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Reporting the Truth.
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EXCLUSIVE: Former Staffers Expose Bullying, Abuse of Rick Warren’s Successor Andy Wood

By Julie Roys
Andy Wood
Rick Warren's successor at Saddleback Church, Andy Wood, preaches on Easter 2022 at his previous church, Echo Church in San Jose, California (Video screengrab)

Andy Wood—the man poised to replace Rick Warren in September at Saddleback Church—is an abusive pastor who punishes those who cross him, according to two former high-level pastors at Wood’s former church.

In an exclusive interview with The Roys Report (TRR), Jason and Lori Adams-Brown spoke about their time at Echo Church, the multisite megachurch in San Jose, California, that Wood co-founded in 2009. Both Jason and Lori served on Echo’s Strategic Leadership Team and said Wood and his close confidant—now acting Echo lead pastor, Filipe Santos—bullied, intimidated, and then fired them.

Earlier this week, Saddleback Church announced that an independent investigation had found there was “no systemic or pattern of abuse under Andy’s leadership, nor was there an individual that we felt was abused.”

But the Adams-Browns say that wasn’t their experience. And they contest the investigation’s finding, saying Saddleback failed to take their story, and the stories of other victims of Wood’s abuse, seriously.

“Power by fear”

The Adams-Browns, who both grew up as Southern Baptist missionary kids, told TRR they noticed “red flags” at Echo almost immediately after arriving. Prior to coming to Echo, the family had served in Singapore with the International Mission Board. That’s where they met Wood, who visited Singapore in 2011 on a short-term missions trip. Then in 2017-2018, the couple met with both Wood and Santos during a stateside stay.

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In August 2019, Echo hired Jason as its church planting and missions pastor, and Lori as the associate campus pastor at Echo’s Sunnyvale campus. During the pandemic, the Adams-Browns also launched and led Echo Compassion, a ministry to connect people in need with resources and volunteers willing to help.

According to the couple, Wood and Santos led the church in a dictatorial manner.

“I would say a lot of power by fear,” Lori told TRR. “Make sure you don’t cross Andy, or he’ll say (bad) things about you. Or—make sure you cross every ‘T’ and dot every ‘I,’ because if you don’t, you’re going to feel his wrath.”

Jason said Santos was so well-known for his harsh critique that staff had a name for receiving it. It was known as being “Filipe’d.”

TRR reached out to both Wood and Santos for interviews.

Wood’s PR agent, Kristin Cole of L. Ross Communications, said Wood is taking the month off to spend time with his family and not doing interviews.

Santos did not respond to our request.

Lori said she first encountered Wood’s wrath when she innocently asked him a question at a July 2020 meeting of Echo’s Strategic Leadership Team.

She said Wood had announced that Echo would be starting outdoor, in-person services and used the analogy of driving two cars—a digital car and an in-person car—to explain what they’d be doing.

Lori said the idea prompted many questions in her mind about the logistics of running an outdoor service.

“So, I asked a very, just curious and innocent question, ‘How is it possible to drive two cars?’ I didn’t even understand the metaphor,” she said. “And for the first time, I felt Andy’s anger toward me. I had seen him be angry at other people, but it had never come toward me. . . . It felt just really scary.”

TRR also spoke with Darren Allarde, former campus pastor at Echo’s Sunnyvale location, who witnessed the interaction. Allarde said Lori asked a “great question” that “challenged (Wood’s) notion in a good way.” And, according to Allarde, Wood answered the question with a “great answer.”

However, after the meeting, Allarde said Lori asked him whether he thought there was something off about her question or Wood’s response. Allarde said he responded that he thought both the question and the answer were fine.

Soon afterward, however, Allarde said Wood asked him the same question, and again Allarde said both were fine.

Lori said she later tried to apologize to Wood while their two families were hanging out because she could tell she had upset him. But she said Wood shut her down, saying that he wouldn’t discuss the matter in front of his family.

Soon afterwards, Lori said Wood summoned her to his office for a one-on-one meeting and peppered her with questions unrelated to her job.

“It was, ‘What do you believe about CRT (critical race theory)?’ And I was like, ‘What?’ I didn’t even really know what it was at the time,” Lori said. “I felt like I would need time to research this, but it felt like I needed to give a 60-second answer. ‘What do you believe about abortion?’ And I felt this need to say a 60-second answer. . . . It was just an interrogation, like an inquisition, and it felt very scary.”

Lori said she was called into two similar meetings with Wood over the following two months. One of the meetings was also attended by Jason.

