The most captivating feature about the Methodist church is its symbol which has often raised topics of discussion as many people have different opinions on what the Methodist church symbol means. So, what is the Methodist church symbol?
The Methodist church symbol is comprised of two separate tongues of fire and a cross, with its aesthetic appearance being red and white. This symbol has been used to identify the Methodist church since 1968 when the Methodist church and the Evangelical United brethren church merged to form the United Methodist Church ( UMC).
To clear the doubt that has been around for quite a while, in this article, we discuss in detail the origin of the Methodist church symbol, the deeper meaning of this symbol, and how it is used today in the Methodist church. Read on to find out more about this topic.
Where did the Methodist church symbol come from?
Before 1968, the Methodist church had several other denominations that had broken away from it. Predecessor denominations like the Evangelical United Brethren church have their identifying emblem of the church name clasped in their hands to form a Latin name. This symbol varied in both form and use.
However, when the Methodist church and the Evangelical United Brethren church decided to merge, they felt the need to have a common emblem to identify the United Methodist church. Hence, a commission on church union representing both churches in 1966 was authorized to find an official insignia to represent the Union of the two churches. This Union appointed Edwin H Maynard ( to be an editorial director) and Edward J. Mikula( to be the art director), who were to come up with the official insignia of the church.
Beforehand, the church had made it clear that the final insignia had to be bold, simple, instantly recognizable, Christian, and Wesleyan uniquely to honor its founding fathers, John and Charles Wesley. Additionally, they specified that it had to have official colors but ones that could also be produced in black and white.
After many attempts and a dozen conceptualizations, they finally settled on the cross-linked flame containing two tongues of fire. They also settled on the white, red, and black colors as they could easily be produced in black and white. The 1968 uniting conference settled on this emblem as a binding symbol of the merging of the Methodist church and the United Brethren church to form the great united methodist church, and it has been used as a symbol of the United Methodist Church all over the world since then.
What do the cross and the flame mean in the Methodist church symbol?
Whether you are a member of the Methodist church or not, the Methodist church insignia is something that you have come across a couple of times, whether it is in their buildings, websites, church trucks, and many others. Have you often wondered what it means? The Methodist church symbol is often mistaken for the burning cross that signifies atheism. However, I am more than happy to dismiss this thought and share the true meaning of this symbol. Let’s dive right into it!
The merging of the Methodist church and the United Brethren church in 1968 closely followed the formation of this emblem. Following more than 24 other conceptualizations, the church decided to choose a traditional symbol: the cross, linked with the flame bearing two tongues of fire.
The biblical concept of the cross signifies Jesus Christ as its foundation and relates the Methodist church through Christ to God. The fire is a reminder of Pentecost when the believers in Antioch were unified by the power of the holy spirit and saw tongues of fire, as indicated in (Acts 2:3)” And tongues that looked like fire appeared to them, distributing themselves and a tongue sat on each of them.
The elements of the emblem also remind the Methodist church members of the founder Father. It reminds them of the transforming moment in his life when he felt a ‘strange warmth’ in his heart and the calling to reform the religion in his time. The two tongues of flame joined together by a larger flame are also used to explain the two denominations that came together to make the larger united methodist church ( UMC). This emblem was registered with the u.s patent to protect it as a trademark in 1971. Its use is now regulated by the General council on finance and administration (GCFA) of the great united methodist church.
How are the flame and cross used in the Methodist church used today?
Today, the Methodist church symbol is used as an identity of the church. It is found in the literature that the denomination they produce, buildings, church tracks, website, and social media accounts. It is also used as a marketing strategy to sell their products like literature, as the first thing people see when seeing the emblem is the Methodist church.
When Christians are converted to Christ or baptized, they relate to the feeling their forefather John Wesley described when his life changed, ‘ where he felt his heart strangely warmed by the desire to spread the word. Additionally, the Methodist church members remember and honor when the two denominations merged to become one and celebrate the diversity that came with it.
Why do some Methodists want to replace the cross and the flame?
Recently, UMC pastors have discussed the need for the cross and flame to be replaced with another yet-to-be-disclosed image. The root of this concern is that, though the Methodist church symbol has nothing to do with the burning cross, it has often been mistaken for it. In American history, a racist group named Ku Klux Klan(kKk) was identified with a burning cross.
This group burnt crosses to scare away and harass black Americans. In an article named ‘time for the cross and flame to go,’ a UMC priest Elden Cowley explains that though it was not the founder’s intention for the cross to depict such a message, it unfortunately does. Hence, it needs to be changed to another less contradictory image. He goes on to explain that when he looks at the cross, he does not see the two denominations that merged to form the Methodist church, nor does he feel the strange warm that John Wesley felt; all he sees is the ruthless Ku Klux Klan group burning the crosses of innocent black Americans and causing so much fear upon them. He says he respects all the aspects of the emblem and the history of the UMC he serves. He also expresses great respect for the designers of the cross who intended to pass biblical imagery and unity within Methodism. However, there has not been a publicly made decision yet on this ongoing discussion.
- What does the flame mean in the Methodist church?
- How is the flame and cross used in the Methodist church today?
- Why do some Methodist want to replace the cross and the flame?
- Time for the cross to go
- What is the meaning of the methodist church?
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.