As promised, the following is a brief history of an extraordinary, conservative Southern Baptist woman named Paige Heard. Paige is serving as a Regimental Army Chaplain at historic West Point Military Academy. Every Sunday Chaplain Heard can be heard preaching the gospel at 10:30 a.m. during the Protestant worship service at the beautiful West Point Military Academy Cadet Chapel.
Major Heard is a life-long Southern Baptist, a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and New Orleans Seminary, and she has faithfully served Christ as a Southern Baptist endorsed United States Army Chaplain since 1996. Paige is a conservative Christian. She believes the Bible is the infallible, inerrant, and sufficient Word of God. Yet, she is now only one of five female Southern Baptist chaplains left in the United States Army. In 2004 the trustees of the North American Misson Board voted to stop endorsing female chaplains. Major Heard had been endorsed prior to the 2004 prohibition and was 'grandfathered' in.
Paige told me via phone that her heart "aches for the Southern Baptist Convention and the stance our convention has recently taken on women in missions and ministry." On the one hand Southern Baptist churches are training girls in G.A's (Girls in Action) and Acteens that they are to listen to the voice and calling of God and serve Him. Yet, when those same girls fulfill the call of God on their lives, the very Convention who trained them then turns their collective back on them. Paige said that she is thoroughly Baptist in conviction and as conservative as a Christian can be regarding the fundamentals of the faith and views on the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. She believes that conservative, gifted females are being pushed out of the Southern Baptist Convention into more liberal denominations because of the narrow views on women in ministry that are being pushed by some Southern Baptists.
Paige grew up in Peachtree City, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta and attended the First Baptist Church there. She was involved in G.A's, Acteens and as a young adult, Teen Missions International. She graduated from Auburn University and after college received her Master's of Biblical Arts at Dallas Theological Seminary. She attended DTS seminary to fulfill the education requirements for her calling as a chaplain. When she applied for the position as chaplain at a women's prison, the state of Georgia informed her that her home church needed to ordain her to meet the job qualifications. In 1989 the First Baptist Church of Peachtree City, Georgia, ordained Paige. When members of the congregation asked about the appropriateness of 'ordaining' a female, the pastor responded that the church was simply acknowledging the calling and gifts of a young lady they had known for more than two decades, and since 'ordination' was nowhere mentioned in Scripture, they would simply lay their hands on their member to set her apart to fulfill the call of God on her life - and that would suffice to meet the requirements of the state for her to obtain the job at the women's prison.
Five families left the church, but the majority of the conservative members supported the decision to set aside Paige Heard to Chaplain Ministry. Paige served as a Georgia State Prison Chaplain from 1990-1992, and then enrolled in New Orleans Seminary to obtain her Masters of Divinity Degree. In 1996 Paige joined the United States Army and has served the past ten years in active duty. The North American Mission Board endorsed Paige in 1996 as a chaplain for the U.S. Army. The trustees of the North American Mission Board voted in 2004 to stop endorsing female chaplains. As a result, there are only five women chaplains affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention who remain in the United States Army, including Paige.
It is interesting to note that the North American Mission Board had initially said they would not appoint 'ordained' women. But when they learned that the Army did not require ordination for a woman to serve as Chaplain, just an endorsement from NAMB, the trustees scrambled to stop the practice of endorsements in 2004. In explaining why the trustees would no longer endorse 'women' to be chaplains for the Army, the NAMB Chairman of the Trustee Board said, "we will not endorse a woman where the role and function of the chaplain would be seen the same as that of a pastor."
It can be argued that Chaplain Heard does not occupy the 'office' of pastor (as prohibited by the BFM), but it is quite certain that she fulfills the role of a pastor while carrying out her duties as a chaplain for the United States Army. Paige faithfully preaches the gospel every Sunday during the Protestant chapel service. She has had the privilege of leading over thirty men and women to faith in Christ during the past year and has baptized them all - some in makeshift baptistries in the deserts of Iraq. She administers the Lord's Supper and has performed wedding ceremonies, conducted funerals and provided encouragement and counseling to troops. She is highly respected among the troops. In fact, there are dozens upon dozens of individuals and families whose lives have been transformed by Southern Baptist Paige Heard fulfilling her calling as a chaplain to the United States Army.
In the comments to my post yesterday, one young male Southern Baptist pastor said that any female who functions in the role of a pastor is in 'rebellion to God.' The Bible compares rebellion to witchcraft (I Sam. 15:23). I served for over a decade on a law enforcement task force that investigated crimes that involved the occult, including that of witchcraft, satanism, and shamanism. I can say without equivocation that I've seen the black arts up close. To call a woman ministering the gospel of Jesus Christ, by the power of the Spirit, a person who is in 'rebellion to God' is an offense to those of us who understand what true rebellion to God is all about.
I imagine it is also an offense to those whose lives who have been transformed through the ministry of Southern Baptist United States Army Chaplain Paige Heard.
In His Grace,