“The meeting didn’t make any sense,” Jason said. “(Wood) is just asking these rapid-fire questions of Lori. I can tell he’s irritated and bothered by it—definitely. . . . I just remember feeling really afraid—like, ‘What is this about?’”

In October 2020, Lori said Santos called her on the phone and told her that sometimes Wood develops such antipathy towards certain staff that he can’t be around them—and now Lori was that person.

Yet Santos reportedly said both he and Wood wanted Lori to remain on staff. She’d just need to transition to another role— like pastor of outreach—where she wouldn’t be around Wood. According to Lori, Jason, and Allarde, Wood didn’t pay much attention to the outreach ministry Lori and Jason were doing; his focus was more on things related to the weekend services.

Lori said she objected, saying that Wood clearly was unhealthy, and the goal should be for Wood to get healthy. Santos replied that’s not how things work at Echo, Lori said. She said Santos said that Wood is the lead pastor, and Santos has learned that his job is to promote Wood, not question him.

“Rapid-fire interrogation”

Lori told TRR that despite her reservations, she agreed in October 2020 to transition to a new position. But then for two months, she didn’t hear anything from Santos about the new job.

Then in December, Santos sent her an invitation to a Zoom meeting entitled, “Your 2021 role.”

Lori said the Zoom meeting happened just days before Christmas 2020. And because of concerns about COVID, she sat outside on Echo’s North Campus to connect to the call. But Santos didn’t show up for the Zoom, she said. So Lori said she put her mask on, went inside the building, and found Santos, who then informed her they would meet in Wood’s office.

“It scared me because the whole point was to get me away from (Wood),” Lori said. “So, for me to be brought into his office, it was really scary. And I didn’t feel free to say no—either to meeting indoors, or to being in his office.”

Lori said she then sat down on the couch in Wood’s office, and Wood and Santos sat on either side of her “with this kind of power move.” She said the two then began “a very rapid-fire interrogation meeting for a solid hour.”

Lori said the pastors asked her questions like: What is the wound that makes you want to talk about women? Did you ever tell Pastor Lucille (Sablan) to speak up more? Lucille feels very pushed and uncomfortable. Why are you so frustrated about COVID? Pastor Tim (Castagna) said you were frustrated about COVID.

“That whole conversation felt like such power by fear,” Lori said. “. . . It was like the two most powerful men in the church, flanking me on both sides. I have no one from HR with me—like, clearly, I’m being ambushed and interrogated. And I didn’t know that’s what this was.”

Lori added that during the conversation, Santos claimed that he and Wood hear and see everything.

“It was the creepiest thing I think I heard in that meeting,” Lori said. “And I felt at that point, like, ‘Am I in Russia? Are they gonna send me to the Gulag?’ I mean, it was just the most tyrannical statement I think I’ve ever heard.”

Lori said she felt unnerved and scared by the meeting. She also felt awful that she apparently had made Lucille Sablan feel “pushed” and “uncomfortable.” So, after the holidays, she texted Sablan to apologize.

Lori said Sablan immediately called her, said she had never felt Lori do either of those things, and asked what Lori was talking about. When Lori said she had been in a meeting with Wood and Santos, Sablan reportedly said: Did those boys rapid-fire question you?

Lori recalled, “I was like, ‘Wait, this is a thing?’ because . . . I’m still thinking this is just me. And she’s like, ‘Yeah, they do that sometimes. I’m so sorry they did that to you. I’m so sorry.’”

TRR reached out to Sablan, who’s still on staff at Echo, for comment, but she did not respond.

Initially, Lori said she simply referred to the meeting with Wood and Santos as “weird.” But now, after receiving therapy, she said she believes what they did was emotional and spiritual abuse, as well as abuse of power.

Confrontation leads to removal

Jason told TRR that when Lori told him about the meeting with Wood and Santos, he was very angry and requested a meeting with the two men. The next day, Jason met with Wood in Wood’s office with Santos connecting via Zoom.

Jason said he was nervous for the meeting because he’s “not a confrontational guy.” But Wood reportedly had the opposite response.

“As I start the meeting, and I told them, ‘I guess I’m really, really angry about this meeting you guys had with Lori.’ And I start sharing my thoughts. And immediately it’s clear that Andy’s trying not to laugh. Like, he’s got this huge smile on his face, and he kept putting . . . his hand over his mouth.”

Jason said Wood continued to struggle not to laugh and then put a mask on to cover his smile.

“It was pretty clear fairly early on that there was no listening,” Jason said. “. . . All I remember is, I would try to state something. They would cut me off. They would correct. It wasn’t like, trying to make sure I felt understood.”

