George Oliver Wood, former General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God, died January 12 after struggling with stage 4 cancer since diagnosed with the disease on August 30, 2021, two days before his 80th birthday.
Wood’s tenure is remembered for extending the reach of the Pentecostal denomination and its leadership to minorities and young men and women and for his insisting on compassion as one of the hallmarks of the faith.
When Wood assumed office as general superintendent in 2007, the denomination’s Executive Presbytery consisted of 14 white men. By the end of his tenure, the 21-member presbytery included seven members of ethnic minorities and two women.
That diversity was also reflected in the denomination’s membership, one of the nation’s most ethnically diverse. Backed by prayers for racial reconciliation, which Wood made one of the church’s priorities during his leadership, ethnic minorities within the U.S. Assemblies of God grew from 36.9 percent in 2007 to 42.3 percent in 2017 when he left office.
Under his leadership, U.S. Assemblies of God adherents grew overall from 2.86 million to 3.24 million. And the number of churches in the nation increased from 12,362 to 13,023.
Doug Clay, who succeeded Wood as General Superintendent, said, “He had a unique ability to open doors for young people, women, and ethnic minorities by providing them a meaningful seat at the table.”
Clay acknowledged that Wood’s leadership decisions were “always processed through Scripture.”
In 2017, Wood stepped down from leadership of the Assemblies of God at 75, after a decade in the post.
Born to missionary parents in China, Wood earned a doctoral degree in pastoral theology from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. He also earned a Juris Doctorate from Western State University College of Law in Fullerton, California. He was ordained a minister in 1967.
Wood temporarily stepped down as general superintendent in 2009 after a resolution he proposed at the meeting of the AG General Council was defeated. The resolution sought to add to the denomination’s constitution “compassion”—in addition to worshiping God, saving the lost, and building a body of believers—as the fourth fundamental purpose of the faith.
Because he was chair of the General Council, Wood was not allowed to support his resolution with an argument from the floor. But by stepping down from his position, he was able to make the case that compassion ought to be a “reason for being” for the AG, and that compassion ministries are “an important growing edge of ministry.”
“We live in a culture in which the church has to earn credibility, and without acts of compassion I believe the church loses its credibility in the world,” Wood argued. His compassion resolution won by a vote of 585 to 242, and Wood was reappointed as general superintendent.
“George O. Wood’s legacy is that of being a man of the world,” said AG General Superintendent Clay. “He had tremendous intellect, but never depended on that at the expense of being led by the spirit.”
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