Local Church Leaders Statement
An open letter to the Fresno community:
We write as Fresno Christian faith leaders representing various traditions and denominations because of our love for the city of Fresno, the Tower District, and those who call these places home. In response to a request from a number of Tower community members, we offer this statement in response to Adventure Church’s efforts to purchase the Tower Theater. We recognize the significance and impact of the current events, and also acknowledge the problematic ways in which churches have historically operated throughout the Valley. With this history in mind, we know that Christians are still called to offer the same love and radical hospitality that Jesus Christ modeled throughout the Gospels. This is why we believe that the Tower District should be preserved as a place where all are welcomed.
We acknowledge the pain, hurt, and trauma that Christians have caused by forcing themselves into communities and their beliefs onto community members.
This common and deliberately aggressive form of Christian evangelicalism can be directly traced to the colonization of the United States.
We acknowledge that Christian colonization is not just a part of our history, but remnants of colonization tactics can also be easily identified in today’s churches, as well as in more covert ways that are often overlooked or unnoticed by well-meaning church leaders.
We recognize that the recent turmoil and attempts to change the Tower District against its residents’ wishes has likely triggered painful trauma from the past.
It is important to us as Christian leaders that we not only acknowledge the pain caused in the past but also invest in work that brings healing to those who have been hurt.
We acknowledge the importance of preserving the Tower District, and the role of the Tower Theater as a beacon for those who have been marginalized, ostracized, and demonized here in Fresno and throughout the Central Valley.
The Tower Theater is known as a place where members of the LGBTQ+ community, creatives, artists, and self-professed outcasts can feel safe, and feel seen.
The Tower District is arguably the safest place in the Central Valley where people marginalized because of sexual and gender identities and expressions can demonstrate affection for a partner.
The Tower District is a place where people can fully be who God made them to be.
The Tower District welcomes, loves, and celebrates members of the LGBTQ+ community in ways our Valley churches have struggled to, or never cared to.
Businesses in the Tower District have played an essential role in cultivating a thriving community, and it is critical that current zoning laws remain in place in order to continue fostering healthy economic growth.
Our prayer is that the Tower District would be a place where businesses, community groups, faith communities, families, and individuals would flourish. We believe that God’s love and liberation has been present amongst the hospitality that has been historically found in the Tower and we long for that love and liberation to continue to grow.
We believe it is essential that the Tower Theater remain the heart of the Tower community. It is our hope that the theater’s future ownership acknowledges its role as a beacon and respite for the LGBTQ+ community, continues to reflect its cultural iconography, and fosters a safe place where everyone can feel welcomed, accepted, affirmed for who they are. The community is invited to join us and the Save The Tower Theatre Demonstration Committee at 4:00 on March 11th across from the Tower Theater for a prayer vigil. This will be a time to join together to acknowledge the present pain, pray for healing, and pray for the flourishing of the whole Tower community.
Rev. Raygan Baker – Big Red Church
Rev. April Alkema – Woven Community
Rev. Simon Biasell – Woven Community
The Very Rev. Sam Colley-Toothaker
Marcel Woodruff – Faith in the Valley
Anthony “AP” Armour – Neighborhood Industries
Rev. Akiko Miyake Stoner – United Methodist Pastor
Rev. Karen Pugh – Wesley United Methodist Church
Rev. Bill Knezovich – Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church
Rev. Nancy Key – St. James Episcopal Cathedral
Rev. Terrance Goodpasture – St. James Episcopal Cathedral
Rev. Ara Guekguzian – Presbyterian Pastor
Rev. Bryson White – Faith in the Valley