Death: George O. Wood, who led the Assemblies of God in G …… | News and reports
Assemblies of God leader George O. Wood, who encouraged the expansive growth of the Pentecostal denomination through a commitment to diversity, conservative doctrine, and church planting, has died aged 80 .
Wood served as general superintendent of the Assemblies of God General Council from 2007 to 2017. During that decade, the denomination reached a record 3.24 million members and in total added more than 660 congregations. And assemblies have become more diverse, both at the bench and at the leadership level, as Wood strives to ensure that more women, minorities and people under 40 have a leading role. in the direction of the future of the denomination.
When he began as general superintendent, the executive rectory consisted of 14 white men. By the time he left, he had grown to 21 seats, seven of which were held by racial minorities and two by women. The denomination itself – historically white – was around 42% in the minority when Wood retired.
“He had a unique ability to open doors for youth, women and ethnic minorities by giving them a meaningful place at the table,” said Doug Clay, Wood’s successor as general superintendent. “This 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 is important to be flexible and firm when it is important to be firm.
“We’ve been flexible when it comes to culture – music, dress, chair,” he told Religion News Service in 2013. “While remaining consistent on what hasn’t changed is that is to say 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 the transformative 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 of what he lacked, along with his lack of education, and of what he had gained, with the 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 a variety of small assembly churches, never staying in one community for more than a few years. Young Wood described himself at that time as a clumsy child missionary who too often worried about whether he was truly saved or whether he could have blasphemed the Holy Spirit.
He loved school, however, and was encouraged to pursue further studies. Wood received a BA from Evangel College (now the University), followed by a Masters, Doctorate, and Law degree. Despite the historical Pentecostal skepticism of education, Wood was not estranged from the church. Instead, he embarked on ministry, first as director of spiritual and student life at Evangel, and then as pastor of the Newport-Mesa Christian Center in Costa Mesa, California.
What it means to be a leader
He was a faithful pastor and a humble servant of the church, his son George Paul Wood recalled in a 2014 interview with Springfield, Missouri. News-Leader. Every Sunday morning, father and son would pick up donuts and bring them to church, unlocking the doors before someone else arrived.
George Paul watched his father’s preaching in awe, but when he said he was also interested in becoming a minister, 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. It is training for life.
George O. Wood came to the national leadership of the Assemblies of God in the 1990s, serving as the second secretary general. He was promoted by the denomination to first place in 2007. That same year, the general council voted to expand the national presbytery to include a female minister and a minister under 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. Yet no woman or minister under the age of 40 had a position in the national leadership.
Some in the assemblies – with an eye on the Southern Baptist debates on women in ministry – questioned 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 the scriptures.
“I grew up listening to my mother and other women preach the gospel,” he wrote. “What was their basis for doing it?” The Holy Spirit had called them in the 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 sons who prophesy, including women as well as male servants.
Lobby for “compassion”
However, perhaps the most controversial moment in 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 basic purpose to the denominational constitution. In addition to seeking to save the lost, worshiping God, and building up the body of believers, Wood wanted to add “compassion” as one of the “purposes” of the church.
The resolution was rejected. As general superintendent, Wood was chairman of the board meeting and was not allowed to make an argument from the hall. So he decided to step down from leadership to argue that compassionate ministries were “an important and growing benefit of the ministry.”
“We live in a culture where the church has to gain credibility, and without acts of compassion I think the church loses credibility in the world,” Wood said at the time.
In a second vote, it was not clear whether Wood’s argument won or not. A third vote was taken and the compassionate resolution was won by 585 votes to 242.
Before the board left Orlando, he also re-appointed Wood as general superintendent.
Over the next several years, Wood moved 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 created. He set a similar vision for the World Assemblies of God convention, telling those who gathered in 2017 that the Holy Spirit was telling him that the Assemblies should target a million churches around the world by 2033.
“I am truly loved by God”
Wood has spoken more about politics in recent years, expressing particular concern about the legalization of same-sex marriage and threats to religious freedom. He made headlines in 2019 warning that a “day of persecution” was coming 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 party or candidate.
“Our focus should be on the gospel,” he said in 2017. “If we start supporting candidates then we politicize the church, dilute our message and bring unnecessary divisions among our people. It is enough that we can talk about issues without approving specific candidates for a 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 instant peace.
“As a disciple of Jesus, I have two main options,” he said. “I can go to my home in Springfield or I can go to my home in Heaven. I like both.”
In the last four months of his life, he said he was more convinced than ever of the personal love of God.
“As I read the scriptures recently, I continue to focus on how God loves us deeply,” he said in an interview in 2021. “And that’s part of ‘I can do anything through Him. that strengthens me. ‘ He strengthened me by giving me this great emotional assurance to this young missionary still not sure of myself 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.