Wake Forest Baptist Church

Wake Forest Baptist Church is located on the campus of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The church was organized in 1956 when Wake Forest College moved from Wake Forest, NC, to Winston-Salem, perpetuating a 125-year-old tradition of having a Baptist church at the center of the campus.[1]

Wake Forest Baptist Church "believes in and dedicates itself to preserving and practicing historic Baptist principles, freedoms, and traditions," though its membership has become increasingly ecumenical.


Since its beginning, the church has enjoyed a unique relationship with the university. Though it operates as an autonomous congregation—electing its ministers, raising its budget, conducting its business and operating its programs—the church is housed in Wingate Hall, which also houses the Wake Forest University School of Divinity and the Department of Religion. The congregation worships in Wait Chapel, the university auditorium.

When the church was founded, most of the student body, faculty and administration was Baptist. Over the years the percentage of Baptists on campus has decreased significantly, and the church has looked increasingly to the community for its membership. Currently, Wake Forest Baptist Church has approximately 300 resident members, most of whom come from the community.

Wake Forest Baptist Church has been an innovator in local ministry. With the North Carolina Baptist Hospital the church founded the local Meals on Wheels ministry and it helped to establish the Association for the Betterment of Children (Imprints) Imprints. More recently, its members have played a leading role in establishing C.H.A.N.G.E., a grassroots interfaith organization that currently involves more than 40 congregations and neighborhood associations.

The church, is an inclusive Christian community, accepts into membership any person who professes faith in Jesus Christ and comes on profession of that faith, by transfer of letter, or by statement. They have an open membership policy that honors the baptism of all who have professed faith in Jesus Christ, and baptize by immersion those who first make this profession in their midst.

The ministers and members of Wake Forest Baptist Church have been unafraid to deal with difficult and controversial issues. In 1994 Wake Forest Baptist 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, NC presented a special award to Wake Forest Baptist Church and its partner, First Baptist Church, Highland Avenue, for building "a better community through a variety of joint undertakings." [1]

In 2006 Wake Forest Baptist Church won the PFLAG of Winston-Salem Faith Community Kaleidoscope Award. In 2007 the Individual Kaleidoscope Award was presented to Pastor, Dr. Susan Parker.[2] According to a November 17, 2007 article in the Winston-Salem Journal, the church is a major supporter of Habitat for Humanity of Forsyth County and is helping build homes in the city.[3]


Because of its stand regarding the role of gays and lesbians in the church,[4] and the church's decision in 1998 to perform a union for a lesbian couple,[1] the 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. The church has found a home in the Alliance of Baptists, Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.


Former civil rights pioneer Dr. Warren T. Carr was pastor of the church from 1964 - 1985. Dr. Carr was often a nemesis of Southern Baptist Convention leaders.[5] Dr. Richard Groves became Pastor of the church after having served as pastor of churches in Texas and Massachusetts. A graduate of the University of Southwestern Louisiana, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Baylor University, Dr. Groves has also taught at Tufts University and Baylor University, and served in the United Ministries at Harvard University. Dr. Groves retired October 31, 2008 after serving the church for 23 years. Dr. Angela Yarber joined the pastoral ministry team at WFBC in January 2011. She holds a PhD in Art and Religion from the Graduate Theological Union at UC Berkeley and a Master of Divinity from McAfee School of Theology. Dr. Yarber also serves as a Campus Minister of Wake Forest University.[6][7] Dr. Susan Parker has been pastor of pastoral ministries of the church since 2004.[6] It was her union ceremony which caused the controversy in the late 1990s. The controversy was the story for the documentary film A Union in Wait. Both Dr. Groves and Dr. Parker have signed the The North Carolina Coalition for Marriage Equality petition.

See also


  1. 1 2 3 Wake Forest Baptist Church History
  2. PFLAG Winston-Salem Bestows Awards
  3. Habitat Goes Green and Faith Group Helps
  4. Baptist Church Opens Doors to Same Sex Unions
  5. Pastor Remembered as Civil Rights Pioneer
  6. 1 2 Wake Forest Baptist Church Staff
  7. WFU Campus Ministry

1. Wake Forest Baptist Church History

3. Bonfield, Ronda (November 2007) Habitat Goes Green and Faith Groups Help Winston-Salem Journal

4. Morahan, Lawrence (November 1998). Baptist Church Opens Doors to Same Sex Unions Conservative News Service

5. Burchette, Bob (March 2007) Pastor Remembered as Civil Rights Pioneer Biblical Recorder

6./8. Wake Forest Baptist Church Staff

7. Religious Life at Wake Forest University

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