Reverend Lia Claire Scholl has been named Senior Pastor at Wake Forest Baptist Church.
Scholl most recently served as Pastor at the Gateway Community Church in Bali, Indonesia. She also served as Senior Pastor of the Richmond Mennonite Fellowship in Richmond, Va., the Minister for Congregational Development at Ravensworth Baptist Church in Annandale, Va., and the Minister of Education at Southside Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala.
In every church, Alabama to Bali, Lia led the congregation in spiritual and membership growth. Carolyn Shields, who grew up in our church and is now a member at Ravensworth, said: “She did a wonderful job of attracting new members of all walks of life—including LGBT, whom she really made feel at home in the church. She brought many new, especially younger, people into the church.” Lia holds the BA and MDiv from Samford University. Lia Scholl leading prayer in Bali, Indonesia
Authorship: Two books published by Chalice Press, who also published our hymnal.
Advent Devotional: Partners in Prayer (2011), a look at all the ways that incarnation can become real in the daily lives of individuals; and
I Heart Sex Workers: a Christian Response to People in the Sex Trade (2013). This book arose from Lia’s earlier volunteer work as founder and director of Starlight Ministries from 2001-2009, as described on NPR: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=17495976
References: All, whether listed by her or discovered by us, were unreservedly highly enthusiastic.
Amy Butler, senior pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. and newly called as senior pastor of Riverside Church in New York City: She does not have a single issue that she wants to address from the pulpit, except the Gospel. . . wants to use the pulpit to inspire and lead a loving community. . . wise, mature, easily accessible and intuitive; my finest colleague in ministry.
Rebecca Ben-Gideon, rabbi in Fairfax, Va: She is my Bible study partner, as in Jewish tradition. . . I feel like Lia is my pastor. I can imagine her connecting with students where they are such as in a coffee house on campus. . . Lia could grow the church by being so attractive to people she meets.
What Lia Told Us: Before a church can grow, its members must love each other. I would look forward to walking beside you in the journey. And I hope this is my last congregation until retirement! (Lia is 46).
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. Since that time, Wake Forest Baptist Church has maintained 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 School of Divinity and the Department of Religion. The congregation worships in Wait Chapel, the university’s largest auditorium. Students from the School of Divinity have preached frequently and powerfully in the church.
When the church was founded, many of the members of the student body, faculty and administration were 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 230 members and active friends, most of them from the community. As in many churches, however, attendance is less than the enrolled membership. The church is increasingly ecumenical, while still endorsing and practicing historic Baptist principles, freedoms, and traditions.
Wake Forest Baptist Church has been an innovator in local ministry. In 1962, two members were instrumental in founding the Winston-Salem Meals on Wheels ministry; several members were among the first group of servers. In the late 1960s the church helped establish the Association for the Benefit of Child Development, now called Imprints for Families. In the late 1970s and early 1980s the church conducted a kindergarten class for children with learning challenges.
Also during the 1990’s members founded a special mission group that provided home-cooked meals (cooked by members) to the AIDS care service. In 1998 a member founded and has since served as volunteer executive director of the Health and Wellness Clinic of the Triad Region—a monthly clinic for indigent patients. In 2002, a member cofounded and continues to serve as executive director of Authoring Action, which stimulates youth across the socioeconomic spectrum in developing their writing and speaking prowess. Also in 2002, members played a leading role in establishing C.H.A.N.G.E., a grassroots organization involving faith communities and neighborhood associations. In 2010, a member helped develop and is medical director of the Child Advocacy Center in an adjoining county; on referral from various agencies, it serves abused children. One member has very recently founded One to One Women Coaching Women, to assist single women and women veterans.
The ministers and members have been unafraid to confront controversial issues. In 1962, the church declared its membership open to all races—two months prior to the university trustees’ decision to admit non-white undergraduate students. 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.”
