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Andy Wood Apologizes for Driscoll Interview, but Critics Don’t Buy It

By Sarah Einselen
Mark Driscoll, left, is interviewed by Pastor Andy Wood at Echo Church leadership conference. (Source: Video screengrab from conference)

Andy Wood, incoming pastor of Saddleback Church, apologized Friday “for my mistake and error” in interviewing disgraced pastor Mark Driscoll at a 2021 leadership conference Wood organized.

But critics say Wood’s apology fell short. They say Wood mischaracterized Driscoll’s misconduct as “mistakes,” and misrepresented the nature of his interview with Wood.

Wood wrote Friday evening on Twitter: “In the past I interviewed Mark Driscoll to help pastors learn from his mistakes. 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.”

Wood’s apology came after he got pushback for interviewing Mark Driscoll at Echo Leadership Conference in May 2021. The conference was put on by Wood’s former church, Echo Church in San Jose, California.

Former Echo Church Planting and Missions Pastor Jason Adams-Brown called parts of Wood’s apology “blatantly false.” Adams-Brown tweeted that Wood “brought Driscoll in to speak on ‘healthy’ leadership,” not “mistakes.” He added that Driscoll’s interview was titled “Healthy Families.”

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A screenshot of the interview’s description stated Driscoll spoke “about leading a church with his own family, the challenges that many ministry families face, and the power of forgiveness to sustain God’s anointing on our lives.”

Andy Wood Mark Driscoll Echo Leadership Conference
Screenshot of a description posted online of Mark Driscoll’s “Healthy Families” talk at Echo Leadership Conference 2021.

TRR reached out to Wood for comment about the apparent discrepancy, but did not hear back.

Wood is slated to succeed Rick Warren in September as pastor of Saddleback Church, a Southern California megachurch with some 25,000 attending its worship services. Wood’s first day in the office at Saddleback was August 1.

Driscoll had resigned in 2014 from Mars Hill Church in Seattle amid allegations of plagiarism and spiritual abuse. The Roys Report has since reported on accusations of cult-like activity at Driscoll’s new church, including one article published shortly before last year’s conference.

Video of Wood’s interview with Driscoll no longer appears on the Echo Leadership Conference video page, and Driscoll’s bio has been removed from the conference website.

Andy Wood Echo Leadership Conference
Screenshot of Echo Leadership Conference Vimeo webpage.

But Religion News Service reported this month that Driscoll said in his interview with Wood that his troubles at Mars Hill were a “board war.” Driscoll also reportedly blamed Satan, social media, and worldly culture for causing church conflict. And Driscoll suggested apostles—not church boards or elders—should govern churches and other pastors.

As TRR reported previously, Driscoll originally didn’t have any local elders at his new church in Arizona, The Trinity Church. Then, under increasing pressure, Driscoll claimed to have local elders but refused to name them.

RNS reported that Wood expressed hearty approval of Driscoll’s counsel and described Driscoll as a mentor who had shaped Wood’s ministry.

“We love you guys,” Wood reportedly said to Driscoll during the interview.

According to Jason Adams-Brown, Wood was warned before the Echo Conference not to platform Driscoll.

Adams-Brown added he knew of no Echo staff members who supported bringing Driscoll to the conference. “Local leaders even asked (Wood) not to. The evidence was already clear on Driscoll. . . .”

“This is image management 101,” Adams-Brown said of Wood’s apology.

In an interview with TRR last month, Adams-Brown and his wife, Lori Adams-Brown, described Wood as an abusive and vindictive pastor. They also challenged a third-party investigation that cleared Wood of allegations he fostered “an abusive staff culture.”

Wood has not responded publicly to Adams-Brown or others who have pushed back.

Kyle Howard, a counselor specializing in spiritual and racial trauma, also pressed Wood about his apology. He asked Wood on Twitter whether Driscoll had humbly reflected on his mistakes in the interview, or used his “platform to teach others how they should lead—himself as model?”

Howard said he believed “the clear dynamic of Driscoll’s time was to teach others . . . not to humbly reflect on personal failures so that others may learn.” He noted in a follow-up thread that Driscoll “has yet to own any mistake” and “sees himself as persecuted by evil people.”

“Your motive now in retrospect, respectfully, doesn’t seem to match the data of then,” Howard wrote to Wood.

Blogger and author Sheila Gregoire also asked Wood to address Adams-Brown’s claims and the RNS reporting.