He added, “I’m a grown man. I’ve been on like high level leadership teams overseas. And I’ve never had people make me feel the way these guys made me feel. I felt incredibly small—like something was really wrong with me . . . I left that meeting, just thinking, ‘Man, what is wrong with me? Like, where are these emotions coming from?’”

Jason said he also left the meeting worried he was going to lose his job and what that would mean to his family. Jason said that fear, combined with a desire to be “tenaciously teachable,” motivated him to write a conciliatory email to Wood after the meeting.

In the email, Jason said he shared a very personal detail and said he was considering going to counseling to explore whether that issue had contributed to the conflict.

Later, Jason said he learned that Wood and Santos shared Jason’s personal disclosure with other staff and volunteers to paint Jason as the one with issues in the relationship.

A former Echo volunteer leader who spoke to TRR, Megan Haverkorn, said she was in a Zoom call with Santos and other volunteers in March 2021 where Santos did just that. Haverkorn said Santos was explaining why Jason and Lori left Echo and mentioned that Jason had written an email to apologize to Wood. Santos then disclosed Jason’s personal issue and said Jason was considering counseling about it.

At the beginning of 2021, Jason said he began feeling “tons of anxiety about work,” especially after learning that Wood and Santos’ “rapid-fire” interrogation  of Lori was not an isolated incident, but a pattern of behavior.

On February 25, Jason said he told Santos he believed the December meeting with his wife was “abusive.” Jason said Santos responded that Jason and Lori probably needed to find another job.

“I’m now realizing, oh my gosh, I’m so naïve! . . . Like they’re gonna fire us over this,” Jason said.

Six days later, in a meeting between Jason, Santos, and Vivian Dorflinger—then-Echo CFO, now one of four Echo trustees—the church offered Jason and Lori and a severance agreement, Jason said. Jason said the agreement gave the couple two-and-a-half months’ salary but was tied to a non-disclosure agreement (NDA).

Jason said he told Santos and Dorflinger that he and Lori couldn’t sign the agreement because they believed they may need to warn others about Wood.

The next day, March 4, 2021, Santos, Jason, and Lori connected on a Zoom call, which Santos recorded with Jason’s permission. In this meeting, Santos was “very chill” and had an entirely different tone, Jason said.

The church then offered the couple a revised severance agreement, which did not contain an NDA. Instead, it had a clause stating that “any and all legal disputes between us will be resolved according to Biblical principles.”

Elders rebuff Jason and Lori, back Wood

Jason said he was deeply disturbed by all that had happened and “felt convicted” that he needed to contact Echo’s elder board. On March 6, Jason sent the elders an email, requesting a meeting to discuss what had led to his and Lori’s firing. Jason shared his email correspondence with the elders with TRR.

The elders responded by appealing to Matthew 18, which urges an offended person to go directly to the person who’s sinned against him to resolve an issue. If that doesn’t work, take two or three others, and if necessary, bring the matter to the whole church.

The elders said they hoped Lori had already brought her grievance to Wood privately. They said they were willing to meet with Lori and Jason, but added, “We would like this discussion to be with Andy and Felipe (sic) in the room to confirm, deny or clarify any statements made.”

The same day, Jason received a text from Wood, which Jason shared with TRR. In the text, Wood says he’s willing to meet with Jason and Lori about their abuse claims “with witnesses present.” But Wood confronts Jason for not approaching Wood directly and urges Jason to “follow a biblical process.”

“It doesn’t have to go down like this, we can work through this in a God honoring way,” Wood writes. “If you believe you or Lori were abused you owe it to me to give me evidence and an opportunity to repent, none of which you have done.”

Text message thread between Echo Church pastor Andy Wood and Jason Adams-Brown, Former Echo Elder David Dorflinger was also in the thread. (Courtesy image)

Jason responds, “When someone is saying someone was abusive you do not demand that they meet with that person. . . . If the board refuses to meet with us unless you guys are there then that is their decision, but I will not put Lori or myself through that.”

Continuation of thread (Courtesy image)

Similarly, Jason wrote in an email to the elders, “When someone is claiming abusive behavior, you don’t ask them to come and share with you in front of that person.”

The board then requested that Jason submit his account in writing to the board. Then, if the board believed the accusations rose “to the level of abuse,” the board said it would meet with Jason and Lori without Wood and Santos present.

