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Tim Keller Defends Doug Birdsall, 'Perplexed and Grieved' over Bible Society Firing

(UPDATED) American Bible Society tells Keller, Leighton Ford, Skip Ryan and others not to disrespect either side.
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Editor's note: This post has been updated with the American Bible Society's full response to the open letter from Tim Keller and 10 others.

One month after the American Bible Society (ABS) unexpectedly fired its new president weeks before his ...

The full text of both letters is below.

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Displaying 1–14 of 14 comments

audrey ruth

November 19, 2013  3:43am

I read this about a week ago, but haven't commented on it until now. I just want to say that I'm much more concerned about Biblical issues which seem to have been a foundational issue in this situation (re earlier comments), than any one man's decision to leave ABS. I have been thrilled with ABS's work in earlier years and am very sad to see that this has become an issue.

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Lily MacLiam

November 18, 2013  3:24pm

I think it is sad that this private matter was thrust into the spotlight by some well-meaning but misguided friends. It is understandable to be upset when a friend loses his job. But to publicly call out a ministry for exercising its right to hire and fire its leaders is irresponsible. Kudos to the Bible Society for not descending into the fray to disparage Mr. Birdsall. The only people who really know why Mr. Birdsall was released are Mr. Birdsall and the organization. And it really isn't anyone else's business. And shame on any believers who jump in with the "where there's smoke there's fire" argument. We should believe the best about a fine man and a fine organization and not stoop to rumor-mongering. I think this whole thing should be a cautionary tale for all of us. To Christian leaders: use your positions of influence more judiciously. To Christian media: don't report on supposition and innuendo... especially you, Christianity Today. As a reader, I expect more of you.

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Rick Dalbey

November 09, 2013  1:41pm

Worthey, if Birdsall were a checker at Safeway or an engineer at Intel, his firing would not be noteworthy unless it was for some unusual and significant cause. If that engineer's firing were then made a national news story, we would expect to be told the unusual nature of the incident. If there is no background given, it is merely a weird piece of gossip. By publishing this story nationally CT has implied that there is cause for concern, yet it is never revealed. That is irresposible and intrudes on the privacy of Mr. Birdsall or impugns the character of the ABS. The fact that national leaders would weigh in is further evidence that we should assume "where there is smoke there is fire." Being president of an organization that prints and promotes the word of God is not just another job. A disagreement about how to encourage the world to read the Bible that escalates to a public firing deserves an explanation, just as Paul's grievance against Peter was public. It affected the church.

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Worthey Brisco

November 09, 2013  10:38am

Some of you are perplexed about the reasons behind the release of Mr Birdsall ... I'm perplexed as to why it is any of your business. Did Mr Birdsall ask for your involvement? Did he seek for you to address this issue? I think not. I suggest that all would respect the fact that things don't always work out in ANY employment, even one with the Bible Society. There appears to have been significant difference in approach and philosophy between Mr Birdsall and the Bible Society. Obviously, these differences could not be resolved. It happens.

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Raphael Gamaroff

November 09, 2013  9:55am

No one knows what the problem was. Automatic Break System?

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Frank Keefe

November 09, 2013  1:47am

Aaah but Doranna we Christians are called to be lights in a dark world this just shows us as no different from the secular world and brings Christ down.Like Ive stated some Christians just DONT GET IT. We see across the planet men women and children losing their lives either from terrorism or from natural disasters but at the ABS Christians cant seem to agree to do Gods will...I find that to be a lack of faith in God and wouldn't be surprised if pride is behind it. I think BOTH should pray to God for guidance over this and who knows it might even be resolved in a true Christian spirit as it should have been in the first place.

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Doranna Cooper

November 08, 2013  7:56pm

There is no moral problem so if there are other differences, so what? We are not perfect and holy yet and sometimes personalities do not mesh and cannot work together. The men who wrote the letter to ABS must accept this and move on. This is a part of life, not every orgainization is perfect for every personality. I am so glad it wasn't a moral issue so let it rest!

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Frank Keefe

November 08, 2013  6:31pm

Just think of the disciples asking Jesus those silly questions that our Lord had to answer eg who is the greatest in the Kingdom Matt 18 1-4 Jesus did give an answer but showed them how much they didn't understand the nature of God by saying you must come as a little child. Still today God is having to deal with human beings that just DONT GET IT. If Doug Birdsall ( I don't know him as Im a Brit ) was removed because of differences in getting more people to read the bible then God must be shaking His head if thats possible seeing how ridiculous this looks..Richard Dawkins &Co must be having a field day if they are reading this.

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JAMES BANDSTRA

November 08, 2013  5:08pm

Well said, Pieter Dearolf. An appropriate Christian response to an inappropriate intrusion into ABS personnel policy. Rick Dalbey, you should know that the ABS should not and cannot discuss personnel actions publicly.

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Stanley Hall

November 07, 2013  12:45am

I think Rick Dalbey's comments are most forthright. More questions are raised than answered, and speculation runs wild as evidenced by Taylor's family comments. We need to seek the Father's forgiveness, and the Spirit's wisdom to heal hearts and minds.

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WILLIAM TAYLOR

November 06, 2013  1:39pm

Stuff just happens!! And we will probably, at least the vast majority of us who follow these stories because we know some of the key players, also know that few will ever know the full story from either side, or outside. The question to ask, and this goes both to organizations and certainly to individuals, what is the uber-purpose of God here? Is this entire passage an invitation into a complete deconstruction of understanding God and his ways, of faithful discipleship amidst problems, of "success" and competencies (those deadly words), integrity (the real kind) until the end. Tim, thank you for your gracious letter, but allow me, a global mission elder, to gently state a warning. Let us be careful with lauding descriptions of exemplary family where all children are committed followers of Christ. There are too many cases of women and men of God whose children, by their choice, have made wrong choices. Don't put a family under this added public pressure. Meanwhile, we watch, pray

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C M

November 06, 2013  9:29am

I'm glad they followed up. In the comment section after the original article people were speculating why Doug was fired. It is such a major, public move that is usually reserved for moral failure. It is important for people to know that is not the case.

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H Paulson

November 05, 2013  11:33pm

What's the big deal here? Capable leaders get dismissed by Christian organizations all the time, and (hello!) they can feel "perplexed and grieved." Life is not fair. I don't see reporting of wrongdoing or slander here. So why do all the heavyweights circle the wagons in such a PUBLIC way to share the need for Birdsall to be "replenished?" Why not just do it privately instead of making it sound like they've got to defend his integrity and bring all his family into it too? …we haven't even seen these things being attacked! If this "support group" feels the need to defend Birdsall from something big, then name the wrong and fight it head-on. A difference of vision/approach and loss of severance (who gets severance after 6 months anyway?) don't warrant this kind of public airing. To the contrary, it slams the ABS without saying anything of substance, and might have the unintended consequence of pushing the ABS to defend itself by making allegations that fuel the fire.

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Rick Dalbey

November 05, 2013  11:27pm

I am perplexed as well because no reason is ever cited for his dismissal. And then CT publishes a story just restating the fact that Doug Birdsall was fired for what...a disagreement about how to engage people in reading the Bible? Anybody want to tell us what the substance was? Why publish this unless you want people to way in on the disagreement. Otherwise it is just gossip. He was fired over the thing that, you know, the do-hickey that did whatever.

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