NEW YORK, NY —InterVarsity Press author Rev. Peter Heltzel was honored with the 2014 Nelson Mandela Community Activist Award for his ongoing work to make a difference in New York City. The award was presented by the New York City Clergy Roundtable at the Nelson Mandela Tribute & Award Ceremony on Friday, March 7, at First Corinthian Baptist Church in New York.
Heltzel said that one of his favorite Mandela quotes is: “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” Heltzel added, “I will spend the rest of my life trying to live up to Mandela’s legacy of freedom and justice.”
Heltzel lives out Mandela’s words in a number of ways. In addition to being associate professor of systematic theology at New York Theological Seminary, Heltzel serves as director of the seminary’s Micah Institute, which seeks to educate New York City faith leaders on issues of social and economic justice, to equip leaders to serve as change agents for social transformation and movement-building, and to act as a powerful coalition of organizers and advocates transforming New York City. Heltzel is also assistant pastor of evangelism at Park Avenue Christian Church in New York City and serves on the Metro Commission on Ministry and the Anti-Racism/Pro-Reconciliation Team of the Northeastern Region, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
Heltzel holds a BA from Wheaton College, a MDiv from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and earned his PhD from Boston University. He also completed course work at the University of Mississippi in Southern fiction and creative writing. These courses, combined with his childhood years in Mississippi, inform his work with a deep commitment to the power of words and music, to social justice and to a global movement of radical change and collective activism.
In September 2010, Heltzel and Rev. Alexia Salvatierra launched a Micah Doctor of Ministry track in Transformational Leadership and Organizing at New York Theological Seminary. Out of that work together they coauthored Faith-Rooted Organizing: Mobilizing the Church in Service to the World. “Faith-rooted organizing is gathering people for social change in a manner that is guided and shaped by our faith, and designed to enable us to contribute our unique gifts to the broader movement for justice,” Heltzel explains.
“It’s no surprise to me that Peter Heltzel would be honored with this award,” said David Zimmerman, Associate Editor at InterVarsity Press. “Peter is one of those rare authors—his coauthor Alexia is another—whose intellect keeps pace with their passion. He has a profound sense of history, particularly cultural history where justice and spirituality intersect. He understands not only that there is history behind the events of our day but also that we are participating in history as it unfolds. His writing and his activism come from the same motivation: to improve his world out of love for God and his neighbor.”
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