December 7, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — “After a long season of prayer and discernment,” David Bereit is stepping down as CEO of 40 Days for Life after nearly a decade to begin a new venture, he announced Wednesday.
Bereit co-founded 40 Days for Life in 2004 in Texas as a Christian response to the violence of abortion that focuses on biannual vigils of prayer and fasting outside local abortion facilities and grassroots community outreach.
In 2007, 40 Days for Life expanded to include national coordinated vigils. Some 725,000 individuals and 19,000 churches have taken part in 4,535 campaigns in 675 cities in more than 40 countries to date.
From 2007 to 2015, through prayer, fasting and outreach, 40 Days for Life has saved 12,668 lives from abortion and closed 75 abortion facilities. Moreover, 141 abortion workers have quit.
Shawn Carney remains at the helm of 40 Days for Life as president.
“Serving 40 Days for Life has been one of the greatest blessings of my life,” Bereit said in a video announcement. “Though my season on staff has come to a joy-filled end, I love 40 Days for Life and will continue to pray for, and participate in, 40 Days for Life campaigns and the pro-life movement.”
Bereit grew up in a Christian home in Pittsburgh and was “passively pro-life,” he told prolife365. But that changed when he attended Texas A&M University in College Station.
“I first got involved in the pro-life movement after meeting, dating, and then marrying my amazing wife Margaret who was raised in a Catholic, pro-life home,” Bereit recalled in a 2011 interview with The Interim.
“She helped me to understand the magnitude of the abortion crisis and that, as Christians, we had a moral obligation to be part of the solution by ‘rescuing those being led to the slaughter.’”
So when Planned Parenthood opened an abortion center in College Station in 1998, Bereit felt compelled to respond.
“I began to volunteer with a local group called the Coalition for Life, and in 2001, I felt led to resign my professional career in the pharmaceutical industry to devote my full-time energy to the pro-life movement,” he said.
Coalition for Life rallied 60 churches and thousands of people and dramatically reduced abortions in the Brazos Valley region of Texas, noted an Ignatius Press biography.
But “the biggest turning point – by far – was the launch of 40 Days for Life,” Bereit told The Interim.
That essentially began when Bereit and three others began praying together one hour a week in 2004.
They had become “frustrated and turned to the direction of 2 Chronicles 7:14: ‘If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land,’” he said.
“During that hour of prayer, God gave us the vision of a 40-day effort that would focus on prayer and fasting, peaceful vigil outside the local abortion facility, and grassroots community outreach,” Bereit recalled.
“Three weeks later, the first-ever 40 Days for Life kicked off, mobilizing over 1,000 local people, and reducing abortions in our town by 28 per cent.”
But Bereit didn’t become CEO of 40 Days for Life immediately.
Instead, he and Margaret and their two children moved to Washington, D.C., in 2005, where he worked as executive director of the American Life League and national director of Stop Planned Parenthood, before moving to 40 Days for Life as national campaign director in 2007.
Bereit is highly acclaimed as a motivational speaker and has appeared on numerous media outlets, including ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News, and Home Box Office (HBO), as well as on radio and press as an articulate, passionate defender of the pro-life cause.
“Everything we do in the pro-life movement” must “begin and end in prayer,” as Bereit, for example, told an overflow crowd of young people at the 2013 Canadian March for Life when describing how to reach out people working in the abortion industry.
“Your peaceful, loving presence out there flies in the face of all the stereotypes they want to throw onto us,” he said.
“When you show them love instead of condemnation, when you show them peace and joy instead of anger and judgment, that will begin to break down the walls.”
In 2016, Bereit’s pro-life peers selected him as the recipient of the Law of Life Achievement Award, given to those who have suffered in battling the culture of death.
“There is a generosity that goes beyond, ‘Oh, I'm suffering here, I’m just going to keep going anyway,’ into almost a total selflessness, some of which I have never, ever seen before, even in this wonderful pro-life movement,” John-Henry Westen, co-founder of LifeSiteNews, said of Bereit, before he received the award at the January Law of Life Summit in Washington.
“He’s a person who will go out there and raise funds for other groups that aren't his own,” Westen added. “And in the pro-life movement, that's a hard thing to do.”
The pro-life movement is one “of people who love our Lord, and are willing to carry their cross,” Bereit observed on that occasion.
“Because none of what any of us are a part of would have fruit were it not for a relationship with our savior, Jesus Christ, and for what he did on the cross for each and every one if us,” he said.
“That’s why we have life and have it abundantly, and that’s why we are called to protect life in every stage.”
As to Bereit’s new venture, perhaps one clue can be found in his comments that he was considering expanding his activism to the fight for marriage, made at the April 2015 Washington March for Marriage.
“The various moral issues we confront in our culture today are all intrinsically connected,” he told LifeSiteNews at that time. “It’s the devaluing of human life, it's the abandonment of religious belief and practice, it's immorality — the increase thereof – and it's the breakdown of the family.”
For now, however, Bereit has said only that people interested in what he’s up to next, go to davidbereit.com to sign up for updates.