A controversial speaker, invited to lecture on sexuality and gender identity at a Fresno church this week, has drawn outcry from community members who staged a protest of just over 20 people in response .
The Well Community Church, a megachurch with multiple locations in Fresno and Clovis and thousands of parishioners, held three sessions this week led by guest speaker Denny Burk. The sessions focus on the “biblical view” of homosexuality, gender identity and “gender confusion”, according to the church website.
Well, Community Church leaders did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College in Kentucky, Burk supported the controversy “Nashville Declarationby the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which condemns homosexuality and transgender identities. Burk is chairman of the board.
In a blog post from July Titled “Sexual Immorality Driving Global Health Emergency,” Burk also criticized World Health Organization leaders for urging the public not to stigmatize men who have sex with men amid smallpox. monkey continues to affect them disproportionately. He wrote that gay sex is “destructive and unhealthy” and that the “absence of stigma” contributes to the spread of disease. He did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Fresno State junior Isla Dudley and her co-organizer, Fresno State graduate student Jose Solorio, told The Bee that they have both witnessed the harm that the “persecution” of religious groups can cause the LGBTQ community. The protest was meant as a counterpoint to show LGBTQ people in Fresno that there are people who love and accept them.
“I really hope the bottom line is that many of us are willing to put ourselves in uncomfortable situations in order to hopefully create a better future for the collective,” said Dudley, who identifies as part of of the LGBTQ community.
“I am not protesting against this church per se. I protest Denny Burk’s seminar here — which is hosted by Well Church,” said Jessica Mahoney, a community organizer in Fresno. “He invents his own theology based on his own perceived hatred against a certain group of people.”
Protest co-organizer Solorio said the purpose of Thursday’s protest was not to change anyone’s mind at the event itself. Despite this, a handful of people attending the series walked through the parking lot to speak with the protesters.
A participant named Joshua, who declined to share his surname, told The Bee he thought his lengthy conversation about the biblical prescription of marriage with the protesters had been a success.
“Any conversation where you’re able to engage and people aren’t hurt is definitely a step in the right direction,” he said.
Protesters also received numerous honks and shouts of support from rush-hour commuters driving on Thursday evening – although a man was seen rolling down his window and repeatedly shouting “Freak show!” among the protesters.
Thursday’s protest was just one of many clashes between Fresno’s LGBTQ community and local Christian churches in recent years.
Earlier this summer, a few hundred people gathered to listen to local pastors call out several events that took place in Fresno during Pride Month, including a prayer in which Pastor Raygan Baker of the Big Red Church called God ‘The Queer’ before the second annual Pride Flag Raising at Fresno City Hall. Meanwhile, dozens of members of the LGBTQ community and their allies gathered for a counter-protest.
The battle for the rights of Fresno’s Tower Theater over the past two years also precipitated regular confrontations between LGBTQ activists and members and supporters of Adventure Church – until the city of Fresno stepped in and purchased the theater.
“It’s no coincidence that we see multiple religious organizations spouting the same rhetoric,” Dudley, one of the protest organizers, said of recent events in Fresno. “We live in a time of extreme opinions, and people feel they are able to voice their opinions with little or no consequences.”
Solorio said protesters plan to return to Well Community Church to continue demonstrating against the series on Sunday morning.