Assemblies of God U.S. Missions Chaplaincy Ministries Senior Director Manuel A. Cordero knew he had found the right person for a newly configured leadership position in Gloria Orengo Taylor.
Taylor retired in 2014 after a combined 35 years as a chaplain, equally split between the military and hospitals. Cordero believed such experience made her the perfect candidate for the reshaped post of AG Chaplaincy Ministries Veterans Affairs/health care representative. Previously, duties for VA representation have been performed by Scott McChrystal, who has served as the military as well as VA representative and endorser since 2005. McChrystal will continue in the military role.
"It's not a new position, but it is a new mission," Cordero says. He notes that Taylor, who took over the part-time role on March 21, will better be able to engage Assemblies of God VA chaplains who have been underserved in the past.
"She's a good fit because she has both military and hospital experience," Cordero says. She is professionally qualified to lead the health care chaplains. They need someone who has been in their field and understands what they go through."
Taylor is the first woman to have a leadership role in the 43-year history of AG Chaplaincy Ministries. However, trailblazing is nothing new for Taylor, who in 1976 became the first woman military chaplain endorsed by the AG.
At 66, Taylor didn't foresee this happening during her retirement in San Antonio, where she will continue to live. She and her husband, Don, also a retired military chaplain, had settled in as volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocates helping abused and neglected children. The couple has two adult children, Leah and Jared, whom they adopted as babies.
The confident Taylor is up for the challenge of traveling to different facilities to assist VA chaplains tending to the needs of retired or injured veterans.
"The work these chaplains do is not getting any easier," Taylor says. "State and federal rules and regulations have to be followed."
Cordero characterizes Taylor as compassionate and patient, yet innovative and determined.
"Being a veteran herself, she understands the needs of veterans," Cordero says. "She will help motivate chaplains who might be struggling with veteran issues."
After she read in the Pentecostal Evangel about a Presbyterian woman who became the first female chaplain in the U.S. Navy, the no-nonsense Taylor began investigating whether she could become a chaplain in the Air Force through the AG. In 1976, the AG endorsed Taylor, a Bethany University graduate, as she neared completion of a Master's in Religious Education degree at Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary. Her first assignment as a chaplain candidate was at Sheppard Air Force Base near Wichita Falls, Texas.
"I wasn't quite sure up to that time, but when I stepped on that base I realized the Lord had called me to chaplaincy ministry," Taylor says. "I felt a peace I had not experienced before."
Taylor went on active duty in 1977. A variety of stateside and overseas assignments, including to England, South Korea, and Germany, followed. She also served as the first female chaplain at the U.S. Air Force Academy near Colorado Springs, Colorado.
"I usually was the first female chaplain whatever base I went to," Taylor says. "There still weren't that many women chaplains in the military when I served."
Two AG ministers, sisters Eva and Sadie Bloom, served as role models to Taylor, who was born and raised in Hawaii. The Blooms, who during the Great Depression had been AG missionaries to China, planted Bethany Assembly of God on Oahu.
Over the years, Taylor, who is of Puerto Rican descent, occasionally faced prejudice from certain quarters not only as a woman, but also as a Pentecostal and as an ethnic minority.
"It never bothered me," she says. "I just rolled with the punches."
Although they had met a decade earlier while in chaplaincy training, Gloria and Don didn't marry until 1987, when they both were stationed at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. Don worked as a Strategic Air Command and Pentagon intelligence officer before he became a Southern Baptist-endorsed chaplain. The couple has lived in San Antonio the past 21 years. Working in Baptist and Methodist hospitals, Gloria served as a chaplain in oncology, surgery, labor and delivery, and neonatal intensive care units.
McChrystal is a vocal supporter of Taylor.
"I have always looked up to Chaplain Gloria Taylor as a model of professionalism," McChrystal says. "She brings tremendous experience and skills to this role, and Chaplaincy Ministries is blessed to have someone of this caliber."
Larry D. Cooper, who has served on contract as AG Chaplaincy Ministries health care representative, will remain to assist Taylor.