Fmr. Assemblies of God Leader Lauds Increased Inclusion of Racial Minorities in Church

(Photo: Assemblies of God)George O. Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, also chairman of the World Assemblies of God.

George O. Wood, former general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, told the National Association of Evangelicals President Leith Anderson in a podcast on Sunday that his denomination "saw significant progress of inclusion" during his time in leadership.

"We mended a lot of racial bridges," explained Wood. "I worked hard especially with my fellow Pentecostal denominational leaders to be inclusive."

Wood talked about trying to bring in more young people and racial minorities into leadership roles, telling Anderson that "minority inclusion" was a "process" that "took a number of years."

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(Photo: www.cogic.org)Charles E. Blake, presiding bishop of the Church of God in Christ, and George O. Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, have jointly called for Dec. 14, 2014, to be "Black Lives Matter Sunday," in light of the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner during police confrontations.

"The argument at the beginning was we don't want to establish quotas," said Wood. "My response was 'we already have a quota: you must be white, over 50, and that's our quota. Everybody kind of laughed but realized that was true."

Another example of racial reconciliation efforts championed by Wood was in 2014 when he had the Assemblies of God partner with the predominantly African-American Pentecostal denomination the Church of God in Christ to observe Dec. 14 of that year as "Black Lives Matter" Sunday.

COGIC Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake said in a statement released at the time that he was "grateful" for the support given by Wood as superintendent.

"Wood and the AG demonstrate the love and healing power of Christ by standing with the Church of God in Christ to categorically say, black lives matter," said Bishop Blake.

Wood acknowledged that the call to observe "Black Lives Matter" Sunday was not without its critics from within the Assemblies of God.

"I touched a nerve among those who associated 'Black Lives Matter' with radical revolutionary language, etc., and it was a huge backwash," recalled Wood.

"But what the end result was is that there was a real, I think, advance in the healing of the relationship with the Assemblies of God and the Church of God in Christ, which historically it started out together and then [became] divided for decades."

Wood's comments about his support for racial reconciliation while head of the Assemblies of God comes not long after a Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission conference in which a panel called on churches to put politics aside to advance racial reconciliation.

At the MLK50 Conference, held earlier this month in honor of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., a panel of experts addressed the issue of racial tension in the Church. 

Justin Giboney, a Democratic political strategist and founder of the AND Campaign who was part of the panel, said he believed that the 20th century Republican Party's "Southern Strategy" was still harming race relations in and out of churches.

First perfected by former President Richard Nixon, the Southern Strategy involved appealing to white Southern Democrats, often by expressing opposition to Civil Rights goals while not being overtly racist.

"I don't believe that white evangelical leaders, civic leaders, and also politicians have ever truly divested themselves from the Southern Strategy," said Giboney earlier this month. "I think they still believe they need the racists' support, funding, votes to win. And so as long as they feel they need that to win, it's going to be hard to come together."

A 2015 report by Pew Research Center found that the Assemblies of God was one of the most racially diverse denominations in the United States, with 34 percent of their members belonging to a racial minority group.

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