Lodi has participated in four decades of leadership prayer breakfasts, but Thursday's annual meeting of Christian community leaders had more of a political overtone.
Lodi City Councilman Bob Johnson urged the crowd of about 100 people to make their opinions known at next Wednesday's special meeting to retain the city's tradition of invocations at the beginning of council meetings.
"I personally think we should draw a line in the sand," Johnson said at Thursday's breakfast at Woodbridge Golf & Country Club. "I will not vote to silence ourselves."
The city is being challenged by a Wisconsin organization, Freedom From Religion Foundation, which objects to the use of the words "Jesus Christ" in prayers offered by local pastors at City Council meetings. A special council meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Hutchins Street Square, 125 S. Hutchins St.
Johnson said he will not apologize for his controversial statement that Lodi is a predominately Christian community. However, Johnson said the city should do more to invite religious leaders from Lodi who aren't Christian to offer a prayer at council meetings.
The prayer breakfast featured several other speakers, some of them addressing America's Christian heritage.
"We are in a civil war," said Bill Moersch, president of Management Recruiters National, a staffing, resume development and interview coaching firm from Galt. "It's not a typical war over land. It's over the spiritual role of this nation."
Moersch added that 29 of the 56 people who signed the Declaration of Independence were seminarians, which he said also confirms America's Christian culture.
The prayer breakfast has been held in Lodi, since 1965, except for a couple of years. It was limited to men until 1994.
In addition to guest speakers, four musicians performed - Devin Nishizaki of Lodi High sang the national anthem, Arianna Brusa of Tokay High sang "The Lord is My Light," and Garrett Daniel, a homeschooled student, performed "Shepherd Boy." Grant Willis of Federated Insurance played the violin as well.
Keynote speaker Fred Jantz, pastor of Quail Lakes Baptist Church in Stockton for 30 years and now an adjunct professor at San Joaquin Delta College, related how his mother gave him hope in life after his family escaped dangerous conditions in eastern Germany (then known as Prussia) during World War II.
Notable quotes"The Word of God is the foundation of this country."
- Bill Moersch, executive, Galt
"We pray that our leaders follow God's will and exert
Christian-like leadership in our daily lives."
- Chris Phillips, financial adviser and Bible study teacher
"Even if we (Christians) don't get much respect, that's OK. God
knows who we are."
- Fred Jantz, retired pastor
Jantz, his mother and brother had to rebuild their lives after leaving Germany for Los Angeles, where his aunt sponsored the family into the United States. Jantz's father was captured by the Germans because he refused to become a Nazi. He was never seen again.
Describing himself growing up as "a broken little kid," Jantz said, "the church has always been like a surrogate family."
Chris Phillips, who conducts Bible study at Calvary Bible Church in Acampo, said that everyone needs to ask their leaders where they get their vision.