Assemblies of God chief George O. Wooden, who inspired expansive development within the Pentecostal denomination by means of a dedication to variety, conservative doctrine, and church planting, has died on the age of 80.
Wooden served as basic superintendent of the Common Council of Assemblies of God from 2007 to 2017. In that decade, the denomination grew to a file 3.24 million members, and cumulatively added greater than 660 congregations. And the Assemblies grew extra various—each within the pews and on the management degree, as Wooden labored to ensure extra ladies, minorities, and other people underneath 40 had distinguished roles in directing the denomination’s future.
When he started as basic superintendent, the chief presbytery was made up of 14 white males. When he left, it had expanded to 21 seats, with seven occupied by racial minorities and two by ladies. The denomination itself—traditionally white—was about 42 % minority when Wooden retired.
“He had a novel skill to open doorways for younger folks, ladies, and ethnic minorities by offering them a significant seat on the desk,” said Doug Clay, Wooden’s successor as basic superintendent. “That has been a serious power behind our development in every of these areas.”
Wooden, for his half, attributed his imaginative and prescient to the Pentecostal custom of being versatile when you will need to be versatile and agency when you will need to be agency.
“Now we have been versatile on the subject of tradition—music, gown, pulpit apparel,” he informed Faith Information Service in 2013. “Whereas remaining constant on that which has not modified, which is doctrine.”
George Oliver Wooden was born to missionaries George Roy Wooden and Elizabeth Weidman in China on September 1, 1941.
He realized early of the transformative energy of the Holy Spirit and the significance of onerous work and schooling. George O. Wooden’s father—who had been pulled out of college after the fifth grade and put to work in a glass manufacturing unit by his stepfather—at all times spoke of what he missed, together with his lack of schooling, and what he had gained, with conversion, baptism within the Holy Spirit, and a name to ministry.
The Wooden household moved again to the US in 1949, after the Chinese language Communist Revolution, and served in quite a lot of small Assemblies church buildings, by no means staying in a single neighborhood for various years. The youthful Wooden described himself at the moment as a clumsy missionary child who fearful too typically about whether or not he was actually saved or if he may have presumably blasphemed the Holy Spirit.
He appreciated faculty, although, and was inspired to pursue an schooling. Wooden earned a BA from Evangel School (now College), after which adopted it up with a grasp’s diploma, a doctorate, and a regulation diploma. Regardless of historic Pentecostal skepticism of schooling, Wooden was not drawn away from the church. As a substitute, he threw himself into ministry, first as director of non secular life and scholar life at Evangel, after which as pastor of Newport-Mesa Christian Heart in Costa Mesa, California.
What it means to be a pacesetter
He was a devoted pastor and a humble servant of the church, his son George Paul Wooden recalled in a 2014 interview with the Springfield (Missouri) Information-Chief. Each Sunday morning, father and son would go get doughnuts and take them to the church, unlocking the doorways earlier than anybody else arrived.
George Paul regarded up in admiration at his father’s preaching, however when he mentioned he was additionally all in favour of changing into a minister, his father didn’t educate him about homiletics. He employed him because the church janitor.
“I realized what it means to be a pastor,” mentioned George Paul Wooden, who’s now government editor of Assemblies of God Publications. “That’s coaching you’ll be able to’t pay for. That is life coaching.”
George O. Wooden rose to nationwide management within the Assemblies of God within the Nineteen Nineties, taking the position of second place of basic secretary. He was promoted by the denomination to the highest spot in 2007. That very same yr, the overall council voted to increase the nationwide presbytery to incorporate a feminine minister and a minister underneath the age of 40.
As Wooden identified, a couple of quarter of all Assemblies of God ministers had been ladies in 2007. Greater than a 3rd had been underneath 40. And but no ladies or ministers underneath 40 had a place in nationwide management.
Some within the Assemblies—with a watch on Southern Baptist debates over ladies in ministry—questioned whether or not the Pentecostal church was “going liberal” due to its stance on ladies. Wooden argued the Assemblies of God wasn’t adapting to altering cultural norms, however staying true to the Pentecostal understanding of Scripture.
“I grew up listening to my mom and different ladies preaching the gospel,” he wrote. “What was their foundation for thus doing? The Holy Spirit had known as them in gentle of the prophetic promise of Joel 2:28–30 fulfilled in Acts 2:17–18—within the final days God would pour out His Spirit on all flesh, together with daughters in addition to sons who would prophesy, together with ladies in addition to males servants.”
Pushing for ‘compassion’
Maybe essentially the most controversial second in Wooden’s tenure as basic secretary, nonetheless, got here in 2009—when he briefly stepped down from management.
Wooden needed the Assemblies of God so as to add a fourth basic objective to the denominational structure. Along with searching for to avoid wasting the misplaced, worshiping God, and increase the physique of believers, Wooden needed so as to add “compassion” as one of many church’s “causes for being.”
The decision was defeated. As the overall superintendent, Wooden was chair of the council assembly and never allowed to make an argument from the ground. So he determined to step down from management to make the argument that compassion ministries had been “an essential rising fringe of ministry.”
“We dwell in a tradition during which the church has to earn credibility, and with out acts of compassion I consider the church loses its credibility on this planet,” Wooden mentioned on the time.
In a second voice vote, it wasn’t clear whether or not Wooden’s argument had carried the day or not. A 3rd vote was taken, and the compassion decision gained by a vote of 585 to 242.
Earlier than the council left Orlando, it additionally reappointed Wooden as basic superintendent.
In subsequent years, Wooden pushed the Assemblies to deal with church planting. He even challenged the denomination in 2011 to plant one church per day. That yr, 368 new Assemblies of God congregations had been began. He set the same imaginative and prescient for the World Assemblies of God congress, telling these gathered in 2017 that the Holy Spirit was telling him the Assemblies ought to goal for a million church buildings worldwide by the yr 2033.
‘I’m actually cherished by God’
Wooden spoke out extra about politics in later years—expressing particular concern concerning the legalization of same-sex marriage and threats to religious liberty. He made headlines in 2019 warning that “a day of persecution” was coming for Christians within the US.
Wooden additionally labored, nonetheless, to maintain his distance from partisan politics, and inspired leaders within the Assemblies to not establish too intently with a celebration or a candidate.
“Our focus ought to be on the gospel,” he said in 2017. “If we start to endorse candidates, then we’re politicizing the church, diluting our message, and bringing pointless division amongst our folks. It’s adequate that we are able to communicate on points with out endorsing particular candidates for workplace.”
Wooden was recognized with stage IV most cancers on August 31, two days earlier than his eightieth birthday. It was a shock, however he later mentioned he additionally felt on the spot peace.
“As a follower of Jesus, I’ve two nice choices,” he mentioned. “I can go to my residence in Springfield or I can go to my residence in heaven. I like each.”
Within the final 4 months of his life, he mentioned he was extra satisfied than ever of the private love of God.
“As I’ve been studying Scripture currently, I simply maintain focusing upon the truth that God deeply loves us,” he mentioned in a 2021 interview. “And that’s a part of the, ‘I can do all issues by means of Him who strengthens me.’ He strengthened me by giving me this nice emotional assurance to this still-insecure missionary child that I’m actually cherished of God.”
Wooden is survived by Jewel, his spouse of 56 years, and their kids George Paul Wooden and Evangeline Hope Zorehkey.