Doug Birdsall, executive chairman of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, announced today that he will leave the global evangelical missions movement next year to become president of the American Bible Society (ABS), beginning March 1. (Full text of announcement below.)
"Earlier this year in January and February, I began to have a sense that
God was loosening the soil around the roots of our lives," wrote Birdsall in an announcement. "It seemed like it might be a year or two early for a change. However, I have always thought I would rather leave a year or two too early than to stay a year or two too long. I have always wanted to respond to God's leading and to make moves only when they were by divine appointment."
Birdsall resigned as president of Asian Access in 2007 in order to focus on his Lausanne role. He spent 28 years with Asian Access, serving since 1991 as its president.
The ABS announced Birdsall's appointment as its 27th president here.
CT reported how the Third Lausanne Congress–held in Cape Town, South Africa in 2010–demonstrated that global evangelicalism has been transformed. The congress was the most diverse evangelical gathering ever, drawing a cross-section of 4,000 world leaders.
CT also spotlighted how both unanimity and diversity emerge in a recent poll of Lausanne delegates.
Other CT coverage of Lausanne includes Rene Padilla and Samuel Escobar reflecting on the Lausanne movement's achievements, as well as the release of the Cape Town Commitment.
Here is the full text of Birdsall's announcement to the Lausanne community:
Dear Bob, Paul, Ram, Terry and friends in Christ:
One of the most important decisions a leader ever has to make is the one of discerning, deciding and announcing the optimal time for a leadership transition.
Jeanie and I served as missionaries in Tokyo with Asian Access from 1980 to 2007. From 1991 to 2007, I had the great privilege to serve that mission community as the senior executive. In February 2007, while in Cape Town, South Africa, I discerned that Lausanne was going to require every ounce of strength I had if the Third Lausanne Congress was to achieve its potential.
The next month, when our entire Asian Access staff and Board of Directors were gathered together in Malaysia for our annual gathering and for the mission's 40th anniversary celebration, I made the decision to announce to the Board that I felt it was time to step down from the leadership of a mission I love so much. In October 2007, I completed 16 years of service as CEO of Asian Access. By God's grace, I continue to serve on the Board of Directors of Asian Access. My successor, Joseph Handley, is doing a great job and the mission is flourishing. The entire Board of Directors for Asian Access participated in Cape Town as a show of their support for God's call on my life.
Had there been 36 hours in a day, I would have gladly continued with both the Asian Access and Lausanne roles. However, God's timing was perfect and I felt a peace about that transition.
Today, I am at a similar point of transition.
Earlier this year in January and February, I began to have a sense that God was loosening the soil around the roots of our lives. Jeanie and I had a growing sense that it might be time to step down from my leadership role in Lausanne. As I thought about it, I realized how much I was enjoying my work, how blessed I was to serve such a great and global Movement, and how fortunate I was to be working with such a great team comprised of Board members, International Deputy Directors, Working Groups, Senior Associates, and staff.
It seemed like it might be a year or two early for a change. However, I have always thought I would rather leave a year or two too early than to stay a year or two too long. I have always wanted to respond to God's leading and to make moves only when they were by divine appointment.
Over the course of the last few months, I have been in discussion with Presidential Search Committee at American Bible Society in New York. On Friday of last week, I was appointed to serve as the 27th President of this organization, a ministry that has served our society and churches in America and around the world since 1816. I will assume that role on March 1st. One of our themes at Cape Town 2010 was "Eradicate Bible Poverty". That is also one of the highest priorities for the American Bible Society.
I will continue to serve Lausanne as Executive Chairman on a full-time basis through the end of February, and will remain officially in this role until the time of the Global Leadership Forum in Bangalore, 17-21 June 2013. It is anticipated that a new leader will be appointed early in the new year. We will work for a model transition of leadership and operational responsibilities to the new leader and to our current team.
We will plan to formally install the new Executive Chairman/CEO at the time of the Forum in June in Bangalore. I am firmly committed to Lausanne and believe great days are ahead for this Movement. The Lausanne Board of Directors has expressed unanimous support for me and for God's call on Jeanie's and my life. I am committed to leaving Lausanne in strong shape financially and organizationally.
As I shared in my earlier email, I believe that The Lausanne Movement is as strong as it has ever been. This conviction is shared by Leighton Ford and Michael Cassidy. Leighton Ford served as the first chairman of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization from 1975 until 1992. He has been an invaluable mentor to me since 1987. Michael Cassidy currently serves as the Honorary Chairman for The Lausanne Movement. Both Leighton and Michael speak of the clarity of vision, the strength of relationships, and the breadth and depth of ownership that now characterizes Lausanne.
Additionally, I am grateful for the blessing of Fergus MacDonald and Paul Cedar who have also Lausanne as Chairmen. We are also blessed with an abundance of younger leaders of godly character and exceptional leadership vision and skill. This is the benefit of the Younger Leaders Gathering in 2006, and the fruit of having had nearly 1000 younger leaders in their 20s, 30s and 40s at Cape Town.
Lindsay Brown, our International Director will continue to provide leadership for the twelve International Deputy Directors in the twelve regions of the world. David Bennett, our Chief Collaboration Officer and Teaching Pastor, will continue to provide leadership for the thirty-five Senior Associates. Larry Russell, our Chief Operations Officer will provide the day-to-day operational leadership, and Ram Gidoomal will continue to serve as the Chairman of the Board of Directors for Lausanne.
As you might imagine, Jeanie and I excited about this new opportunity at American Bible Society that represents the next chapter of our life. We thank God that each time we have made a major decision in our life, we have had a sense of oneness as a couple and we have had a bedrock of certainty of God's calling. I will tell more in the days to come about the Scriptures, the prayers, the counsel and the process whereby we discerned God's guidance in this matter.
Throughout the 33 years of our ministry life, I have carried the words of Andrew Murray:
‘I am here (1) by God's appointment, (2) in His keeping, (3) under His training, (4) for His time."
I have drawn strength from this bedrock confidence in God's calling many times during the last eight years that I have served as the Executive Chairman of the Lausanne Movement. Serving in Lausanne has stretched my faith, broadened my experience, and enriched my life with friends who I will cherish as long as I live.
I am in discussion with the Lausanne Board to determine the optimal way in which I can continue to serve and support the Movement. I have communicated to the Board that I am happy with whatever role that would be best for me in the years to come. Just as my successor at Asian Access has my full and unequivocal support, I also want the new leader at Lausanne to have my support and to have room to exercise leadership according to the task entrusted by the full board of directors. Leighton Ford, Fergus MacDonald and Paul Cedar, my predecessors as Chairmen for Lausanne, have all done this for me in exemplary fashion.
In the weeks and months ahead, the Board of Directors, in partnership with our Communications Working Group and our Chief Communications Officer, Naomi Frizzell, will keep you informed of all developments. I ask for your prayers on their behalf.
I close with asking that you will continue to support this work of God in our generation with your prayers and financial gifts. During the years that I have served in this role it has been with a keen awareness that I am a *steward* and not an *owner*. It has always been my prayer that my leadership would honor Christ, that it would serve the Movement well, and that I might leave the work of Lausanne in a stronger position than I found it so that it might serve the purposes of God for many decades to come. We are at a time when there is unity, joy and momentum. We sense that we are moving in response to his leading. And now we commit and commend the people and the future of the Lausanne Movement to his care.
"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine according to his power this is at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen."
Yours in Christ,