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Rick Warren’s Successor Cleared of Abusive Leadership Allegations

Scott Slayton | ChristianHeadlines.com Contributor | Monday, July 18, 2022
Rick Warren’s Successor Cleared of Abusive Leadership Allegations

Rick Warren’s Successor Cleared of Abusive Leadership Allegations

The elders at Saddleback Church, pastored by Rick Warren, announced that an investigation into their new pastor found that he was not guilty of abusive leadership practices at his former church.

San Francisco-area pastor Andy Wood is scheduled to take the helm at Saddleback on September 12. After he was announced as the Purpose Driven Life author’s successor in June, allegations of abusive and coercive leadership emerged.

Wood planted Echo Church in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2008. The church then expanded to include four campuses with over 3,000 congregants. After it was announced that he would succeed Warren, former Echo Church assistant pastor Lori Adams-Brown tweeted, “When a pastor with many allegations of abuse against him from over more than a decade gets hired to be the pastor of one of the largest churches in America, and none of the survivors that you know were ever reached out to by the elder board that unanimously approved him…#sbc.”

After the accusation, the Vanderbloemen Group, which conducted the background checks on Andy Wood for Saddleback, did a follow-up review. They viewed videos, emails, text records, interviews with people at Echo Church and one additional interview. Wood told Religion News Service that he “would be happy for any current or former staff members to share their working experience at Echo with Vanderbloemen as a part of their investigation.”

However, Adams-Brown and her husband Jason, who also served on Echo’s Strategic Leadership Team, claim that as many as 15-20 former Echo Church staff members and volunteers were pushed out or resigned and signed non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), which keep them from talking to anyone investigating the allegations, according to The Roys Report.

A few days later, Adams-Brown tweeted, “NDAs have no place in the church. If a pastor claims there have been no allegations of abuse against him, but he has gotten many former staff to sign NDAs (even if he gaslit staff by not calling them NDAs), this is cause for deep investigation into all former employees with care.”

Echo Church expanded its number of campuses by merging with smaller congregations that then took on Echo Church’s name and leadership. Lance Hough, who was on the leadership team at Crossroads Church when it merged with Echo, eventually left the church’s Fremont campus because of an “unhealthy culture.”

Hough told Christianity Today that the merger was portrayed as “a marriage merger” where “two growing churches realign with each other under a unified vision and new leadership.” Instead, Hough claims that “as soon as our organization started to functionally merge, they started systematically killing off everything that made our church unique.” He said Wood dismissed any questioning of his method of leadership.

Saddleback knew of the allegations during its discussions with Wood and believed his version of events. The church said they reached out to a former staff member at Echo Church “and have yet to receive communication back.” The elders released the letter to the church this week because “we felt it was important that you hear the facts on this from us now, rather than in the news or on social media.”


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Scott Slayton writes at “One Degree to Another.”

Rick Warren’s Successor Cleared of Abusive Leadership Allegations