“We know that Andy ignored the wise counsel of his staff; admired the lack of accountability that Mark had,” Gregoire wrote in response to a tweet saying Wood’s critics lacked grace. “It’s been reported he used NDAs.”

A spokesman for Echo Church acknowledged to RNS that the church has a confidentiality policy.

“All of this shows that Andy runs a very large risk of being another Mark Driscoll or James MacDonald,” Gregoire wrote.

Author and theologian Aimee Byrd also noted Wood’s use of “mistakes” to describe Driscoll’s actions.

“Again, this word ‘mistakes’ is used to replace egregious abuse of power,” Byrd wrote on Twitter. “It’s in the language. Believe what they are showing us.”

Sarah Einselen is an award-winning writer and editor based in Texas.



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40 Responses

  1. While I have commented in past articles about Saddleback/Wood that there is not enough evidence to support the charge that Wood is an abusive leader based on one couple’s testimony, I find this latest revelation worrisome. Mischaracterizing the topic of the interview that he conducted with Driscoll feels like a minor infraction, but it speaks to a desire to skirt blame and avoid responsibility. Humble shepherds don’t do that. The fact that he lied about something so easily confirmed tells me he is either foolish for thinking his critics have no internet access, or else he is used to spinning the truth and getting away with it.

    1. The man is a snake condemned right along with the men who had Jesus Christ killed due to jealousy. The proof is in the actions. Please stop defending a man who will lead you into a ditch. I have seen a room in hell reserved for false Christians. It was the most real thing I have ever experienced. Do not follow those whose destiny ends there.

    2. Until you’ve watched Rick Warren affirm John Piper’s theology to his face, and then watch him win the same degree of admiration from Oprah, the shocking degree to which Warren will change his message to please his current audience, may be hard for people to believe, It was for me until I saw it for myself (via YouTube).

      I’m not at all surprised that Warren’s choice as successor seems to exhibit the same behavior for the same reason – extending his own influence by saying whatever his current interlocutor wants to hear.

  2. Of course people don’t believe the sincerity of Wood’s “apology.” That response is essentially canned language he could have pulled from any hypothetical textbook on damage control. Yet, people are willing to pay him large sums of money to be their so-called “spiritual leader.” And people wonder why the church is in the state it is…

  3. Sometimes I’m a bit slow, but what’s with the “leading a church with his own family” deal? And why do churches have husband/wife ministry teams? I don’t get it. Also, couldn’t agree more with the concerns Sarah raises.

  4. Waiting for the Warren/Saddleback defenders to come out on this one… I’m sure it won’t be long.

    Until then, I repeat–yes, Warren does own *all* of this–hook, line, and sinker:

    –He popularized the watered-down, itching-ears “seeker sensitive gospel” in which worldly relevance and belonging take precedence over shepherding the people along and performing the Great Commission.
    –He valued adoration in the eyes of the media above sanctifying the saints–possibly at the cost of even neglecting his own family life (i.e. his mentally ill late son).
    –He *directly and unilaterally chose* Andy Wood over numerous capable homegrown talents out of Saddleback–surely because Wood is charismatic, and has a large following, and that all-important youth appeal.

    I’m sure I’ll get a stream of responses explaining why I’m being harsh and judgmental… I prefer to say that I stand for truth, but won’t back down.

    1. While much of your analysis makes legitimate points, tying some unsubstantited assertion of family neglect to the suicide of his son is just way out of bounds.

    2. Yep, I believe you were harsh and judgmental. Saddleback church had an amazing discipling ministry in many forms. Just Celebrate Recovery alone has discipled millions around the world.

      1. David Jankowski,

        What did Warren and Saddleback “disciple” for? Were they winning lost souls to the Kingdom or winning Saddleback more fans, more tithers?

        I’ve said before and will say again–a church isn’t supposed to substitute for AA or a designated, licensed twelve-step program. It can *assist* one’s recovery, but it isn’t supposed to be a stand-in for legitimate medical treatment. We are not Christian Scientists who reject secular medicine and care like Luddites.

        1. Wow Brian take a chill pill. Do some homework about celebrate recovery. It’s used in many places including prisons. It’s a ministry within the church. Not THE ministry of the church.

  5. My impression of Rick Warren is that he is one of the least “bullying” pastors of large churches in the last 50 years or more. He finished at Saddleback well with no stains on his record. So, I find it hard to believe that he would “unknowingly” choose a known bully to succeed him. Let’s be careful not to jump to conclusions on a couple/few anecdotes. By the way, I agree with Driscoll that pastors should not be accountable to deacons (Where in the world does one see that in the Bible?) or lay elders. There is no way that lay elders can keep up with the multiplicity of issues facing a large church with multiple ministries. There’s a middle ground for lay elders and deacons to advise about big issues that involve the whole congregation.

