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American Bible, New CEO Part Ways

By Mark Hrywna - October 8, 2013

The 27th president and CEO of American Bible Society (ABS) is out after just seven months on the job and less than a year after getting hired.

S. Douglas Birdsall began his tenure in March, after ABS announced his hiring last November, but the two sides parted ways sometime last week.

As early as Monday morning, American Bible Society’s website had no mention of Birdsall on its website. Employees were informed by memo on Friday after the board finalized its decision on Thursday.

ABS issued a statement through its public relations firm in response to an inquiry for comment: “Doug served American Bible Society with commitment and enthusiasm. While both the board and Dr. Birdsall shared the same passion for all generations to engage in God’s Word, there were significant differences of how to move the organization towards that goal,” said Chairman Pieter Dearolf.

“I was excited about giving this decade of my career to lead 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 the board. Unfortunately, things did not develop as we had hoped,” Birdsall said.

“In this case, the incompatibility of ideas about how to move towards that shared vision was not realized until Doug took the reins of the organization and the had the opportunity to begin implementing his ideas,” the organization said in response to an inquiry.

Executive Vice President of Development, Marketing and Research Simon Barnes and Director of Development Joey Pierce left the organization shortly after Birdsall’s arrival. Pierce has since joined Partners in Health as senior director of development, according to his LinkedIn profile.

In Birdsall’s first several weeks on the job, the organization issued a request for proposal for a new direct mail vendor and by May had chosen Masterworks over incumbent KerstenDirect (formerly Stratmark). Whether that played any part in the turnover is unclear but it’s likely that the two firms still were in some transition period to this point.

ABS Chief Operating Officer Steve King will assume interim responsibility for day-to-day operations until a “search for longer-term presidential leadership is successfully completed.” The search process by the board typically takes 12 months.

The New York City-headquartered charity — which reported $62 million in total revenue last year, including $39 million in contributions and grants — will begin a search for a new CEO, just two years before its bi-centennial in 2016. The organization’s endowment stood at $301 million at the end of June 2012, according to the organization’s federal Form 990.

The founding director of the J Christy Wilson, Jr. Center for World Missions at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Birdsall succeeded R. Lamar Vest, who announced his retirement in spring 2012. Vest earned total compensation of $451,933, including a base of 269,472, retirement and other deferred of $81,352, and other compensation of $65,395.

Birdsall was executive chairman of the Lausanne Movement since 2004. Prior to serving with Lausanne, he and his wife were missionaries in Japan with Asian Access, where Birdsall went on to become the president.

Birdsall holds a bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College, a master of divinity from Gordon-Conwell, and a master of theology from Harvard University. He is pursuing his doctorate from the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies.


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