Andy Wood, named as Rick Warren’s successor at Saddleback Church after Warren retires, has apologized for inviting Mark Driscoll to speak at the 2021 Echo Leadership Conference. In July, Saddleback said Wood was cleared of allegations of abusive leadership, but critics say there are still too many unanswered questions.
“In the past I interviewed Mark Driscoll to help pastors learn from his mistakes,” Wood tweeted on Friday, Aug. 12. “Since then additional controversy and pain has come out. My choice hurt and confused many people. I regret the pain, confusion & distraction this caused. I humbly apologize for my mistake and error.”
Andy Wood’s Interview With Mark Driscoll
On June 2, Rick Warren, founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, announced that he would be retiring and passing the baton to Andy Wood in September. At the time, Wood was the lead pastor of Echo.Church in San Jose, California.
Following that announcement, former staffers at Echo.Church publicly alleged that Wood was guilty of abusive leadership. On June 12, Saddleback announced that the Vanderbloemen Search Group, which did the initial background check on Wood, had conducted a follow-up review on the pastor and had cleared him. In an elder email sent July 11, Saddleback said that Vanderbloemen and another firm called Middlebrook & Goodspeed had both cleared Wood of the allegations against him.
More recently, some have raised concerns regarding the appearance of disgraced pastor Mark Driscoll at the Echo Leadership Conference held May 20, 2021. Driscoll resigned from Mars Hill Church in Seattle in 2014, avoiding a restoration process proposed by his elders, and the church disbanded months later. Christianity Today’s popular podcast “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill” documents the church’s story, along with many accounts of abusive leadership on the part of Driscoll.
Two years after leaving Mars Hill, Driscoll founded The Trinity Church in Scottsdale, Arizona, and reports again surfaced of Driscoll being an abusive leader. In July 2021, 39 former elders at Mars Hill released a statement exhorting Driscoll to step down from leadership at his new church. “We are saddened to learn that Mark Driscoll has continued in a pattern of sinful actions toward staff members and congregants as he pastors The Trinity Church in Scottsdale, Arizona,” they said.
Former Echo.Church staffer Jason Adams-Brown speculates Wood’s statement that “additional controversy and pain has come out” since the 2021 Echo Leadership Conference, refers to “the podcast” and implies that Andy Wood was unaware of Driscoll’s abusive leadership prior to the release of the series. Adams-Brown is most likely referring to “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill”; the first episode was released on June 21, 2021. However, media outlets had reported on the allegations from Trinity Church members against Driscoll at least by May 10 before the conference took place.
Bob Smietana, national religion writer for Religion News Service, reported on Aug. 1 that during Driscoll’s interview with Wood at the Echo conference, Driscoll “described the troubles at his former church as a ‘board war’ and blamed the devil, social media and secular culture for causing church conflict.” According to Smietana, Driscoll supported the idea that certain church leaders should be free of elder or board oversight. Wood praised this concept, as well as Driscoll’s ministry, describing the pastor as a mentor.