Wood, Garrison elected to leadership posts
by ROB CUNNINGHAM in INDIANAPOLIS
George O. Wood, who has served the Assemblies of God for the past 14 years as general secretary, will move into the top post of general superintendent Oct. 8 with the retirement of Thomas E. Trask.
“I am deeply humbled by the grace that you’ve extended,” Wood, 65, told pastors and delegates Aug. 10 after his election. “We all came into this Council just wanting the Lord’s will, and I approach this moment with fear and trembling because this is such a great church and such great people and there are so many qualified people who can serve in this role.”
Wood became secretary the same year Trask was first elected as the Fellowship’s leader.
“Brother Trask has filled this role with grace and power, and no one will ever take his place,” Wood said. “He has blazed his imprint on all our lives.”
Balloting for the 12th general superintendent took six rounds and two days. Although Wood was the top vote-getter on every ballot, he didn’t receive the necessary two-thirds for election the first five times.
A total of 28 candidates received the necessary 15 votes from general presbyters to be nominated, but seven withdrew immediately. The majority of those under consideration already were national officers, executive presbyters, district superintendents or pastors.
On the final ballot, Wood garnered 2,123 of 2,996 votes cast (71 percent).
In his comments to the Fellowship after being elected, Wood recalled a moment from his teenage years when his parents were praying for God’s direction in planting a church in Indiana. A night of sickness while driving to Indianapolis convinced his father it wasn’t the city where he was called to serve.
“I could have never dreamed that I would be standing before you at the General Council in Indianapolis,” Wood said as he held back tears. “I pledge to you that I will do my very best to serve all of you.”
The Assemblies of God is a diverse Fellowship with many different age groups, interests, sizes of churches, and styles of ministry, Wood said.
“But we are one in the Spirit, we are one in faith, we are one in Christ,” he said. “And anyone who serves in this position must serve the entire church of Jesus Christ.”
His wife, Jewel, echoed that sentiment.
“We came to this Council only wanting the Lord’s will,” she said. “It was our desire and our prayer, ‘Lord, Your will be done.’ And we accept this as the Lord’s will. We’re here to serve you in any way we can.”
Wood earned his bachelor’s degree from Evangel University in Springfield, Mo., and becomes the first Assemblies of God general superintendent to graduate from that institution. He served as the school’s director of spiritual life and student life from 1965 to 1971.
He went on to earn a doctoral degree in pastoral theology from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., and a juris doctorate from Western State University College of Law in Fullerton, Calif.
The son of missionary parents to China and Tibet, Wood pastored Newport-Mesa Christian Center in Costa Mesa, Calif., for 17 years. He served as assistant superintendent of the Southern California District from 1988 to 1993.
Wood will serve the remaining two years of the term being vacated by Trask, who announced in July that he would step down from his post this fall.
Delegates elected L. Alton Garrison, 60, to serve as assistant general superintendent to succeed Charles T. Crabtree, who was elected 14 years ago and said earlier he would not run again.
It was a difficult moment for the man elected executive director of U.S. Missions just two years ago.
“Coming into this Council I had many mixed emotions,” Garrison said after his election. “The team I have served and worked with in U.S. Missions is a passionate team that’s effective. I will miss them dearly.”
He thanked Trask for his leadership and support, and offered a promise to the Council.
“I pledge that I will do everything in my power to fulfill this duty with integrity,” Garrison said. “I pledge my full support for you, this church, to God and to the new general superintendent.”
Before his election to the U.S. Missions post in 2005, Garrison had served four years as superintendent of the Arkansas District. He was pastor of First Assembly of God in North Little Rock, Ark., for 15 years. From 1966 to 1985, he and his wife, Johanna, served as evangelists.
“I love the Assemblies of God and I’m here by choice,” he said. “I didn’t grow up in this great Fellowship but I’m glad I’m here now.”
Rob Cunningham is associate pastor of Antelope Christian Center near Sacramento, Calif. He’s a former newspaper reporter and editor, and a graduate of Evangel University in Springfield, Mo.
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4873 - 9/30/07