Throughout the late 1980’s, 1990’s, and early 2000’s members worked on behalf Darryl Hunt, a 19 year old African American 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. One member who was active in the campaign for Hunt’s vindication wrote a widely acclaimed book about that long struggle for justice and faith.
Welcoming and Affirming:
In 2000, a same sex covenant service between two members of the church was celebrated in Wait Chapel, though it was not endorsed by the university. Because of its inclusive stand regarding the role of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered 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 probably unique among Baptist churches—at least in the USA–in having two lesbian senior pastors.
The church has found a home in the Alliance of Baptists and continues to offer a vibrant witness to Jesus Christ.
The church aspires to be welcoming and affirming of all people; to be intentional in missions to the physical and spiritual needs of all people; and to be examples of and witnesses to the grace of God revealed in Jesus Christ.
Historically, WFBC has specifically endorsed policies of racial and sexual-orientation diversity in its membership, and it aspires to a membership that is ethnically, culturally, and educationally diverse. There is a wide range of ages and occupations in the membership. Many non-member friends of the church are also active in contributing their time, talents, and money.
Finances and Facilities:
The church has an investment portfolio that earns dividends; and the church is debt free. Like all churches, its challenge is to raise its annual budget through pledges, offerings, and gifts. It meets on the campus of Wake Forest University in Wait Chapel, which seats over 2000. The church is provided nursery space, children’s classrooms and youth rooms; adult Sunday School classes meet in university classrooms. The church does not incur costs for building maintenance.
In 2013 the church gave over $16,000 for budgeted global, national, and local mission work—including 9 local charities and organizations that serve persons in need. An additional $6,400 bequest was fully spent for assistance to children in need. Donations to the Hunger Fund (food, personal care items, and cash) have grown steadily and impressively in the past year and a half. These donations are collected each first Sunday of the month during the Lord’s Supper, at the Table. Individual members have organized, and worked time for many local medical, social, and justice projects. Members have also advocated for social justice in a variety of public demonstrations. (See the summary in the history page).
Adult classes have had varied emphases, including: biblical studies; studies on the historical Jesus; an ongoing study of the Quran, Islam, Judaism, and Middle Eastern conflicts; an LGBT spirituality group; a transgender support group; studies of grief; and studies on respectful communication with persons of different sexual orientation. Classes for children are focused on lectionary texts, and the church takes a leadership role in a children’s interfaith study program in the summer, collaborating with Temple Emanuel and the Community Mosque. There is also a strong special needs class, reflecting a long standing commitment of the church.
Board of Deacons and Committees:
The board of deacons meets monthly to consider the church’s spiritual and programmatic needs and to make appropriate recommendations to the church. Active committees of the church include personnel, finance, missions, outreach and student ministry, senior adult ministry, family support, education, and music and worship. Actions by these groups require approval by the congregation. Under the leadership of the deacons, the church has increasingly perceived itself as congregation-directed–not pastor-directed, deacon-directed, or committee-directed.
Under the leadership of the former pastor for preaching and worship, Sunday services included significant innovations in a variety of artistic media such as painting, dance, multicultural and multilingual music, international services, and extensive expressions of hospitality during the worship service. In the current interim, some of these innovations are less common than before, but all of them are welcomed in collaboration with the worship leadership on given Sundays.
The church has a sense of unity and openness to diverse points of view, as expressed not only in worship and education programs but also in hospitality receptions following worship, weekly and monthly evening meals, monthly men’s and women’s fellowship, etc. Prior to the formation of the pastoral search committee, the church held a series of frank discussions about its future. It was well attended, with full and open dialogue: members have increasingly seen themselves as personally responsible for the future well-being of the church.
Notwithstanding its commitment to inclusiveness, members are self-consciously still learning how to be fully respectful and considerate of all people. New students, faculty, and community residents require renewed efforts at outreach. Ongoing economic, technological, political, and social changes in the community and world present new demands for the church’s prophetic and healing ministry. Growth—in membership, worship, missions, education, and finances—is a continuing goal.