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DeMoss, exec with ‘all-access pass’ to evangelical history, to close firm

Mark DeMoss has guided public relations for many prominent Christian organizations in recent decades from his Atlanta-based firm. Photo courtesy of DeMoss

(RNS) — After nearly 30 years, a public relations agency that has acted as a powerful gatekeeper for some of the most prominent Christian faith-based organizations is closing its doors.

Mark DeMoss, 56, announced in a letter to friends Tuesday (Jan. 15) he is closing his eponymous, Atlanta-based firm — which describes itself as the nation’s largest PR agency serving faith-based organizations and causes — at the end of March.

DeMoss has represented such institutions as the Museum of the Bible, Hillsong, campus ministry Cru, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse, headed by Graham’s son Franklin. The firm also has been connected with two influential megachurches — Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago and Mars Hill Church in Seattle — helping both to navigate crises involving their prominent pastors.

That career, DeMoss wrote, has given him an “all-access pass to so much evangelical history.”

The American Bible Society, which has worked with the agency for nearly a decade, called its closing “a great loss for the Kingdom.”

“DeMoss has made tremendous impact on Global Bible Ministry for nearly three decades by supporting and giving lift to Bible ministry messages and mission,” American Bible Society President and CEO Roy Peterson said in an email to RNS.

DeMoss — who attends Passion City Church, an evangelical megachurch headed by Louie Giglio in Atlanta — received “clarity and affirmation” about the decision to close the firm in what he called a “season of reflection” after his diagnosis with cancer two years ago, according to the letter. (He since has been declared cancer-free.)

He also realized he was passionate about the “practice of public relations — not the business of PR,” and he wasn’t sure he had the ability or passion to reinvent the firm the way he said so many other agencies have done in the past few years, pivoting to digital marketing and advertising.

“A big factor was the world has changed so much, communications has changed so much and the PR industry has changed so much that successful PR firms are reinventing themselves. They’re changing their business models,” he told Religion News Service. “I don’t think I know how to do that.”

Mark DeMoss, senior adviser to the Mitt Romney presidential campaign, speaks on a panel about faith outreach by both campaigns during the Religion Newswriters Conference in Bethesda, Md., on Oct. 5, 2012. RNS photo by Sally Morrow

DeMoss also has hinted at disenchantment with the country’s increasingly polarized political climate and its impact on evangelicalism.

In 2016, he stepped down from the board of trustees at Liberty University after Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr. endorsed Donald Trump for president, calling the insults and bullying of the Trump campaign a rejection of the values promoted by Liberty founder Jerry Falwell Sr. and the university.

DeMoss disagreed about the “appropriateness” of the endorsement, but, he said at the time, “I hope we have not ‘fallen out’ over this matter. I am a Liberty graduate and have been associated with the school for nearly 40 years. Despite our differences on this endorsement, Jerry and I share a love for Liberty University.”

In the 1980s and early ’90s, DeMoss spent eight years as chief of staff to Falwell Sr., who, The Washington Post has said, he considered to be a second father.

DeMoss was a senior adviser to Mitt Romney during his unsuccessful presidential runs and led evangelical efforts to get out the vote for Romney.

And DeMoss encouraged religious leaders to do their part to calm the political rhetoric, launching an online forum called The Civility Project with Democratic consultant Lanny Davis ahead of President Obama’s first inauguration in 2009. The project had three principles: to be civil in public discourse, respect those with whom you disagree and stand against incivility.

“Many Christians like to call ourselves followers of Christ,” he said at the time. “I can’t be a follower of Christ if I’m shouting at you or interrupting your meeting, and I certainly don’t look like one when I do that.”

DeMoss has not said he is retiring. Instead, he wrote in his letter, he is looking forward to a period of rest like the sabbaticals he has given employees at his firm but never taken himself. He plans to spend that time reading, studying, praying, seeking counsel and perhaps writing.

(RNS national reporter Adelle M. Banks contributed to this report.)

About the author

Emily McFarlan Miller

Emily McFarlan Miller is a national reporter for RNS based in Chicago. She covers evangelical and mainline Protestant Christianity.

