Pastor Terry Sartain’s day job is the pastor of Horizon Christian Fellowship in Charlotte, but at night or just about any other time in the day he is called to do more. For seven years, he has rode side by side with the men and women at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and has ended every invocation in Jesus’ name. However, a recent phone call from the police major overseeing the chaplaincy program served to ensure that Sartain would change his ways by being all-inclusive in his prayers.
Major John Diggs informed Sartain that when he prays at an upcoming promotional ceremony, he would not be able to invoke the name of Jesus. Pastor Sartain withdrew from the event and was told his status as a chaplain would be hurt.
“I’m very sad about it,” he said. “Whether people believe it or not, Jesus has jurisdiction, divine rights over every human being. … [T]he only thing I have to bless people with is Jesus. He has given me his life, and I have nothing to offer. Christians only have Christ to offer.”
Sartain explained that when police told him that he needed to pray a “secular prayer,” he became confused.
“If I’m going to pray – what should I pray?” he asked. “Even when I wasn’t a Christian – in my past – I didn’t even know what a secular prayer was. Why even pray if it’s to the one who’s in the room? That could be anybody.”
Diggs says that it is a matter of respecting all religions and the new policy will apply to events such as graduations, memorials and promotions.
“This is not in any way an effort to demean anybody’s Christian beliefs,” Diggs told local newspaper The News & Observer. “It’s to show respect for all the religious practices in our organization. CMPD is not anybody’s church.”
The situation, which has made national headlines, has sparked much discussion among police chaplains nationwide.
Mike Williams serves as a full-time law enforcement officer and chaplain in Colorado. The weekly Bible study that he conducts for police officers in the state is posted via his Centurion Law Enforcement Ministry. He says that he considers the order given to Chaplain Sartain to be illegal.
“[W]e as Christian police chaplains, while under orders pursuant to Romans 13:1-4, must not compromise on things of God,” he stated. “When God had Paul write that passage, Nero was in power and killing Christians by the thousands for not renouncing their faith. We must not submit on matters of faith.”
Williams explained that one of his colleagues had once been explicitly told not to pray in the name of Jesus, so he closed the prayer with, “in Yeshua’s holy name,” the Hebrew version for Jesus. However, he realizes that a time may come when he and others may have to make a similar stand as Sartain.
Opinions were mixed on a popular law enforcement website. One Jewish officer said, “[T]his is the worst any of us have ever seen our country. I don’t care if Jesus’ name is mentioned in prayer.” Another officer lamented that “you can’t mention Jesus, but you can burn the American flag or any Christian Bible.” Conversely, a Roman Catholic chaplain said that he had no problem with the order, outlining that he had “no conflict of faith in praying for/with anyone of any faith tradition in the name of the God of all peoples, no matter by what name we choose to use to refer to the almighty God.”
Sartain says that the new policy “brings about a very real concern about where we are heading as a nation.”
It is an order “that Christians must refuse,” Williams stated.
(Photo: Horizon Christian Fellowship)