Deceased: George O. Wood, who led the Assemblies of God in G…… | News and reports

Assemblies of God leader George O. Wood, who encouraged expansive growth of the Pentecostal denomination through a commitment to diversity, conservative doctrine and church planting, has died at age 80.

Wood served as general superintendent of the General Council of the Assemblies of God from 2007 to 2017. During that decade, the denomination reached a record 3.24 million members and cumulatively added more than 660 congregations. And the assemblies have become more diverse, both on the benches and at the leadership level, as Wood worked to ensure that more women, minorities and people under 40 played a leading role in the direction of the future of the denomination.

When he started out as general superintendent, the executive presbytery consisted of 14 white men. When he left, it had grown to 21 seats, seven of which were held by racial minorities and two by women. The denomination itself – historically white – was in the minority at around 42% when Wood retired.

“He had a unique ability to open doors for young people, women and ethnic minorities by giving them a meaningful place at the table,” noted Doug Clay, Wood’s successor as general superintendent. “That has been a major force behind our growth in each of these areas.”

Wood, for his part, attributed his vision to the Pentecostal tradition of being flexible when it’s important to be flexible and firm when it’s important to be firm.

“We’ve been flexible on culture — music, dress, pulpit,” he told Religion News Service in 2013. “While being consistent on what hasn’t changed, namely the doctrine.”

George Oliver Wood was born to missionaries George Roy Wood and Elizabeth Weidman in China on September 1, 1941.

He learned early on of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and the importance of hard work and education. George O. Wood’s father – who had been taken out of school after fifth grade and put to work in a glass factory by his stepfather – always spoke about what he had missed, with his lack of education, and what he had earned, with conversion, the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and a call to the ministry.

The Wood family returned to the United States in 1949, after the Chinese Communist Revolution, and served in various small assembly churches, never remaining in a community for more than a few years. Young Wood described himself at the time as a clumsy missionary child who too often worried about whether he was truly saved or might have blasphemed the Holy Spirit.

He liked school, however, and was encouraged to continue his education. Wood earned a BA from Evangel College (now the University), then followed that up with an MA, Ph.D., and law degree. Despite historical Pentecostal skepticism of education, Wood was not alienated from the church. Instead, he branched out into ministry, first as director of spiritual and student life at Evangel, then as pastor of Newport-Mesa Christian Center in Costa Mesa, California. .

What it means to be a leader

He was a faithful pastor and humble servant to the church, his son George Paul Wood recalled in a 2014 interview with Springfield (Missouri) News-Leader. Every Sunday morning, father and son would fetch donuts and bring them to church, unlocking the doors before anyone else arrived.

George Paul admired his father’s preaching, but when he said he was also interested in becoming a pastor, his father did not teach him homiletics. He hired him as a church janitor.

“I learned what it means to be a pastor,” said George Paul Wood, who is now editor of Assemblies of God Publications. “It’s training you can’t afford. This is the training for life.

George O. Wood rose to national leadership of the Assemblies of God in the 1990s, taking on the role of second general secretary. He was promoted by the denomination to first place in 2007. That same year, the general council voted to expand the national consistory to include a female minister and a minister under the age of 40.

As Wood pointed out, about a quarter of all Assemblies of God ministers were women in 2007. More than a third were under the age of 40. And yet, no woman or minister under the age of 40 had a national leadership position.

Some Assembly members—with an eye to Southern Baptist debates over women in ministry—wondered whether the Pentecostal church was “going liberal” because of its stance on women. Wood argued that the Assemblies of God did not adapt to changing cultural norms, but remained true to the Pentecostal understanding of Scripture.

“I grew up listening to my mother and other women preach the gospel,” he said. wrote. “What was their basis for doing it? The Holy Spirit had called them in light of the prophetic promise of Joel 2:28-30 fulfilled in Acts 2:17-18: in the last days, God would pour out his Spirit on all flesh, including daughters as well as the sons who prophesy, including female as well as male servants.

Push for “compassion”

However, perhaps the most controversial moment of Wood’s tenure as general secretary came in 2009, when he temporarily resigned from the leadership.

Wood wanted the Assemblies of God to add a fourth fundamental purpose to the denominational constitution. Along with seeking to save the lost, worship God, and edify the body of believers, Wood wanted to add “compassion” as one of the church’s “reasons for being.”

The resolution was defeated. As general superintendent, Wood was chairman of the board meeting and was not authorized to make an argument from the floor. He therefore decided to step down from leadership to argue that compassionate ministries were “an important growing benefit of ministry.”

“We live in a culture where the church needs to gain credibility, and without acts of compassion, I believe the church loses credibility in the world,” Wood said at the time.

In a second voice vote, it was unclear whether Wood’s argument won the day or not. A third vote was taken and the resolution of compassion won by 585 votes against 242.

Before the board left Orlando, he also reappointed Wood as general superintendent.

Over the next few years, Wood pushed the Assemblies to focus on church planting. He even challenged the denomination in 2011 to plant one church a day. That year, 368 new Assemblies of God congregations were started. He set a similar vision for the World Assemblies of God convention, telling those gathered in 2017 that the Holy Spirit was telling him that the Assemblies should aim for one million churches worldwide by 2033.

“I am truly loved by God”

Wood spoke more about politics in the following years, expressing particular concern about the legalization of same-sex marriage and threats against religious freedom. He made headlines in 2019 by warning that “a day of persecutionwas happening for Christians in the United States.

However, Wood also tried to keep his distance from partisan politics and encouraged assembly leaders not to identify too closely with any one party or candidate.

“Our focus should be on the gospel,” he said. noted in 2017. “If we start endorsing candidates, then we are politicizing the church, diluting our message and causing unnecessary division among our people. It is enough that we can talk about issues without approving specific candidates for the position.

Wood was diagnosed with stage IV cancer on August 31, two days before his 80th birthday. It was a surprise, but he later said he also felt an instant peace.

“As a follower of Jesus, I have two big options,” he said. “I can go home to Springfield or I can go home to heaven. I like both.”

During the last four months of his life, he said he was more convinced than ever of the personal love of God.

“As I’ve been reading the scriptures lately, I continue to focus on the fact that God loves us deeply,” he said in a 2021 interview. “And that’s part of, ‘I can do anything. do by him who strengthens me.’ He strengthened me by giving me this great emotional assurance to this still uncertain young missionary that I am truly loved by God.

Wood is survived by Jewel, his wife of 56 years, and their children George Paul Wood and Evangeline Hope Zorehkey.

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