    1. If you are going to say “where in the world is that in the Bible” and in the next sentence say the word “lay elder” then you need to go back and read that sentence again. The words clergy and laity are not in the Bible, so when you use those words it kind of tips your hand so we know you don’t understand Biblical leadership. There is one word for Elder/Pastor in scripture. Most “elder” boards, which is also not in the Bible, in these large churches are usually not filled with spiritual elders, but business minded managers. These churches are run like businesses, thus the terms NDA, Executive pastor, CFO, Legal suits, internal investigation are used. It’s all the worlds way of organizing and controlling people. It’s not the Body of Christ, His Church.

  6. David Jankowski,

    The Roys Report right here, on these pages, has shown the subtle, sly gaslighting that Warren has done… just this summer.

    ““As Western culture becomes more dark, more evil, more secular, we have to decide: Are we going to treat each other as allies or not?” he said.” (Translation: complementarian brothers and sisters are the enemy.)

    So, yes, I think Andy Wood and Rock (Star) Warren are two peas in a pod… “good cop, bad cop” if you will.

    1. Your interpretation of the following is biased: (Translation: complementarian brothers and sisters are the enemy.) Our lead pastor definitely favors women preachers, but he’s not the rest of the staff’s enemy. There may even be some others who agree with him. I don’t, but I still support him as an excellent pastor and preacher. If Warren believes in women preachers, should that ban him from the SBC? John Wesley believed in women preachers, not the least of which was his mother, and take note of what he accomplished in England and America. Please, let’s major on major issues.

      1. Brian would denounce John Wesley or Charles Spurgeon alike for having too large of churches in their day. Of course, like Warren, he might also make fun of Spurgeon for being overweight.

  7. Saddleback and Rick Warren, in particular, have shown in their past actions with racist videos that they simply don’t care.

    1. Stu Sperwer,

      Racist videos out of Saddleback and Rock (Star) Warren… what are you speaking of? Please fill me in on this. I have never heard of this in my life. If what you say is true, that’s yet another example of the EIC coming together to protect one of their most central members like an absolute mafia, preventing knowledge of truth from getting out to the greater world.

    2. I’ve been cruising church corruption whistleblower blogs for years, and have never heard Rick Warren or Saddleback connected to “racist videos”. Maybe some clueless ones, but not flat-out racist.

      Can you provide examples? And why you figure them as “racist”? There’s a lot of definitions of “racism” going around these days.

      Deep Throat Driscoll, on the other hand…
      I was surprised when he went down in a plagiarism scandal; given his Professional Bad-Boi reputation, I was fully expecting a sex scandal.

  8. Brian Patrick,

    In the words of The Great Communicator, “There you go again.”

    Just curious…. do you profess to be a Christian?

    It’s a valid question that suggests how (or if based on your lack of responding to other people’s questions in the past) you respond should help others on here determine how to address you in a biblical way.

    For example, if you are simply a skeptic vs. a cynic, then there are two different types of responses that the Bible outlines regarding our interaction with you.

    “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them.” Titus 3:10

    I’m curious, if you could please post a theological response that outlines your excuse or reason that you believe that your behavior doesn’t fall into the same category of wickedness and depravity described by Paul in Romans 1.

    “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice. They are gossips,” Romans 1:29

    Or, as he wrote in his second letter to the church in Corinth,

    “I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.” 2 Corinthians 12

    I believe it is a fair question, because if you do believe yourself to be a brother in Christ, then it is upon our shoulders to follow the direction of the writer of Hebrews who states,

    “See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, if it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Hebrews 3 12-13.

    1. Julius Syore,

      Like clockwork… can I call it or can I call it? ;-)

      Yes, I profess to be saved. No, I do not see fruits, in terms of what’s publicly visible to the world to see, out of the likes of Warren, Wood, MacArthur, Hybels, Osteen, Dollar, White (thanks for reminding me of her, Mark Gunderson), or the vast majority of the rest of these megachurch megalomaniacs. Infer from that what you want.

      It doesn’t matter whether the megachurch rock stars are “nice” like Osteen and Warren, or “mean” like Driscoll and MacArthur–it boils down to the same thing; the insatiable lust for either their flocks to view them as incontrovertible and Godlike like the pope (as with MacArthur) or the adoration and praise of the perishing, Godless secular world (as with Warren). It’s two sides of the same coin really… self-deification.

