us remain deeply committed, but rather to provide a deep spiritual meeting ground on which we can all come together to build a flourishing world.

Fetzer is turning to leaders in the world’s major historic religious and spiritual traditions, as well as to leaders on emerging inter-spiritual paths, to discern this shared sacred story that honors our religious and spiritual diversity while connecting us across these differences in Love. These leaders will help us articulate a poetic interpretation of a shared sacred story for the entire human family.

Reflecting Fetzer’s long-standing commitment to the dialogue between spirituality and science, we will also be engaging experts from across multiple scientific disciplines to better understand what science can tell us about the role of Love in building a flourishing world. This, too, will be part of the shared sacred story.

Over the next two years we will be developing the materials and mobilizing the resources for a major public effort beginning in 2024 to lift up the shared sacred story as broadly as we possibly can.

Catalytic Opportunity 2: Connective Tissue
In parallel to facilitating a unifying vision, Fetzer will map the emerging shared sacred movement to demonstrate its breadth and power. This effort will also enable a longer-term connecting and convening strategy to strengthen the movement’s connective tissue.

We will invite millions of people into the shared sacred movement, which will help us all to know ourselves better and inspire us to live in harmony with each other.

Catalytic Opportunity 3: Financial Resources
We cannot do this alone. Fetzer is committing to working with other funders longing for a world reimagined through the lens of Love. We have already begun an intensive effort to build relationships with individual and institutional donors who share our passion about the potential for catalyzing a shared sacred movement. We pray that this effort will help create a rising tide of financial resources that will sustain the movement’s long-term growth. Our own financial commitment through the end of the decade will exceed $300 million. We expect that our partners’ commitments will multiply this many times over.

John Fetzer’s dream for the Institute was that we would do our part to help the human family take the next big step in our spiritual journey. He was confident that the summary of our work would always be unconditional love. As outlined here, we continue to live into John’s vision with determination, hope, joy, and love. And in doing so, we play our part in helping to build the spiritual foundation for a loving world.