George O. Wood, the former general superintendent of the Assemblies of God who saw the Pentecostal denomination grow considerably at a time when most religious groups in the United States were in decline, passed away from cancer at age 80.
The Assemblies of God posted an announcement that Wood had died on Wednesday, less than five months after he was diagnosed with stage four cancer in his esophagus.
Wood had attempted chemotherapy treatments at Siteman Care Center in St. Louis, but cancer spread to his liver and vertebrae. His condition worsened earlier this week when he contracted pneumonia.
Doug Clay, Assemblies of God’s current general superintendent, said in a statement Wood “had tremendous intellect” but “never depended on that at the expense of being led by the Spirit.”
“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 said.
“Each leadership decision he made was always processed through Scripture. He made my love for the Bible even richer. His legal credentials gave him a unique perspective to address cultural issues with biblical clarity.”
Born in 1941 to missionary parents George Roy Wood and Elizabeth Weidman, George O. Wood earned an undergraduate degree at Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri, a doctoral degree in pastoral theology at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, as well as a juris doctorate at Western State University College of Law in Fullerton, California.
Wood was ordained by the Southern Missouri District in 1967 and served as assistant superintendent of the Southern California District from 1988-1993.
Wood pastored Newport-Mesa Christian Center of Costa Mesa, California, for 17 years and served as general secretary of the Assemblies for 14 years before being elected general superintendent in August 2007, serving until 2017.
During his tenure, the Assemblies of God saw considerable growth in both membership and number of member congregations, while other Protestant denominations in the United States saw a decline in both areas.
In 2011, for example, the Assemblies of God planted 368 new churches in the U.S. via the Church Multiplication Network, a department in the organization’s National Leadership and Resource Center.
Steve Pike, the national director of the Church Multiplication Network, told The Christian Post in an interview in January 2012 that Wood’s leadership was a factor in the successful growth.
“Dr. Wood didn’t stop with just saying that starting churches was a value,” Pike said. “He took a hard look at our organization and recognized that our actions were not lined up with our values. So he set in motion a serious effort to realign our actions with our stated values.”
In 2014, in response to growing racial tensions in the U.S., Wood joined with the predominantly black Pentecostal denomination the Church of God in Christ, Inc. to observe “Black Lives Matter” Sunday.
“The lives of all people are precious to God, of course, but at the present moment, many of our black brothers and sisters in COGIC and the AG feel that their lives are not highly valued by many in white America,” stated Wood at the time.
“Whatever your opinion of those controversial decisions, can we stand with our brothers and sisters and affirm the value of black lives generally and of their lives specifically?”
Samuel Rodriguez, a California Assemblies of God pastor who heads the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, tweeted that Wood’s impact on the Assemblies of God and his personal life is “immeasurable.”
“My heart is broken over the passing of my dear friend George O. Wood,” Rodriguez wrote. “My thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones and our Assemblies of God family that he loved and lead so well.”
Wood leaves behind his wife of 56 years, Jewel, his son, George Paul Wood, daughter, Evangeline Hope Zorehkey, and their families.