The next day, March 7, was “Dream Team Sunday”—a special service at Echo to recognize volunteers. It also was the first Sunday for the new Sunnyvale campus pastor, Gene Quiocho, who had replaced Allarde who resigned in February.

Lori said Quiocho didn’t know any of the volunteers at Sunnyvale. She, however, had nominated all the volunteers for their awards. And she felt it was “super inappropriate” for someone who didn’t even know the volunteers to present the awards.

Even so, Jason received a text from David Dorflinger, an elder and husband of CFO Vivian Dorflinger, on March 6, telling him that Wood officially had given Jason and Lori the day off and “thinks it would be better if you guys weren’t there.”

Text message thread between Echo Church elder David Dorflinger and Jason Adams-Brown (Courtesy image)

The couple said they also received a call from a mutual friend of Wood’s in San Francisco, saying don’t show up for church tomorrow. Wood doesn’t want you to be there.

Even so, Lori and Jason attended the service and Lori presented the awards to volunteers. But she added that Dorflinger “seemed to be always hanging around listening to my conversations. It was awkward, but I didn’t say anything to anyone.”

That was the last time the couple was able to meet with any of the volunteers at Echo, Lori and Jason said.

That same Sunday, Jason sent a written account of what had happened to the elder board. The document, which Jason and Lori shared with TRR, also made three requests: one, that Wood receive counseling; two, that Echo would commission an independent investigation; and three, that Echo would provide the couple with six months severance.

In a later email to the elders, Jason and Lori rescinded their third request and instead asked that their severance go toward Wood’s counseling and an independent investigation.

Jason said Wood asked him to meet the next day with Wood, Wood’s wife, Stacie, and Santos in Wood’s office to “get our hearts clean.” Jason said he wanted to be “above reproach,” so he agreed, but Lori connected via Zoom.

During the meeting, Jason said Wood told him that if he and Lori would take the word “abuse” out of their allegations, Echo could support the couple in their future ministry. The couple said they felt like Wood was offering them “hush money” and rejected Wood’s suggestion.

On March 12, Jason said he met over Zoom with Echo’s elders to hear their response to his written account. Lori said she felt like she was going to experience “secondary trauma” and listened in from the backside of Jason’s computer screen.

But Lori said the elders kept asking for her to participate so she eventually conceded, though it ended up being “very traumatic.”

“I just felt like if my role today is just to . . . lay down in the mud, so someone can walk on top of me to get to the dry land, then you know, it would be worth doing that . . . because I don’t want anybody else to feel what I feel right now,” Lori said. “So, if I can lessen than that for the next person, I will. And so, I joined the call.”

Jason said the entire meeting consisted of questions for Lori, and he could tell the elders were painting her as a “disgruntled employee.”

“It was things like, ‘How did you know Andy was angry? Was he yelling? Was it this? Was it that?’” Jason said.

When the elders finished their questioning, Jason said he told them there was more and asked to speak. The elders reportedly responded that they had to go but would be in touch with their verdict.

“I got off that call and I was just devastated because I realized I had . . . brought my wife into the situation to be completely traumatized all over again,” Jason said. “She said it was like they had taken her insides out on a table and stomped on them for the full hour. And I just laid in my bed and I wept.”

The Echo elders never commissioned an independent investigation. They instead produced an “exhaustive report,” which exonerated Wood, according to a recent statement by Saddleback.

On March 18, 2021, the Echo elders gave Jason and Lori new severance agreements. Jason and Lori said the new agreements prohibited all parties from suing each other but allowed the couple to tell their story, so they signed it.

According to Victoria Fishel, a former volunteer leader at Sunnyvale, Echo never made any announcement from stage about Jason and Lori’s departure. And for weeks, the volunteers had no idea why the couple had left.

Lori and Jason said they began hearing awful rumors about them and why they left. And recently, since Lori has begun speaking out about Wood’s abuse, Jason said he’s lost about $1,000 in monthly support for the ministry he’s doing now with Afghan refugees.

But the couple says they’re committed to speaking out, especially now that Wood will pastor one of the largest churches in America. They say they’ve heard from other victims of Wood’s abuse and Lori said she’s deeply concerned about this “wolf that has a history of devouring sheep behind the curtains.”



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60 Responses

    1. I found those six minutes very encouraging. Before I moved out of state I attended saddleback church in lake forest. Compared to many other evangelicals, I always found Rick to be humble and grounded. He and Kay live in a modest home and drive used cars and never abuse there positions and abuse scripture and live better than most rock stars. He ain’t perfect but he ain’t a member of the evangelicals industrial complex who real motto is “show me the money “.

