Saddleback Successor Cleared of Allegations of Overbearing Leadership

Search firm Vanderbloemen reviewed texts, emails, and videos but did not talk to former staffer who made accusations against Andy Wood.

Leaders at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church say a preliminary investigation has cleared Warren’s recently announced successor, Andy Wood, of allegations of an authoritarian leadership style that demands unquestioning loyalty.

Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life and one of the most influential voices in evangelical Christianity, is planning to retire in September. He named San Francisco–area pastor Andy Wood as his successor at Saddleback, a Southern California congregation that draws 25,000 people to worship services. Wood, 40, is currently the lead pastor of Echo Church, a multisite congregation based in San Jose.

After the public announcement, a former Echo Church staffer made comments about issues with Wood’s leadership on social media.

The allegations did not come as a surprise to Saddleback leaders.

According to Saddleback’s statement on Sunday night, Wood had told the church’s elders about the former staffer’s claims during his interview process and offered to show them videos of his meetings with the former staffer. The church asked Vanderbloemen Search Group, which did the initial background check on Wood, to do a follow-up review.

“Our elders have now received a preliminary second report from The Vanderbloemen Search Group, clearing Pastor Wood from all allegations,” the church said in a letter to the congregation on Sunday, which was also sent to Religion New Service (RNS).

The search company was provided video, email, and text records, and interviews that Echo gathered in its review of Wood’s actions. It also conducted one additional interview, according to Saddleback’s letter.

“They tried to reach out to the former staff member and have …

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