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Former Assemblies of God general superintendent George Oliver Wood died Jan. 12 after a 4.5-month battle with stage 4 cancer.
Wood was diagnosed with cancer on August 30, 2021, two days before his 80th birthday. He underwent a series of chemotherapy and clinical trial drug treatments at the Siteman Care Center in St. Louis for cancer in his esophagus, which had spread to his liver and vertebrae. Treatments were discontinued after disastrous side effects.
Wood left office in 2017 as the fourth-senior leader among the 13 general superintendents of the Missouri-based American Assemblies of God, now in their 107th year.
He resigned at the age of 75 after a decade in this position. Wood became the first general superintendent to be a child missionary, the first to graduate from Evangel University in GA, the first to earn a doctorate, and the first to use a computer in his daily work. Wood kept his followers up to date on his hospitalization via upbeat Facebook updates.
“I’ve told the wonderful nurses and doctors here so many times that I have two great alternatives,” Wood wrote in a post on her 15th day at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis in November. “One is to go home to Springfield and the other is to go home to paradise…. If I am not healed, it is certainly not for lack of faith either on my part or on all people who pray for me.
Despite his suffering, Wood continued to remain cheerful. In a December 2021 interview published in AG News with his successor Doug Clay, Wood reiterated the peace he felt from the Lord and how he felt the strongest he had ever been spiritually even though he was physically weak.
But Wood got worse this week, contracting non-covid pneumonia. His family surrounded him at his bedside before his death.
During Wood’s tenure as leader, the US stock market experienced steady numerical growth. The US AG reached a then record membership of 3,240,258 under Wood’s leadership – an increase from 2,863,265 a decade earlier. The number of US AG churches reached a record high of 13,023, an increase from 12,362 in 2007.
He helped move the GA to a more diverse body that better reflected the overall demographics of the country. The Fellowship has become one of the most ethnically diverse denominations in America, with 42.3% of membership representing ethnic minorities when he left office, compared to 36.9% when he started.
Praying for racial reconciliation became one of the priorities of his governance. He left at the head of a 21-member executive presbytery that included seven ethnic minorities and two women – up from 14 men, all white, when he took office.
Moreover, during Wood’s tenure, the percentage of women ministers in the US stock market rose from 19.2% to 24.3%.
Under Wood’s leadership as general superintendent, a number of initiatives have been launched, including AGTrust, which has raised more than $23 million for church planting and revitalization, scholarships and many new initiatives and resources. The Church Multiplication Network was also launched, resulting in the addition of 3,307 congregations to the community over 10 years. Other ministries founded during his decade of leadership include Acts 2 Journey, Center for Holy Land Studies, and My Healthy Church.
Wood, who spent the last years of his life in Ozark, Missouri, kept busy after leaving the post of general superintendent. Since 2008, he has served as president of the World Assemblies of God Fellowship, the largest Pentecostal body in the world, with more than 160 member countries representing 70 million adherents. He also continued to serve, as he had since 2014, as global co-chair of Empowered21, a movement bringing together Pentecostal leaders working for all to have an encounter with the Holy Spirit.
He also served as interim president of his alma mater Evangel University in Springfield following the retirement of Carol A. Taylor in November 2020 until new president Mike L. Rakes takes office in the fall 2021 semester. .
Wood was the son of missionary parents, George Roy Wood and Elizabeth Weidman, who married in China in 1932. After returning to the United States in 1949, eight years after their son’s birth, the Woods pastored small churches and traveled as evangelists.
George R. Wood, who only had a 5th grade education, urged his son to attend college. His father suggested he get a teaching degree from Evangel University rather than attend Central Bible College, in case he failed as a pastor. George O. not only graduated from Evangel, he went on to earn a doctorate in pastoral theology from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., and a JD from Western State University College of Law in Fullerton, Calif. He had been an ordained GA minister since 1967.
Wood was director of spiritual and student life at Evangel University from 1965 to 1971, pastor of Mesa Church in Costa Mesa, California for 17 years; assistant superintendent of the Southern California Ministry Network from 1988 to 1993; and secretary general of the national AG from 1993 to 2007.
As a general superintendent, the trained lawyer defended religious freedoms involving the persecution of Christians around the world, defending biblical principles in the United States, and defending the rights of Christians in the public arena.
In 2009, Wood supported the General Council by adding a fourth purpose—compassion—to its list of evangelism, worship, and discipleship, with Convoy of Hope serving as the Fellowship’s preferred partner.
“We live in a culture in which the Church must gain credibility, and without acts of compassion, I believe the Church loses credibility in the world,” Wood told the Pentecostal Gospel at the time.
At the 2017 General Council, Wood removed his name from seeking re-election as general superintendent. Voters then elected Clay to the position. Wood succeeded Thomas E. Trask, who chose to step down mid-term in 2007.
Clay, who served as General Treasurer of the GA for 8 years under Wood, considered him a mentor and a friend.
“George O. Wood’s legacy is that of being a man of the Word,” Clay said. “He had tremendous intelligence, but never depended on it at the expense of being led by the Spirit.” Clay called Wood a Pentecostal bridge builder and statesman, highly respected by Christian leaders of various denominations, as well as GA leaders around the world.
“He had a unique ability to open doors for young people, women and ethnic minorities by giving them a meaningful place at the table,” Clay said. “This has been a major force behind our growth in each of these areas. His mentorship in my life has been invaluable. Every leadership decision he made was always handled through the scriptures. He made my love for the Bible even richer. His legal credentials have given him a unique perspective to approach cultural issues with biblical clarity.
Wood and his wife, Jewel, celebrated 56 years of marriage on December 27. They raised two children. His son George Paul Wood is editor of Influence, the AG periodical for ministry leaders. His daughter Evangeline Hope Zorehkey lives in Ozark.
Wood is the author of numerous books, including Roadtrip Leadership, Live in the Spirit, A Psalm in Your Heart, Fearless, Live Fully, and The successful life. Most of the sermons he preached are available at georgeowood.com.