  1. I know that It may be difficult for casual readers to absorb the details and evaluate all the interactions between Andy Wood and the Adams-Browns. So a simple observation is in order here for those who only have a minute to form an opinion of Mr. Wood. Andy Wood invited Mark Driscoll to speak at his leadership conference last year.

    [ . . . ]

    Andy Wood should not be entrusted with any Christian ministry, anywhere, under any circumstances.

    1. There is nothing equivocating about Andy Wood giving Mark Driscoll the platform at his Leadership Conference. With an easy and full enough view of Driscoll’s graceless, vulgar, and brutish methods as a religion leader, Wood still gave his public endorsement of the man – and was party to furthering his dreadful Gospel-less work. It does speak volumes of Andy Wood. Paul is right. There is little mystery here.

      But what is unexpected here is why would Rick Warren find a successor that is in step with Mark Driscoll’s religion gigs. Does he think Saddleback needs a controlling tyrant? Or is he just too ready to step out?

      The Adams-Browns are now free of the Andy Woods’ carnival, and can bear fruit elsewhere. But barring intervention for the Saddleback folks, their sad fair may be about to begin.

  2. I just don’t see abuse here. Clumsy? Yes. Poor bedside manner? Yes. Confrontational? Yes. The elders could have done a better job with the process, I’m sure. Wood has to knock off the “peppering with questions” thing if he has that habit, and I would argue Matt. 18 was never meant to apply to situations with unequal power dynamics. But even Allarde thought there was nothing wrong with Wood’s response that apparently sparked this controversy. According to her story, Lori is the one who kept pressing for a confrontation saying she “felt like” Wood took offense to a question she asked. Every leader has the right to make staff decisions and this husband-wife duo seems to have gotten their feelings hurt by Wood’s staff decision to demote her. Despite written correspondence where the “victims” apologize for their own behavior more than once, and despite a video showing no wrongdoing by the church, the couple were convinced of their viewpoint. I wouldn’t want to work for Andy, but abuse? Come on.

    1. If you don’t see abuse, would you at least agree that having a confrontational and poor bedside manner is a severe deficiency for someone in a pastoral role to have, especially a head pastor? Possibly a disqualifying deficiency?

      1. I do think the story as presented by this couple (we are only getting their side) could indicate a deficiency in Wood as a leader. But again, this is one story from a married couple who are making claims that their specific situation was mishandled. The Biblical threshold for disqualification of an elder or a pastor is much higher and I don’t see a disqualifying sin here. “Abuse” is a loaded and serious word but even hearing only their side, I don’t agree that anything done to them was abusive. I see a difference of opinion about a leadership decision that hurt their feelings. I don’t blame them for being hurt. I do blame them for overplaying their hand.

        1. You sound like a Beta Male and not a Sigma one. This blog is about Sigmas. The O.T. prophets were Sigmas. There is a lot going on in churches that are clearly wrong. This is just an example of one of those things. In fact I would argue to whole process over the millennia of making pastors into kings and relegating all other gifting and roles to subservient and menial positions, except for Prophets who are booted out the door immediately, is a great sin the whole body of Christ needs to repent of. Hence our season of judgment. Next comes the economic collapse. A judgment on Mammon and greed.

    2. You don’t seem to understand the power imbalance and the intimidation that went on when the two pastors were interrogating Lori. Mind you, these men are Pastors! If this were to happen to my wife, I would be pissed and demand a meeting and if I was being laughed at, the meeting would turn serious quickly. I might not even ask for a meeting. Would you want to be under men like that? Oh well, I guess I am not sanctified enough.

    3. Jon, you are spot on. Woods and Santos made two mistakes – hiring this couple in the first place and not firing them fast enough. They were clearly out of their league in their roles and ill-suited for the leadership team at Echo. The peppering of questions Woods conducted is what any good leader will do to address a problem quickly or assess a situation. As the saying goes, “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. The fact that they indicated that they were so traumatized by everything also tells me they were in roles not suited for them. Additionally, their defiance to attend a service they were asked not to attend, not attempting to resolve their grievances biblically or amicably, and then making demands on their severance agreement shows to me that they acted in bad faith or were just aiming to be troublemakers. So sad for everyone involved!