      The whole entire mission and purpose of TRR is to expose this, to reveal the secret works of godlessness by these self-created idols, so that their idolaters might see and reflect and repent of their ill-placed adulation. Some of the above have been downright abusive and predatory (like Hybels, Dollar, and Wood), but all of the above have elevated themselves in a most unbiblical way and have watered down the Gospel, or else twisted it for their own fallen reasons.

      If you support Julie and her mission, you have to acknowledge that. I have my differences of opinion with her here and there, but at the end of the day she’s doing a service almost nobody else is.

      1. Wow! You paint with a broad brush, and a fairly harsh one too. My son asked me who were the three most influential Christian leaders in my lifetime. I almost listed Rick Warren, but I chose three other. Who can doubt all the wonderful contributions Warren’s ministry made to the world.

        1. David Jankowski,

          You’ll know them by their fruits. In the meantime, I have some questions to ask you.

          –Is the world (or even just South Orange County, California) more or less conformed to God’s values and character today, or when Warren began his ministry?
          –What are some great crusades, some mass baptisms, harvests of evangelism that Warren and team have to show for themselves a la Graham, Chuck Smith (or Spurgeon and Wesley, as Mark Gunderson brings up)?
          –When was the last time that Warren stood like a rock in the storm against the trends and fads and biases of this fallen culture, at risk to his own reputation and standing?

          I have driven by Saddleback headquarters–earlier this year in fact. I think few neutral observers would objectively disagree that it puts the fictitious Aladeen’s presidential palace (as in the Sacha Baren Cohen film, The Dictator) to shame. I’m curious to know if that property, and whatever else the Saddleback elder team spends their income on, is the best use of talents in God’s kingdom on earth.

          1. Brian –

            These are good questions – and should be asked of ALL pastors, whether they lead congregations of 10 or 1000. Do you do so? Can you positively answer all of those questions regarding your pastor?
            Under Rick Warren’s leadership and teaching, Saddleback has baptized thousands. His Biblical approach to addressing addictions has helped thousands break free from spiritual bondage (which is what addiction is). You can hate him all you want – you seem to gleefully do so – but that doesn’t change Warren’s impact.
            My concern is that you claim to know Warren’s heart and intention, and speak so confidently and condescendingly about them – to the point that you talk down to and about fellow Christians who have actually been inspired by him, as if that makes them “lesser” or “weaker Christians” than you.
            Purpose Driven Life (and Purpose Driven Church) taught me a lot and challenged me to reform my relationships in the body of Christ in a way that has deeply blessed me. That does not make me weaker than you – nor does it make me, as you like to say, “someone who just wants to feel good.”
            Now, it’s ok if someone’s preaching style or writing does not speak to you. It’s ok if you just aren’t a fan of large churches (tell me: at what size does a church become evil to you? Is it 1000 members? Does the 1001st member need to leave to keep it holy?)
            I repeat: you are NOT a better Christian than someone who came to Christ through Saddleback (or any large church) or after reading Purpose Driven Life (or any other book by a “mega” pastor).

          2. Marin Heiskell,

            My pastor *isn’t* perfect. That’s why I respect him, but don’t exalt him or follow his every move. About four years ago, I was quite upset with how he handled a hiring matter with a subordinate pastor at this church (the matter did not involve moral corruption). Genuine pastors are flawed, broken people who make mistakes (not of the sort that Wood, Hybels, MacArthur do), own them, and humbly lead without demanding unquestioned deference or adulation.

            And, yes, it’s true that plenty of smaller churches are just as corrupted by the rot as the big-box stadium megachurches. In the early 2000s, every church in the land wanted to live their best life now, everyone wanted a piece of Warren and Osteen (as well as other rock-stars that have fallen off the map, like Rob Bell). Before that, everyone was all about Gwen Shamblin and her “Weigh Down” cult seminars. After them, Beth Moore became all the rage. Rot typically starts from the top, because most people are leaders, not followers, and because it’s easier to put your faith in some human facsimile of God, than God himself who we don’t directly see and feel.

          3. Wow Brian what palaces are you referring to? I attended saddleback until I moved out of state. They have the headquarters in a building across the street from the campus that looks like hundreds of commercial buildings in Orange County. The sanctuary is a modest building and the classrooms look like most schools in Orange County. I think you went by TBN palace off the 405 freeway. Now that’s a palace or maybe you drove by the Chrystal cathedral in garden grove. But like the presidential palace? I don’t think do. Your letting satan lie to you and maybe you need to tend to your own needs and let God deal with Rick and Kay. Be of cheer my brother because Jesus is our lord. Not any pastor.

