Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative


Renewing theological education for the 21st century, we equip religious leaders with the knowledge, skills,
and pastoral habits necessary to guide congregations and other faith-based organizations
into creating more redemptive food systems,where God’s
shalom becomes visible for a hungry world.

View the latest edition here.

  • Create courses across the curriculum emphasizing the themes of stewardship of and within Creation, and that highlight food’s pivotal place in that stewardship.
  • Equip students with the knowledge, skills, and experience so that they can lead on these issues in the church and not-for-profit ministries.
  • Develop research and publications across the core areas of theological education on these themes, and generate resources for faith communities who want to learn, worship, and serve more effectively as stewards of Creation and leaders in creating food systems that embody shalom.
  • Build partnerships in worship, service, and education around food issues within the university, with the Piedmont and Western mountain regions of North Carolina, and with national and international partners.
  • Teach and cultivate the theological habit that living in peace with the land and with non-human Creation is a core pastoral practice for religious leaders and the communities with whom they serve.


Speaking of Climate Change: Sharing Stories, Cultivating Resilience

Tuesday, February 2, 2015, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Porter Byrum Welcome Center, Kulynych Auditorium
Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC

Climate change is upon us and agriculture is inextricably involved. Fundamental to our identity as a species, crucial to the health and well-being of our communities, the way that we eat fuels the 21st century challenges that threaten our way of life. Sharing our hopes, our fears, and our own stories of adaptation sparks the social learning and innovation that cultivates community resilience.

Laura Lengnick, soil scientist, and Dayna Reggero, visual storyteller, gather stories from across America to explore the connections between climate change, food, faith, and community resilience. Weaving these stories with the latest climate science and resilience thinking, Laura and Dayna share a message of hope for these troubling times.

Dayna draws on more than 20 years of experience to teach about the power of story-telling through film, video, press, social media and community collaboration. Laura brings 30 years of experience as a sustainable agriculture researcher and college educator to her teaching about the ecology of food systems, climate change, sustainability and resilience.

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co-sponsored by the WFU Center for Energy, Environment, and Sustainability



Our Common Home: the Pope’s Encyclical, Climate Science, and Our Clean Energy Future

Tuesday, February 16, 2016, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Wake Forest University Charlotte Center
Charlotte, NC

The world needs an ecological conversion.

That’s the core message of Pope Francis’ powerful encyclical letter Laudato Sí (Praised Be). The human species has managed to run up a sizeable ecological deficit on all our earthly accounts—soil, water, and climate. From the way we feed ourselves, power our buildings, and transport our bodies, the evidence is clear: we need to transition away from fossil fuels and start building a clean energy economy.

We need to work across disciplines to create a holistic way of approaching climate change. Pope Francis’s words speak to a growing hunger for religious leaders to model ecological leadership, and signals a generative role that the church can play in the larger society.There is also a growing public desire for the business community to support clean energy, which benefits both people and planet.

Join us as we convene a lively panel discussion on this topic featuring a theologian, a climate scientist, and a local Charlotte business leader who is one of the country’s leading clean energy proponents.


  • Jay Faison, Founder and Managing Partner of ClearPath
    Charlotte, NC
  • Elizabeth O’Donnell Gandolfo, Earley Assistant Professor of Catholic and Latin American Studies
    Wake Forest University School of Divinity
  • Miles Silman, Andrew Sabin Family Foundation Presidential Chair in Conservation Biology
    Wake Forest College

Moderated by Fred Bahnson,Assistant Professor of the Practice of Ecological Well-Being and Director of the Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative at Wake Forest University School of Divinity

co-sponsored by the WFU Center for Energy, Environment, and Sustainability.

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“Sacred Trees and Ancient Forests”
a lecture by Dr. Diana Beresford-Kroeger

Monday, April 4, 2016, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Scales Fine Arts Center, Brendle Recital Hall
Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC
Free and open to the public.

The forest conducts a silent symphony of nature.  Carbon is banked out of the atmosphere and the salvation of oxygen is slipped back into the air.  Every leaf performs its quantum grab from the sun into the ring of sugar that smacks of food.  The miracle of medicine is released as aerosols that may touch the sky and resolve themselves as rain.  Even the dichotomy of one branch’s growth—of zero and one, our system of binary arithmetic—is an ancient proof of the divine.  Because nothingness holds the first place of existence in this universe.  And will be revealed as a sylvan embryo in the cathedral of the forest.  Again and again.