    4. This comment is the very reason why victims of spiritual abuse stay silent.
      They are not believed and it’s seen as their feelings got hurt. These kinds of pastors slip through the cracks and keep wounding others in ministry. They have their protectors and aren’t held accountable for their actions. The Bible is not meant to be use as a weapon towards anyone, He clearly uses Matt 18 to cover up His behaviors. It can be read in Woods text to Jason to make it seem He wants a fair “trial” and to give Him a chance to repent because the heat is on Him. To make Himself look better and as if He is trying it do the right thing.
      It’s very clear in His wording, Wood, only cares about Himself and protecting Himself through this whole process but makes it seem like He is for Jason and Lori. If you can’t see His narcissistic tactics, I suggest you take another look here.

  3. The lengths some pastors will go to just to escape therapy.

    If he had taken some level of personal responsibility early on this probably never would have escalated so far.

  4. As an additional thought. I know the good folks of saddleback. If the stories are true about the new pastor he gets too full of himself. The good members of saddleback will have no problem telling the elders he needs to go. We are used to kindness from the pastors. Not hubris.

    1. If that happens you’re in for a rude awakening. I take no joy in saying that.

      The senior church leadership already has given him the seal of approval. They aren’t going to backtrack once he’s installed and say they got it wrong.

      1. I disagree. Word will spread and many members, like myself would have no problem getting in his face. OC people are sort of the polite version of New Yorkers. But just barely. Members won’t tolerate fools and bully’s after years being guided by Rick and Kay. BTW. About 15% of us are veterans. Low tolerance for drama queens no matter who they think they are.

    2. Gary you should pressure those “good folks of Saddleback” to have an open discussion bout NDAs. They can’t know he was cleared when there those most likely to have information are gagged.

      1. We are discussing the actual members not the leaders. If the leaders screwed up, the members will gladly let them know. Many years of trust and kindness from Rick and Kay will not tolerate bully’s and abuse. As stated we have no problem expressing our thoughts. I belonged to a couple of ministries. One the saddleback veterans ministry. Bully’s and malignant narcissist will not be tolerated.

  5. I too was abused and hurt by Andy, Stacie, and Filipe. I am in therapy still, and have panic and anxiety attacks because of their “leadership.” It took me years to be able to go to public spaces out of fear they might be there. I was shamed in public emails for asking questions. They invited us to fancy “first investor” dinners where they gave grandiose speeches about vision and opportunities. But when my partner and I asked logistical questions over budget, spending, or unwise contracts, we were told our faith wasn’t big enough and that *we* were the problem at the church. We left in 2018 after nearly a decade of serving on Lay Staff for nearly eight years.

    Thank you, both to Jason and Lori, for stepping up and speaking for those who are not in a place to make ourselves public yet, due to NDA’s or fear of shaming.

  6. So, the real allegation isn’t that Saddleback did not take the victims’ testimonies seriously but that the elders did not conduct the investigation well, did not recognize what abuse was, or did not reach the conclusion that the victims wanted, correct?
    The article says that “The Echo elders never commissioned an independent investigation,” yet the statement from the elders says that “The Vanderbloemen Search Group” was contacted twice, was provided information, and issued numerous reports. So, which is it?

    1. You answered your own question. That firm was contracted by Saddleback to find a new pastor, hence “search group.” They found one, then “independently” confirmed that, don’t worry, they got it right the first time.

      They were not hired to investigate the Adams-Brown claims of abuse. Those came up after they found their man. Who had ex-staffers signing NDAs.

      1. That doesn’t seem to be what the statement from Saddleback says. It says that the search agency was contacted again after the allegations.

        1. Sorry if I was not clear. When they reported abuse, there was no independent investigation.

          The only independent investigation was later, by a firm that had already recommended Wood as a pastor to Saddleback. For them to have found the allegations credible that point would be to admit they did not properly vet him the first time. There is a clear conflict of interest. Just like I do not expect Saddleback leadership to take concerns very seriously now that they are moving forward.

          A truly independent investigation can only come from a party who has not previously pronounced him fit (or unfit).

  7. I am saddened to read this account. At the same time, I am thankful to Roys Report for their work and especially thankful to the Adams-Browns for caring so much about trying to prevent others from experiencing such abuse that they would be willing to share of their painful account, to re-open wounds that likely have not fully healed, to risk more hurt in the hopes of sparing others. TRR’s work informs me of additional ways in which I can be praying, and so have already started praying for God’s working and healing for all involved in this situation. I wish that Saddleback would take this warning more seriously, while they are in a better position to protect the flock, but fear that the only benefit might be that others who are subjected to such abusive treatment might be able to see that it is not something they caused, but a larger problem that goes unchecked, dishonoring God.

    I realize that it is not the point of the report, but would there be a means to learn more of the work the Adams-Browns do with ministering to Afghans and how one might support it?

