October 16, 2013
In March 2013, Dr. Douglas Birdsall (right) became president of the American Bible Society. Doug, a licensed United Brethren minister, grew up in a UB pastor’s home, the son of Dr. Roger and MaryLou Birdsall. Prior to assuming the ABS leadership, Doug was president of the Lausanne Movement.
But just a few weeks short of Doug’s official inauguration as ABS president, scheduled for November 8, he and the ABS have parted ways.
Both Doug Birdsall and the American Bible Society issues statements, both of which are published on the Christianity Today website.
Birdsall wrote: “Last week the Board of Trustees at American Bible Society brought my service to a close….I was excited about giving this decade of my career to leading the American Bible Society into the future with a strategic vision for cultural engagement. However, there are times when the vision and style of a new leader does not mesh satisfactorily with the culture of an established organization or with the expectations of a board. Unfortunately, things did not develop as we had hoped.”
The ABM chairman wrote: “While both the Board and Dr. Birdsall shared the same passion for all generations to engage with God’s Word, there were significant differences of how to move the organization towards that goal.”
Birdsall says he and his wife, Jeanie, sought advice from some longtime friends. “Their collective counsel is for us to get rest. The three years leading up to Cape Town were exhilarating, but they also left me more exhausted than I was willing to admit.”
In May 2013, Wheaton College recognized Birdsall as “Alumnus of the Year for Distinguished Service to Society.” He graduated from Wheaton in 1975. He holds a Master of Divinity degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a Master of Theology degree from Harvard University, and recently completed his doctorate from the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies on Oxford, England.
Beginning in 1979, the Birdsalls served 20 years as missionaries in Japan with what is now called Asian Access. He became the organization’s president in 1985 and leds its expansion throughout Asia (now into 12 countries). He took a position with Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in 1999, but continued as president of Asian Access until 2007.
In 2004 he was named head of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (now simply Lausanne Movement). He stepped down as leader of Asian Access in 2007.
As head of the Lausanne Movement, Birdsall convened the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in Cape Town, South Africa, in 2010. It brought together 4200 evangelical leaders from 198 nations. Christianity Today magazine described it as “the most representative gathering of Christian leaders in church history.”
Doug and Jeanie have three children, all born in Japan. Stacia is a graduate of Princeton, Yale, and Columbia, and now works as a midwife in Manhattan. Judd worked at the US State Department and is now pursuing a doctorate at Cambridge University. Jessamin graduated from Harvard and now serves in London with Save the Children.