Skip to Content

Tim Keller, big donors & others grieved over firing of president of American Bible Society

Board Chairman Pieter Dearolf announced without explanation that there were “significant differences” between the board and its president.

By Print Preview

Doug Birdsall

Doug Birdsall was dismissed by the American Bible Society after he had surgery for lung cancer.

The American Bible Society planned to inaugurate Doug Birdsall as their new president this coming Friday. Instead, a month ago, the Board of Trustees of the Bible society became so dissatisfied with Birdsall that it dismissed him. In October American Bible Society Board Chairman Pieter Dearolf announced that there were "significant differences" between the board and its president.

Today, Tim Keller, other ministry leaders and big donors released a letter stating the dismissal of Birdsall has caused grief and perplexity. The letter stated that "Those of us in New York City were thrilled to hear Doug champion new opportunities and challenges for Bible Engagement in the 21st Century."  And now "we are perplexed and grieved by this action." The authors say that they will be providing support for the Birdsall family because the American Bible Society is not providing any severance pay.


Here is the letter:

November 5, 2013

Dear Friends of the Birdsalls:

We are writing to you in support of our friends, Doug and Jeanie Birdsall. Most likely you have heard that the Board of Trustees of the American Bible Society (ABS) recently released Doug as President and CEO after just six months in this role. As Christian leaders who have known Doug over the entire course of his ministry, we are perplexed and grieved by this action. In the aftermath of a distressing few weeks, we wish to tell you of our deep appreciation and support for Doug.

1. Doug's reputation of integrity and record productivity

Doug is one of the most widely known and highly respected mission leaders in the world. The impact of his work was globally visible at Cape Town 2010, one of the most representative gatherings of leaders in the 2,000-year history of the Christian movement. Prior to his leadership for the Lausanne Movement, Doug served for sixteen years as the President and CEO of Asian Access, a ministry where he also provided revitalizing leadership for growth across Asia.

His leadership is characterized by godliness, vision, energy, and integrity. Doug is known for his ability to inspire, to recruit gifted people, and to enlist significant financial support from a wide variety of sources. He is legendary with his ability to remember the names of thousands of people from around the world.

Doug's public ministry is perhaps most convincingly validated by exemplary family life. Jeanie is the unsung heroine of the story as a trusted advisor and life partner of 38 years. Their three extraordinarily accomplished children are all committed followers of Christ and are active in churches and ministries in New York, Cambridge, and London.

Those of us in New York City were thrilled to hear Doug champion new opportunities and challenges for Bible Engagement in the 21st Century. He spoke enthusiastically and worked tirelessly on the vision to partner with churches and Christian organizations across the country to get the Bible into the hands, the minds, and the hearts of the next generation. We have heard many reports from so many who had enthusiastically embraced the nature and scope of Doug's compelling vision.

We grieve for our friends, Doug and Jeanie Birdsall. And we grieve for the loss of what we believe would have been a great future for the work of the American Bible Society under his leadership.

2. Our Commitment to Doug and Jeanie

We have confidence that God has something greater in store for Doug and Jeanie. We believe they will grow deeper and stronger in character as they discover God's redemptive purposes. That notwithstanding, this is a deep and painful blow that comes on top of a demanding season of life. They need to be replenished physically, emotionally and spiritually. These recent events come on the heels of two surgeries for lung cancer, from which, we are thankful, Doug is recovering well. They are now back at Gordon-Conwell Seminary, a place they call home with a community of students and scholars they love.

As they will not be receiving severance from ABS, we are also taking initiative to ensure that they will be well cared for during this season. Senior Executives at Asian Access, the National Christian Foundation and the Lausanne Movement are providing leadership in this area.

Thank you for your concern for Doug and Jeanie. Please keep them in your prayers. They would be happy to hear from you by phone or e-mail. We would also ask you to pray for the American Bible Society and for the global cause of the Bible through their partners in the United Bible Societies. God bless you.

Sincerely in Christ,

Dr. Tim KellerSenior Pastor, Redeemer Presbyterian Church; New York Times best- selling author

Mr. Bob DollChief Equity Strategist, Nuveen Asset Management; Chair, The Lausanne Global Executive Leadership Forum; Former Vice Chairman and Chief Equity Strategist, BlackRock; Former President, Merrill Lynch Investment Managers

Dr. Terry DouglassChairman and CEO, ProNova Solutions; Chairman, Provision Foundation

Dr. Leighton Ford, President, Leighton Ford Ministries

Mr. Ram Gidoomal, Chairman of Global Board, The Lausanne Movement

Mr. Dale JonesPresident, Diversified Search; Former Vice Chair, Heidrick and Struggles; Trustee, Princeton Seminary; National Board, The Salvation Army

Mr. Ron McMahon, Chairman of the Board, Asian Access

Mr. Peter Ochs, Chairman of the Board, First Fruit, Inc.; Founder and Chairman, The Fieldstone Group of Companies; Former Chair of the Executive Committee, Prison Fellowship Ministries; Founding Chair, The Seed Company; Former Chair, Wycliffe Bible Translators, US

Dr. Joseph "Skip" RyanChancellor, Redeemer Seminary; Founding Pastor, Park Cities Presbyterian Church, Dallas

Dr. Ken WendlingFriend and Mentor to Doug for thirty-three years

Mr. David Wills, Esq., President, National Christian Foundation; Co-Founder, Generous Giving

  • thanks for this magazine!

  • Wondering what this group thinks now of the decision by ABS to sell its building.

  • All too often Pastors and people in ministry are laid off or fired with no consideration for their ability to even move to a new location. I wonder if those terminating people from ministry think God will somehow just send money from heaven to supply their basic needs.

    This is a very sad situation indeed. However the fact he had cancer of the lungs is not something that should be withheld from any employer. Unless those who are offering employment know that there will be times needed for doctors appointments and medical tests, that too is unfair.

    I am sad for both parties, and this should serve as an example for others with health issues to make health issues known openly before excepting employment.

    ABS most certainly could afford to be compassionate, and demonstrate Christ's love in giving some kind of severance pay. I am deeply concerned why ABS has such a large amount of funds sitting within their control and not using it. That deserves a closer looking into.

  • Looking forward to more reports from you on this. There is a story here which needs to be told and understood.

  • Like this too.

  • Thumbs up!

  • Like this!

  • Thanks for this!

Sign up for Journey newsletter!

Privacy by SafeUnsubscribe

Upcoming Features