“As Christians, we should present ourselves as the ones who stand for justice for the oppressed.”

By August 30, 2017Voices

Rev. Matt Schultz

For Rev. Matt Schultz, the current effort to repeal Anchorage’s non-discrimination laws protecting our transgender neighbors, family and friends from discrimination deserves a strong response from people of faith: total opposition.

“I oppose this initiative because it seeks to dehumanize and stigmatize a group of people by inventing statistically disproven fears. It is unethical and immoral to treat any of God’s children this way, and transgender people are God’s children.”

Rev. Schultz came to this understanding more than 20 years ago, before he was a pastor, before he attended seminary and before mainstream society even began to understand who transgender people are.

He was a young person attending church when a transgender congregant decided to be open about who they are. That choice plunged the church into controversy—and for Rev. Schultz, it was a transformative moment in his faith journey.

As Christians, we should present ourselves as the ones who stand for justice for the oppressed. It really is the responsibility of the rest of us to stand up and say [to those supporting discrimination] that’s not who we are.”
–Rev. Schultz, First Presbyterian

“That person took a lot of heat, but they had quite a bit of courage” he says, remembering how some congregants were scandalized. “But it was a healthy time for me to start thinking about [how faith should confront discrimination]. It helped me formulate my guiding philosophy for years to come.”

After that, he knew he would incorporate a deep commitment to equality and justice advocacy into his future ministry. Today, he cultivates that commitment in his position as the pastor at the First Presbyterian Church and as a member of the steering committee for Christians for Equality.

That group formed to provide a faith voice against laws that target LGBTQ people for discrimination—laws like Proposition 1, which would repeal Anchorage’s non-discrimination laws protecting transgender people from discrimination. Rev. Schultz feels that for too long, fair-minded Christians have allowed “voices of oppression” to define what a faith-based response to issues of equality should be. Instead, he urges his fellow mainstream faith leaders to join him in speaking up.

“As Christians, we should present ourselves as the ones who stand for justice for the oppressed. It really is the responsibility of the rest of us to stand up and say [to those supporting discrimination] that’s not who we are.”

His work with Christians for Equality, as well as his own personal, full-throated denunciation of Prop 1, is a way of pushing against those discriminatory voices, and “presenting a face of Christianity that is inclusive, and working toward justice for all.”

“All people are created in the image of God. There’s absolutely no reason to argue that transgender people are an exception to that rule.” —Rev. Schultz, First Presbyterian

Rev. Schultz does not mince words when he talks about how morally damaging repealing Anchorage’s transgender non-discrimination protections would be.

That’s because if Prop 1 passes in April 2018, transgender people would be left vulnerable to harassment and discrimination. They would be totally erased from protections under the city’s municipal code, and could even be forced to do something as invasive as produce a birth certificate when using the restroom.

So from a faith perspective, Rev. Schultz says defeating Prop 1 at the ballot box would be an unalloyed moral and ethical good—something that people of faith should strive for.

“All people are created in the image of God. There’s absolutely no reason to argue that transgender people are an exception to that rule.”