  8. American Corporate Christianity has become a reflection of all that’s wrong with our corrupt culture. If the world has it then so must the power hungry men and women who fleece the deceived flock of Christ. Too many people who start out with hearts to serve become tyrants driven by greed, lust and power. It’s frightening to contemplate where it will end.
    May “God Almighty, the Savior of all the earth and the farthest seas” prepare us to be people who will stand for Jesus and His word.

  9. I read this article and I am thankful that their are people willing to speak out and tell the truth. The post from Fellow Abused should be the most bone chilling out of all of them because that is from lay leaders. People who fully trusted in leadership, invested their time, money and where basically cast out as trouble makers because they asked questions.

    But in that post you notice the pattern, question anything and and you’re automatically on the outs. No matter if you’re a staff member, lay leader/financial supporter, etc… question Andy Wood and you’re done!

    Welcome to the world of the mega multi-site church Lead Pastor! What he speaks is gospel and it would be in your best interest to fall in line, immediately! You also better be agile and able to turn on a dime if said vision doesn’t catch and don’t ever talk of said venture ever again.

    Gary, I’m sorry but your Saddleback is not going to be the church you once knew. Rick and Kay will step away very quickly. Andy and his crew will step in very quickly and will make his mark and presence know. Any push back will be seen as resistance and the door will be shown. He’s a Vanderblomen guy and they operate the same way and have the same philosophy of ministry. It’s awful and painful for staff and church members.

    Search firms have no place in the church world. A logistical matrix never replaces the discernment of prayer from a group of elders within the church.

    1. Glenn, I’d like to point out that, sadly, this does not only happen at mega-churches with “big-time” pastors. The very same dynamics—no questions allowed, leadership is untouchable, those who call out problems are gaslit, etc. happens in small churches too.

      1. Bonnie Lindblom — Absolutely. Being in a small church is no protection. The visible institution is almost always privileged over the invisible kingdom of Christ, the sheep, and the truth.

        1. True, true, true.
          Our family had a firsthand experience with just such a “small”, “Baptist”, “church”

    2. I totally agree with your warning to Gary. Saddleback is in for quite a ride in the coming year or so. Things are about change and they will change quickly. I am grateful to the vets for their service but they haven’t seen aything like a church takeover in the evangelical industrial complex. I am so sorry for Saddleback and plan to watch the changes from afar.

  10. To anyone who has doubts about this article, I encourage you to contact the elder board at Echo and ask some hard questions. I have done this myself with a different organization and the response was very clarifying. Without realizing it, the person who responded to me confirmed everything I had read in a TRR article. Go to the source and see how they reply or if they reply. This story of the Adams-Browns is all too familiar to me personally. And no, I do not know anyone mentioned in this article, but I do know that I’ve had enough experiences of my own to give them the benefit of the doubt (Adams-Brown). And for those who are quick to dismiss their story, I’m genuinely glad that you have never had to experience anything like this, because if you had, I have to believe that you would not be defending Andy Wood. Being on the receiving end of this type of treatment is flat out wrong, regardless of whether or not you are willing to call it abuse.

  11. andy wood has a Public Relations Agent.

    If I ever meet the boy, I am going to laugh right in his face.

    By the way, his members have the right to know his salary.

  12. I am sorry to be the Grammar Police, but the title of this article should read *by* not *of*. Using *of* suggests that Andy Wood is the once receiving the abuse; using *by* indicates that Andy is the one dishing it out.

  13. Bullying and abuse are occupational hazards in a profession predicated on telling people how to live their lives

  14. Another dysfunctional church leadership team!

    What is pastoral or emotionally mature about, “sometimes Wood develops such antipathy towards certain staff that he can’t be around them”?

    A pastor who has a PR Agent running interference for him?

    My, oh my…what has happened to the qualifications laid out in 1 Tim.3:1-7? Do they even matter any more?

    Saddleback parishioners beware!

  15. People, people–wake up. Andy Wood is the *symptom*. The problem is “Pastor” Rock (Star) Warren.

    Warren caused 100% of this. He proved to the whole world that beneath the hip, friendly, slightly progressive exterior is the same corporate “Christian” oligarch as MacArthur, Hybels, Dollar, MacDonald etc.

    Ignore the sycophantic defenders and WAKE UP, PEOPLE. All of these megachurch idols are a spiritual dead end (at minimum).

    1. Brian, it is easy to spew hateful words.

      What I really appreciated about your post was how well you documented your slander.