          4. Oops, I reversed that–meant to say “most people are followers, not leaders”.

            Gary Weigel,

            I knew what I drove by. It’s here on Google Maps for anyone to find for themselves: 33°39’47.3″N, 117°39’08.8″W.

          5. hey Brian, forget the coordinates. how about a cross street. In my world I use cross streets and addresses. In your world you may use coordinates. The main campus is at the corner of Portola parkway and El toro. If you know orange county, you know this location.

          6. Brian –
            I have searched up and down these threads, and literally NO ONE said anything about these people being perfect. No human being is. Admiring or being inspired by someone’s teaching or walk with God is NOT claiming they are perfect. When I go back and listen to Billy Graham, I am convicted and inspired by a lot of his preaching. I also know he was a flawed man, and there are some of his stances that I disagree with. Both concepts can exist.
            I also have seen NOTHING about Rick Warren or Beth Moore demanding total adulation or submission or claiming they are perfect. Can you please show me where? I do know Beth Moore has openly stated several times when she got things wrong – admitting her own humanity – and asked for forgiveness.
            What I DO see is you lumping entire groups of people together (mega pastors or their members) and making assumptions about their hearts, intent, and salvation. How is that any better than a “mega pastor” making assumptions about dissenters?

    2. Every church corruption/whistleblower blog I’ve covered has the same phenomenon:

      When they put a Celebrity Preacher under scrutiny, suddenly the comment thread fills with handles the blog’s never seen before (often some variant of “Concerned Christian”) denouncing the blogger and other commenters as The Devil, demanding they PROVE they are REALLY a Christian, blasting bible bullets full-auto for “Not my words but GOD SAITH!” justification.
      Every. Time.

      Some of them even trace back to the IP Address of the church/ministry/ManaGAWD that’s come under scrutiny. Or to known professional trolls looking for something – anything – so they can get Offended.

      1. Ken Pick,

        It’s like you read my mind. Anytime an “anointed” celebrity preacher faces the teensiest shred of accountability–the knives come out. We can’t dare criticize these saints!

        What does Julie Roys say? D.A.R.V.O.

        I would not be surprised if a couple of folks commenting in this piece are paid staff on Warren/Saddleback’s PR team, or are “internet reputation cleaners” hired by them. In fact, hasn’t one of them admitted being a Saddleback member?

        1. Brian, I confess I am the saddleback troll paid in shell gas cards to say nothing but wonderful glowing things about saddleback. OMG I am also a member. Yikes “busted “. I only get about $25.00 a week. Should I ask for more? After all it is for “ahhhhhhhhhhh” rick warren. again, Portola Parkway and El Toro in lake forest. Near the Trabucco hills HS and across from the gas station and the LA fitness.

  9. “Mistakes were made”
    Mark Driscoll, Dec 2013
    It’s not so much that Wood likes Driscoll as that he’s like him.

  10. Mark Deckard,

    Scripture speaks to this very, exact topic. See Titus 1:6 and 1 Timothy 3: 4 and 5. If a man, leader of his household, has no influence or control over his own children, then who does?

    This is within the basic, fundamental qualifications of being a pastor that have existed for 2000 years. It’s not some partisan club to beat the opposition over the head with.

  11. A toxic obsession with the concept of leadership has been the downfall of the American church. Megachurch pastors promote themselves as CEO’s instead of the New Testament model of shepherds. It inflates the ego, but in the end destroys both them and the church they lead. How about we return to a servant based paradigm of leadership, where the pastor shepherds both the convict and the CEO with the same exact level of grace and love? It has been my experience in 29 years of full time ministry that those obsessed with the concept of leadership make the worst leaders.

    1. I agree. I think the idea that your minister – minister means “servant” or “helper” – is supposed to be your leader is erroneous.

    2. Amen, brother.
      I am more than skeptical at the number of ‘leadership’ conferences we have in this country and the few on ‘being a servant of the flock’. Not an oxymoronic ‘servant-leader’, but a servant, a minister.
      OK, you like leadership?: here’s what you need to know, the three jobs of ‘leading’ (managing, really): clarify the mission, sustain the team and provide resources.

  12. David Peterson,

    “It’s not so much that Wood likes Driscoll as that he’s like him.”

    Yes, and what does this say about Warren, who is unilaterally responsible for bringing Wood on?

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