Diana Beresford-Kroeger, a botanist, medical biochemist and self-defined “renegade scientist,” brings together ethnobotany, horticulture, spirituality and alternative medicine to reveal a path toward better stewardship of the natural world.

Diana’s latest book is called The Sweetness of a Simple Life (Random House Canada). It contains easy doses of healing and practical wisdom, blending modern science and medicine with aboriginal traditions.  A precise and poetic writer steeped in Gaelic storytelling traditions gathered from her childhood in Ireland, Diana’s previous books include The Global Forest, Arboretum Borealis: A Lifeline of the Planet, Arboretum America: A Philosophy of the Forest, A Garden for Life and a collection of stories, Time Will Tell.

In 2010, Diana was inducted as a Wings Worldquest Fellow.  The Utne Reader named her one of their Visionaries for 2011 and the same year she was named a Society Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society.  Recently, Diana has been working on a film based on her book, The Global Forest, which has taken her around the globe. The film, Call of the Forest: The Forgotten Wisdom of Trees, will be released in 2016. Diana lives in Ontario, Canada, with her husband, Christian H. Kroeger, surrounded by her research garden filled with rare and endangered species.

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co-sponsored by the WFU Center for Energy, Environment, and Sustainability



From Living Water to Running Water

Saturday, April 9, 2016, 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Elkin Presbyterian Church, Elkin NC

Water is a powerful religious symbol. In Genesis, God’s Spirit dances over chaotic waters to stir up and give birth to the wonders of creation. Isaiah promises that God’s people will be like well-watered gardens, like springs whose waters never fail. In the New Testament, Jesus is baptized in the waters of the Jordan River, and in Revelation, a river of the water of life flows clear as crystal. But many people in the world today lack access to clean water. Water is not plentiful in all places and in some places, waters flow less abundantly than ever before. This workshop explores relationships between the waters that sustain our everyday lives and the waters of baptism. Participants will consider how a greater awareness of the sacramental dimensions of the “places” where we live and work nourishes our capacity to contribute to communal and global water health and well-being. Workshop participants will participate in a creek walk, learn about local water gifts and challenges, and imagine ways to infuse Sunday worship with what they experience and learn.

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The Gospel Call to Sustainability:
A Model for Living an Integrated Life

Tuesday, April 12, 5:00 – 6:00 p.m.
Wingate Hall, Room 302
Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem NC

How are we to live as people of faith in a world devastated by ongoing ecological peril and endless war? Jesus’ nonviolent love teaches us how to read the signs of the times as ones of urgency as we attempt to live in harmony with our sacred planet and its inhabitants, human and non-human.

For the past 34 years, Suzanne Belote Shanley and Brayton Shanley have been a attempting to live with others an integrated life as co-founders of The Agape Community.  They will present a community model of sustainability on 34 acres of land in Central MA which includes practicing contemplation, prayer, education in nonviolence and maintaining green buildings, constructed from the ground up, which include solar energy, compost toilet and a community organic garden among other ecological features. ​

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Bread in the Wilderness
A Summer Seminar on Food, Faith, and Ecological Well-Being

June 6 – 10, 2016
Warren Wilson College
Swannanoa, North Carolina

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See the initiative’s past events.

Who We Serve

Clergy, congregations, divinity studentsfaith-based non-profits, community gardenersfood activists, and any faith leader confronting community health issues caused by substandard food systems.

From the Dean

Food — food access, food quality, food production — is one of the defining issues of this generation. The rapid growth of local food and farm-to-table movements has sparked a creative and essential conversation that links the revitalization of rural economies, food access for urban neighborhoods, and the health and well-being of all our communities. Connecting food and faith is about our care of the earth and of one another — the core realities of our vocations as children of God. We need to be educating religious leaders who understand that caring for creation is an essential pastoral practice in working for the kingdom of God.

Gail R. O’Day, Dean of the School of Divinity and Professor of New Testament and Preaching

From the Director

Over the past seven years, I’ve witnessed the rise of a new faith-based food movement. From congregation-supported community gardens to farmworker justice, there’s a deep desire among people of faith to reconnect with the sources of their daily bread and to those who produce it. Far from a passing trend, I believe this renewed interest in food, justice, and sustainability is driven by an even deeper hunger: the desire to see embodied what the biblical writers call shalom, that graced state of being that results from a right relationship between God, people, and the land. Our work with the Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative is to support, nurture, and encourage that shalom.

Fred Bahnson, Director