What’s next for the American Bible Society? | WORLD
Sound journalism, grounded in facts and Biblical truth | Donate

What’s next for the American Bible Society?

New president and CEO is a “Bible Cause” veteran

duckycards/E+ via Getty Images

What’s next for the American Bible Society?

Jennifer Holloran joined the American Bible Society as president and CEO on March 1 in the midst of sea change—both at the organization and the Bible access efforts of which it is one part.

It’s not just new leadership. ABS on Friday will see the doors close on an educational center it opened just a few years ago. The Faith and Liberty Discovery Center in Philadelphia invited visitors to explore the Bible’s role in the founding of the United States. The Bible Society’s own research recently found that modern Americans are less engaged in—but more curious about—Scripture. Meanwhile, digital technologies provide new tools for diverse communities to access the Word of God.

While there are challenges, Holloran also sees opportunities for ABS to work on projects involving diverse church groups.

ABS Board Chairwoman Katherine Barnhart said in a statement that Holloran would help the organization innovate “new ways to make the Bible available” while continuing the essential work of Scripture translation.

Jennifer Holloran

Jennifer Holloran Photo courtesy of the American Bible Society

The group was formed in 1816 by Protestants and at first used the King James Version. Its first translation was into the language used by the Native American Lenape people of Delaware. Notable ABS members early on included U.S. Founding Father John Jay, who was named its president in 1821, and national anthem writer Francis Scott Key, who was its vice president for more than 20 years. Significant efforts in recent years included contracting with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers to manage a registry of “.BIBLE” domain names on the internet.

Holloran is no stranger to Bible translation, coming to ABS from Wycliffe Bible Translators USA. She also has served on the board of directors for mission groups like Missio Nexus and Mission Aviation Fellowship USA. She is the first female president of the 207-year-old American Bible Society.

How did she get to this point? Holloran was an MBA student with a history degree, working as a typist and a file clerk at a missions organization before starting in what she calls “The Bible Cause,” borrowing the title of a book about ABS history. The opportunity to work in Bible translation felt like a surprise from God, she said. She worked for 22 years at Wycliffe, most recently as its chief operating officer. When the American Bible Society began its search for a new president and CEO, she said, “I sensed God leading me to put my name in for consideration.”

What was her time like at Wycliffe? Holloran saw people around the world get access to God’s Word in a language that spoke to them for the first time. “Their perspectives, along with my own experiences around the world, shaped the way I understand the global body of Christ,” she said. There’s no easy formula for running a global nonprofit group, she says. Generally, she suggests that leaders fully depend on God, and “try to let your actions reflect the two main commandments: love the Lord and love others.”

What’s her vision for the future of The American Bible Society? Holloran sees a role for ABS to help church groups work together in unspecified “interconfessional” ways. “We believe our best contribution will be to partner effectively with others to maximize what God is doing at home and around the world through His Word,” she said.

What does she see for the future of Bible publishing? Digital media will be a key part of sharing the Bible, Holloran said. The written Word of God, including digital and printed Bibles, will likely always have “an important place in Bible access,” she said. But, she added, Bible access is more than just text. Digital video has become a helpful platform for the use of sign languages. Some communities have an oral-only language—in others, the spoken word comes first. “Publishing” for such communities would mean some type of audio recording, or an option to stream audio. “Most of that work occurs digitally today,” Holloran said.

ABS has said it’s adapting to different challenges and needs. How will it focus on the work of the future? The society’s annual in-house research report shows a decline in the number of U.S. residents who engage with Scripture. However, more people are “curious” about the Bible.

“We want to explore the strategies that will help people move from that place of curiosity to allowing Scripture to make a transformative impact on their lives,” Holloran said.

What, if anything, will ABS be doing less of? The Faith and Liberty Discovery Center is closing. Its last day open to the public will be March 28. The educational attraction opened in May 2021 in Philadelphia’s Independence Mall. Meant to share the importance of Scripture on the development of the United States, the center invited visitors to explore the relationship between faith and liberty in U.S. history. The American Bible Society board of directors and the center’s leadership made the decision.

In a statement, the board cited structural limitations at the facility—and the proximity of the opening to the lockdowns from the COVID-19 pandemic—as some of the reasons they decided to close the it.

What does the organization need? The organization’s greatest need is to have people pray. “We know that prayer is powerful – God responds to our prayers, and He also transforms our hearts as we pray.”

Stephen Kloosterman

Stephen Kloosterman is the breaking news editor for WORLD. He is a graduate of Dordt University and the World Journalism Institute.


An actual newsletter worth subscribing to instead of just a collection of links. —Adam

Sign up to receive The Sift email newsletter each weekday morning for the latest headlines from WORLD’s breaking news team.

Please wait while we load the latest comments...