Wake Forest Baptist Church was organized in 1956 when Wake Forest College moved from Wake Forest, North Carolina, to Winston-Salem, thereby perpetuating a 125-year-old tradition of having a Baptist church at the center of the campus. Wake Forest Baptist Church is an autonomous congregation.
Wake Forest Baptist Church has been an innovator in local ministry. We were instrumental in founding the Winston-Salem Meals on Wheels ministry, a ministry for at-risk children called Imprints Cares, and we conducted a kindergarten class for children with learning challenges. In addition, we were active in the 90s with the AIDS Care Service, a member founded the Health and Wellness Clinic of the Triad Region—a monthly clinic for indigent patients, a member and former staff Authoring Action, which stimulates youth across the socioeconomic spectrum in developing their writing and speaking prowess. One member founded One to One Women Coaching Women, to assist single women and women veterans. We are committed to social justice.
The ministers and members have been unafraid to confront systemic racism. In 1962, the church declared its membership open to all races. In 1994, the church was presented the Whitney M. Young Award for “bridging the gaps in race relations” by the Winston-Salem Urban League. A year later the United Way of Forsyth County presented a special award to Wake Forest Baptist Church and its partner, First Baptist Church of Highland Avenue, for building “a better community through a variety of joint undertakings.” Church members worked on behalf Darryl Hunt, a 19 year old African-American man who was convicted of the brutal murder of a young white woman. The work ultimately resulted in his full exoneration and release from 19 years of wrongful imprisonment.
We’re committed to LGBTQIA equality, too. In 2000, a same sex covenant service between two members of the church was celebrated in Wait Chapel. Because of its inclusive stand regarding the role of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons in the church, Wake Forest Baptist Church was removed from membership in the Pilot Mountain Baptist Association and the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina; the church voluntarily left the Southern Baptist Convention. In 2005, the church received the Kaleidoscope Faith Community Award by PFLAG of Winston-Salem. From January 2011 to mid-2013, Wake Forest Baptist Church was unusual amongst Baptist churches—at least in the USA–by having two lesbian co-pastors, Rev. Susan Parker and Rev. Angela Yarber.
Our current pastor, Rev. Lia Scholl, has continued the tradition of promoting anti-racism and pro-LGBTQIA policies. Since her arrival in 2014, we’ve continued to march in the local PRIDE parade, we’ve marched in the HKonJ march in Raleigh with the North Carolina NAACP, we’ve participated in voting rights marches, marches for Black Lives, and in marches on behalf of family separations at the border. In 2018, Pastor Lia was arrested with the Poor People’s Campaign for civil disobedience in the NC General Assembly and in Washington, DC.
Our motto at Wake Forest Baptist Church is All are welcome, no exceptions, an idea which is undergirded by the incarnation of Jesus, God-among-us, in the form of a vulnerable, poor, and marginalized person to show us how God loves us all.