      Both by highlighting credible sources and by wielding an obvious in-depth theological understanding of scriptures that demonstrated specific verifiable actions that have been confirmed by two or more witnesses and then deftly handled the word of God to demonstrate the obvious contradiction.

      Wait… you didn’t do any of that?

      Hmm… well then I guess according to Paul’s words to Timothy not only should you keep your slanderous accusations to yourself but the rest of us should avoid you if you continue.

      Yo know… “warn a divisive person” once …

      Either please bring your actions in line with Scripture or just keep to yourself.

      As Solomon said, “even a fool appears wise when they keep their mouth shut.”

      1. Julius Syore,

        Sycophants gonna sycophant. I’m not sure what “documentation” you need when The Roys Report made extremely clear *in these very articles* that Mr. Andy Wood the tyrant was hand-picked by RW.

        What’s the “slander”? That Warren has been a left-of-centrist who legitimized the then-most pro-abortion, gay-lifestyle president in history (Barack Obama) among impressionable evangelicals?

        That Warren resorted to a sly, sneaky, gaslighting attack on complementarian SBCers (the denomination he claims to belong to)?

        That Warren, who exalts himself as a world leader of Christ’s body on earth, appears to have a serious struggle with self-control in terms of gluttony in violation of 1 Timothy 2?

        That Warren requires NDAs, strongly implying there is something he has to hide?

        That Warren’s church campus/headquarters puts the corporate offices of Apple, Alphabet Inc., Tesla, etc. to shame?

        That Rick has constantly sought glowing coverage from the media, especially the Orange County Register? That he preaches a watered-down, noncontroversial gospel to pack those pews?

        Tell me where the “slander” is and we’ll talk.

  16. I’m just going to float this idea: How about a push for churches to ban NDAs in their bylaws? The very concept seems indefensible in a church context.

  17. I have followed the Warren’s and their ministry at Saddleback since the church was established forty years ago. And they have always struck me as kind and biblical in their approach to ministry and to others. In that context, I think the Warren’s are few and far between among megachurch leaders; hence the difficulty of finding successors. In my view, there is way too much smoke here to not think there is fire brewing under the surface. From the comments above, it sounds like some of the Saddleback folks who have responded are pretty wise and resilient. However, a bad move here could be deeply damaging to people, to the congregation, and to the cause of Christ. None of us is perfect (I am far from it), but something is off in this situation and the leadership at both congregations needs to address this far more deeply than what they have so far. We do not need more Mark Driscoll’s self-imploding for all of us to watch.

  18. Asked a friend a definition of a:

    My personal definition of a cult: A Church or Religious Movement that teaches ‘aberrant theological positions or truths’ and deviates significantly from the recognized mainstream fundamental church doctrines of Church history.

    Some Unsafe groups or “cults” often abuse and exploit their members. This abuse may occur in the areas of finances, physical labor, child abuse and neglect, medical neglect, sexual exploitation and/or psychological and emotional abuse.

    Cult usually has the following characteristics:

    A charismatic leader, who increasingly becomes an object of worship as the general principles that may have originally sustained the group lose power.

    A process is used: coercive persuasion or thought reform.

    Economic, sexual, and other exploitation of group members by the leader and the ruling coterie.

    The leader is usually alone at the top with a small inner-circle of managers who control the followers who are all at the bottom. There is little if any accountability in their overriding philosophy and daily activities.

    And any member of the group who questions or doubts the authority of the leader is likely to be labeled wrong, rebellious, suppressive, negative and in some situations even “demon possessed” or “satanic”.

    Cult apologists have literally said that the word ‘cult’ is a four letter word,” and should be replaced by the politically correct title “new religious movement” (NRM); a complete and utter disdain for correction.

  19. Ask Rick Warren if that is his intent to implode Saddleback, that he wants it to go defunct? Reading famous journalist on a MegaChurch back in the day that was his synopsis of the Founder and Leader and he expressed that in an article; and each individual church would be on their own. Interesting conclusion!

  20. In any industry you get to know the reputation and the inside scoop on key people in your industry. It would be interesting to know if the Saddleback staff minus Warren had any input in the selection of Andy Wood. I would also be curious if Saddleback staff are required to sign NDA’s currently or if this may change under Wood. It would also be interesting to know what the churches rules are for dismissing a pastor. Once installed is Wood king of the castle or does the board have the right to terminate him if he proves to be the bully this article discusses.

  21. I stopped reading after the words “Wood’s PR agent”. That tells me everything I need to know about the man and his view of the ministry. Anger and control only go hand-in-hand with the need to be on top of “PR”.

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