(RNS) — George Oliver Wooden, the longtime Assemblies of God chief who died this week at age 80, as soon as recalled how he grew up listening to his mom and different ladies preach.
“The Holy Spirit had referred to as them in mild of the prophetic promise of Joel 2:28–30 fulfilled in Acts 2:17–18,” he wrote within the denomination’s journal in 2001, in protection of girls’s ordination inside the AG. “With nearly 100 years of expertise, we are able to say with out hesitation that God’s calling, equipping and successfully utilizing ladies in ministry ‘appeared good to the Holy Spirit and to us.’”
Throughout Wooden’s decade-long tenure as the final superintendent of the denomination, the proportion of girls ministers within the U.S. Fellowship elevated, from 19.2 to 24.3 %.
It will turn into one among his signature accomplishments as superintendent of the Pentecostal denomination and a trademark of his legacy as a pacesetter deeply invested in range.
Wooden, who died Jan. 12, was the primary normal superintendent to have been a missionary child, to China; the primary to graduate from the AG’s Evangel University, and the primary with an earned doctorate, to which he later added a legislation diploma. His tenure within the main workplace was the fourth longest within the denomination’s 107 yr historical past. An avid proponent of church planting, and a megachurch pastor who noticed the denomination to its highest levels of membership, Wooden’s legacy nonetheless rings strongest as “a door-opener, bridge builder, and ministries-starter” stated his son, George P Wooden, govt editor of Influence journal, the AG periodical for ministry leaders.
Early in his profession, from 1965-71, Wooden served as director of non secular life at Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri; as pastor of Newport Mesa Church, in Costa Mesa, California, till 1988; and as assistant superintendent of the Southern California District Council from 1988-93. He rose to nationwide management within the Nineteen Nineties, taking the function of third in command, as normal secretary, earlier than being elected to normal superintendent in 2007.
When Wooden left workplace in 2017, voters at that yr’s Basic Council in Anaheim, California, resolved to make Wooden honorary normal presbyter, in recognition of his service as a pastor, instructor, writer, and an ordained minister for 50 years. Their decision declared, “His preaching, management, and private ministry have been a useful resource to the ministers and church buildings of the Southern California District Council and the Basic Council of the Assemblies of God, each in the USA and world wide.”
Throughout the Nineteen Seventies, many church leaders fell below the sway of Donald McGavran’s “homogenous unit principle,” which premised that “[p]eople prefer to turn into Christians without crossing racial, linguistic or class obstacles,” and took an accommodationist stance towards such preferences. In an article titled, “Does Jesus Actually Need His Church to Be that Approach?” in Agora, revealed from 1977-81, Wooden argued that the early church drew converts from myriad ethnic teams, in several languages and reduce throughout courses. This imaginative and prescient, of a heterogenous church, stayed with Wooden for his total profession.
As normal secretary, Wooden fashioned a Taskforce on Girls in Ministry (1999), which later grew to become the Community of Girls Ministers. In 2009, the Basic Council added a place for an ordained feminine minister, and Dr. Beth Grant was elected to this place. She had served because the Director of the Community of Girls Ministers. Going through subsequent criticism from some who questioned whether or not the denomination was capitulating to liberal tradition due to its stance on ladies, Wooden argued the AG was merely staying true to the Pentecostal understanding of Scripture over evangelical complementarians.
“The Southern Baptists, together with some believers inside and out of doors our Motion, assert that allowing ladies each function in ministry obtainable to males violates Scripture. As Pentecostals, we higher have a solution to that. And, we do,” he wrote within the 2001 article, revealed not lengthy after the Southern Baptist Conference adopted the 2000 Baptist Religion and Message which restricted the workplace of pastor to males.
Wooden proved equally invested in rising the variety of the motion’s management, leaving a 21-member Government Presbytery with seven racial/ethnic minorities and two ladies the yr he left workplace — in comparison with one with 14 males, all white, when he took workplace. Beneath Wooden’s management, roles for an Hispanic Presbyter and an African American Presbyter had been established.
In 2014, Wooden met Bishop Charles Blake and Rev. Thomas Barclay leaders from Black pentecostal church buildings, the Church of God in Christ and the United Pentecostal Council of the Assemblies of God respectively, to construct stronger relationships between the denominations. Such bridges had been made partially by Wooden’s public apologies for early pentecostals’ “tragic” choices to separate from Black adherents. That very same yr, Wooden confronted criticism for joining the Church of God in Christ to watch a “Black Lives Matter” Sunday. Nonetheless, Wood reflected,“The lives of all individuals are treasured to God, after all, however at the moment second, lots of our black brothers and sisters in COGIC and the AG really feel that their lives are usually not extremely valued by many in white America.”
At Christianity Right this moment, Daniel Silliman notes that “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 wrote, “I imagine a day of persecution… begins with marginalization because the secular worlds of politics, leisure, and media search to push us …out of the general public sq.. We’re going to be more and more referred to as bigots and hate mongers for our not accepting immoral conduct. The secularist wish to imagine that the First Modification means solely freedom of worship; however it says as an alternative ‘freedom of faith.’”
On the similar time, Wooden distanced himself from partisan politics. “Our focus needs to be on the gospel,” Wooden said in 2017. “If we start to endorse candidates, then we’re politicizing the church, diluting our message, and bringing pointless division amongst our individuals. It’s ample that we are able to communicate on points with out endorsing particular candidates for workplace.”
Assessing the legacy of his predecessor, Basic Superintendent Doug Clay offered that Wooden “had a novel capacity to open doorways for younger individuals, ladies, and ethnic minorities by offering them a significant seat on the desk. That has been a serious drive behind our progress in every of these areas.”
Wooden is survived by his spouse, Jewel, and their two youngsters, Evangeline Hope Zorehkey and George Paul Wooden.
(Erica Ramirez is director of analysis at Auburn Seminary, and a graduate of Southwestern Assemblies of God College.)