11 Comments

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  • DeMoss also has hinted at disenchantment with the country’s increasingly polarized political climate and its impact on evangelicalism.

    Boo hoo. Spoken as if DeMoss’ decades-long efforts to market evangelical Christianity, along with those of people like Ralph Reed, another evangelical marketing guru, haven’t directly contributed to the polarized political climate in which we now find ourselves and which led to Trump’s election. People like DeMoss have spent the last thirty years defining their brand of Christianity as being uniquely pure and holy by virtue of the fact that they do not condone abortion or homosexuality but apparently have no problem with child molesters like Roy Moore or serial adulterers like Donald Trump. Sounds to me like DeMoss laments his efforts’ impact on evangelicalism only because successive generations are turned off by what they see as rank hypocrisy and are leaving in droves. Were it not for that he’d probably keep right on collecting his hefty paycheck instead of closing his doors. Turns out his long-term game plan didn’t turn out so well. Cry me a river for Mark DeMoss and play him the world’s saddest song on the world’s smallest violin while you’re at it.

  • If you’re referring to this:

    DeMoss encouraged religious leaders to do their part to calm the political rhetoric,

    …it’s a little late in the game to call for calm when you’ve personally stoked the flames for the past three decades by constantly dividing people one from another.

  • The article makes clear that Mr. DeMoss parted ways with Jerry Falwell, Jr. because of Dr. Falwell’s endorsement of Donald Trump. Clearly, he does have a problem with Mr. Trump.

    As to Roy Moore, your accusation is unproven and baseless. Perhaps you were willingly convinced of the veracity of that particular character assassination attempt by selectively consuming “news” which appealed to your own strongly held biases. Are you equally as vocal about “child molesters” whose religion collectively endorses child brides? I don’t know the answer, I’m asking for the purpose of encouraging personal reflection.

    I also wonder if your own personal history would withstand the type of scorched-earth nit-combing to which political figures on the right are subjected these days? Mine couldn’t. Few have the lifelong purity to emerge unscathed from such. Furthermore, when someone does check out to be blameless it’s become a common tactic (mostly from the left) to simply invent accusations and see if they’ll stick. Lyndon Johnson, while likely not its progenitor famously applied this tactic.

  • It’s encouraging that Mr. DeMoss found reason to part ways with Jerry Falwell, Jr. because of his endorsement of Donald Trump, even though he apparently found no reason to part ways with Falwell, Sr., whose views were virtually identical to those of his son. Were he still alive, I’ve no doubt that Falwell, Sr. would have supported Donald Trump just as enthusiastically as his son does – the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, you know.

    As for Roy Moore, fully 80% of white evangelicals in Alabama supported Roy Moore. I wouldn’t call that unproven or baseless, considering the percentage of Alabamans who identify as evangelical Christians. Admittedly, black evangelicals in Alabama voted differently than the whites, but then again, they’ve been doing that ever since they were granted the right to vote, haven’t they?

    Finally, as for people’s personal histories and “scorched-earth nit-picking” to which (according to you) people on the right are subjected, perhaps that wouldn’t be the case if people on the right, evangelical Christians in particular, hadn’t been doing exactly the same thing for the better part of the last four decades.

    Like I said, boo hoo.

  • I would like to think this is a man who has grown a tad sick of what conservative evangelicals have brought about in American leadership and policy. That’s probably just wishful thinking on my part, though. There are not very many who saw the seamy inside of religious political action for as long as this guy, who held with it for decades, and who suddenly have a change of heart now. The time for questioning the real political motivations and fruit of American Conservative Church was 40 years ago.

  • I see you’ve only posted twelve comments in the last eight years (at least under this moniker). I’m honored that you chose to crawl out of your hole and respond to me. I must have said something right that captured your attention enough to irritate. To quote W, “MIssion Accomplished.”

  • “…crawl out of you hole…” Do you find ad hominem attacks fruitful for you? They are a very common tactic from the left. When there’s no way to logically refute an argument (as is very often the case) you can always resort to insulting the individual who challenges your religious (intentional adjective) beliefs. That way you don’t have to actually deal with the intellectual dissonance which would result if you were to actually examine them in the cold light of logic.

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