I am writing to let you know, as a friend and supporter of The Lausanne Movement, that I will be leaving my position next year as Lausanne CEO and Executive Chair and moving into the role of president of the American Bible Society. I will continue to serve Lausanne as Executive Chair until the Lausanne Global Leadership Forum, June 2013 in South Asia. It is anticipated that a new CEO will be appointed early in the new year allowing for a smooth transition of leadership and operational responsibilities.
Over the course of the last few months, I have been in discussion with the Presidential Search Committee at American Bible Society in New York. Just two weeks ago, I was asked 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.
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.
These are encouraging days for The Lausanne Movement, as we see the momentum from Cape Town 2010 continue. Let me tell you why I am bullish on Lausanne, why I believe it should command the respect of Christian leaders around the world, and why I believe The Lausanne Movement should attract the generous investment and financial support of churches, foundations, ministries, and individual donors:
- Legacy of Truth and Trust: Billy Graham and John Stott. They have been two of the greatest evangelical leaders of our time. They shaped The Lausanne Movement and have personified its vision and values. They summon us to be our best selves.
- Authoritative Documents that Provide Wisdom for the Global Church: The Lausanne Covenant, Manila Manifesto, and The Cape Town Commitment.
- Grandeur of Vision: “The Whole Church taking the Whole Gospel to the Whole World.”
- Spirit of Lausanne: Humility, Study, Prayer, Partnership, and Hope.
- Cape Town 2010 – Breadth of Impact: a. ”The most representative gathering of Christian leaders in church history.” Christianity Today; b. The Cape Town Commitment (CTC) in 25 languages; c. Five major publications in the last year based upon the CTC; d. 35 Lausanne Senior Associates, each with a global network, taking responsibility for one of the Calls to Action in the CTC; e. The Lausanne website (www.lausanne.org) which hosts online conversations about each of these issues.
- Depth of Global Leadership: a. Board of Directors – Chaired by Ram Gidoomal, comprised of 21 thought-leaders of global influence; b. International Deputy Directors – 12 exceptionally capable people who advocate the cause and lead the Movement; c. Working Groups – Theology, Strategy, Communications and Intercession, each comprised of leaders of missions, seminaries, churches, and businesses.
- Strength of Thought-Leadership: Launch this month of a new publication, called Lausanne Global Analysis. This is patterned after Oxford Analytica and is edited by David Taylor, senior editor at Oxford Analytica and former diplomat with the British Foreign Service.
- Convening Power: When Lausanne leaders call a meeting, you can expect that the leaders in any given field will be there, that they will come with information that is invaluable, and they will leave with vision and strategies to make a difference in the world. In this season, we have convened consultations on Islam, Truth and the Media, Peace and the Witness of the Gospel in the Middle East, dialogues on world evangelization with Catholics and Orthodox, Creation Care, and Nominalism.
- Younger Leaders: One of the fundamentals that causes me to be most bullish on Lausanne is the fact that it is blessed with a deep reservoir of talent and energy from younger leaders. Lausanne has a history of younger leader development. Just six years ago we convened a gathering of 550 younger leaders from 115 countries. That investment is producing very significant dividends for the cause of world evangelization as they have brought of surge of energy and creativity into the Movement.
- Compelling Nature of the Lausanne Global Leadership Forum: The Forum that will be convened next June is fully subscribed with 350 global leaders. We will come together to assess global developments since Cape Town 2010, progress and obstacles in world evangelization, and to refine our priorities as we move forward.
Many people compared Cape Town 2010 to the Olympics. Such a gathering creates great excitement, visibility, impact, and inspiration. The athletes only come together for two weeks for competition. Then they return to their homes around the world to train, to coach, and to move ahead with the benefits of having been an Olympian. The levels of global visibility and excitement are adjusted to proper levels, but the global impact continues.
The same is true with Lausanne. The Congress was a once-in-lifetime experience for most of us who were there. But the real work is now taking place through relationships, partnerships, ideas, resources, and inspiration generated by ten days at a Lausanne Congress: Cape Town 2010.
These are great days for Lausanne. The best is yet to be. Be certain that I am praying for the Movement and continue to be involved in the work of Lausanne. It is a Movement and a global community of friends that I love so much.
Twenty-five years ago I came into Lausanne through the Younger Leaders Conference: Singapore ’87. I thank God that my life has been wonderfully enriched throughout the course of these years of involvement in Lausanne.
Now it is time to entrust the Movement to a new leader who will be able to take the Movement higher and further, to the glory of God. I look forward to being part of it and urge you to continue your involvement in the Movement as well.
Sincerely in Christ,
S. Douglas Birdsall
The Lausanne Movement, Executive Chair
P.S. – A news release on the leadership transition is available here: https://lausanne.org/en/about/news-releases/1884-lausanne-movement-leadership-transition-underway.html