The Christian Flag is an ecumenical flag designed in the early 20th century to represent all of Christianity and Christendom. Since its adoption by the Federal Council of Churches in 1942, it has been used by many Christian traditions, especially Protestant ones, including the Anglican, Baptist, Mennonite, Methodist, Moravian, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Quaker, and Reformed, among others. North America, Africa and South America are regions of the world where the flag remains popular, while it is much less common elsewhere, notably in Europe. The flag has a white field, with a red Latin cross inside a blue canton. The shade of red on the cross symbolizes the blood that Jesus shed on Calvary. The blue represents the waters of baptism as well as the faithfulness of Jesus. The white represents Jesus' purity. The dimensions of the flag and canton have no official specifications.
The Christian Flag was first conceived on September 26, 1897, at Brighton Chapel on Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York in the United States. The superintendent of a Sunday school, Charles C. Overton, gave an impromptu lecture to the gathered students, because the scheduled speaker had failed to arrive for the event. He gave a speech asking the students what a flag representing Christianity would look like. Overton thought about his improvised speech for many years afterward. In 1907, he and Ralph Diffendorfer, secretary of the Methodist Young People's Missionary Movement, designed and began promoting the flag. With regard to the Christian symbolism of the Christian Flag:
The ground is white, representing peace, purity and innocence. In the upper corner is a blue square, the color of the unclouded sky, emblematic of heaven, the home of the Christian; also a symbol of faith and trust. in the center of the blue is the cross, the ensign and chosen symbol of Christianity: the cross is red, typical of Christ's blood.
The ecumenical organization, Federal Council of Churches, now succeeded by the National Council of Churches and Christian Churches Together, adopted the flag on 23 January 1942; the National Council of Churches represents Anglican, Baptist, Brethren, Eastern Orthodox, Mennonite, Methodist, Moravian, Lutheran, Oriental Orthodox, Presbyterian, Quaker, and Reformed traditions, among others. The Christian Flag intentionally has no patent, as the designer dedicated the flag to all of Christendom. The famous hymn writer, Fanny J. Crosby, devoted a hymn titled “The Christian Flag”, with music by R. Huntington Woodman, in its honour; like the flag, the hymn is also free use. On the Sunday nearest 26 September 1997, the Christian Flag celebrated its one hundredth anniversary.
Mainline Protestant denominations in the United States accepted the flag first, and by the 1980s many institutions had described policies for displaying it inside churches. The Federal Council of Churches recommended that if the Christian Flag is to be used alongside a national flag, that the Christian Flag should receive the place of honor. During World War II the flag was flown along with the U.S. flag in a number of Lutheran churches, many of them with German backgrounds, who wanted to show their solidarity with the United States during the war against Nazi Germany.
The Christian Flag spread outside North America with Christian missionaries. It can be seen today in or outside many Christian churches throughout the world, particularly in Latin America and in Africa. It has so far been adopted by some Protestant churches in Europe, Asia, and Africa as well. Eastern Orthodox, especially parishes in the Western Rite tradition, have only recently[when?] started to use the flag.[need quotation to verify]
The Christian Flag is not patented and therefore, "Anyone may manufacture it, and it may be used on all proper occasions."
Some churches practice a "pledge of allegiance" or "affirmation of loyalty" to the Christian Flag, which is similar to the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag. The first pledge was written by Lynn Harold Hough, a Methodist minister who had heard Ralph Diffendorfer, secretary to the Methodist Young People's Missionary Movement, promoting the Christian flag at a rally. He wrote the following pledge:
I pledge allegiance to the Christian flag and to the Saviour for whose kingdom it stands; one brotherhood, uniting all mankind in service and in love.
Some more conservative churches may use an alternative version of the pledge:
I pledge allegiance to the Christian flag, and to the Saviour for whose Kingdom it stands; one Saviour, crucified, risen, and coming again with life and liberty for all who believe.
Other churches use this version:
I pledge allegiance to the Christian Flag, and to the Savior for whose Kingdom it stands; one brotherhood uniting all [true] Christians, in service, and in love.
- "Resolution". Federal Council Bulletin. Religious Publicity Service of the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America. 25-27. 1942.
- Kurian, George Thomas; Lamport, Mark A. (10 November 2016). Encyclopedia of Christianity in the United States. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 1359. ISBN 9781442244320.
In Protestant churches, the national flag was frequently displayed along with the “Christian Flag” (white field, red Latin cross on a blue canton), which had been created and popularized in American Methodist circles and adopted by the Federal Council of Churches in 1942. Often the staff would feature an eagle final and a cross final, respectively.
- Baklinski, Pete (24 March 2016). "'It's homophobic': Gay activists target flag bearing Christian cross". Life Site News. Retrieved 8 July 2017.
St. Stephen the Martyr Anglican Network Church asked the government to raise the Christian flag to mark Easter week, where Christians commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
- Grose, Howard Benjamin (1917). Missions: American Baptist International Magazine. American Baptist Convention. p. 49.
Side by side in many of our churches hangs the Christian Flag with the Stars and Stripes—the Flag of White— which forever has stood for peace, having in the corner on the field of blue, the color of sincerity, faith and trust, the red Cross symbolic of Calvary.
- Lind, Hope Kauffman (1 January 1990). Apart & Together: Mennonites in Oregon and Neighboring States, 1876-1976. Herald Press. p. 277. ISBN 9780836131062.
Most congregations of Russian Mennonite heritage displayed both the national and the Christian flag in the church sanctuary.
- Trewhitt, Katharine L. (1984). History of Broad Street United Methodist Church, Cleveland, Tennessee, 1836-1984: The Story of Methodism in Bradley County and of the Group which Became Broad Street United Methodist Church. The Church. p. 129. Retrieved 8 July 2017.
In 1968 the Methodist Men of Broad Street purchased flags to be used in the sanctuary of the Church. This involved one United States flag, one Christian flag, flag poles, stands, one eagle and one cross.
- "Moravian Movement". 8 December 2014. Retrieved 8 July 2017.
The Moravians created a seal. The seal has a picture of a sheep holding a cross with the Christian flag attached. It says, “Our lamb has conquered. Let us Follow Him.” This symbolizes Jesus conquering sin, and the Moravian’s commitment to follow Him.
- Logan, Devin (1 May 2015). "Christian Flag: Which Denominations Say Its Pledge". Newsmax. Retrieved 8 July 2017.
- Roberts, Arthur O. (1978). Tomorrow Is Growing Old: Stories of the Quakers in Alaska. Barclay Press. p. 446. ISBN 9780913342220. Retrieved 8 July 2017.
- Schuppert, Mildred W. (1982). A Digest and Index of the Minutes of the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America, 1906-1957. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 105. ISBN 9780802819437.
- Fifty-Eighth Annual Session. Order of the Eastern Star. 1932.
Today the Christian Flag is flying over Europe, Asia and Africa, as well as America.
- "The Christian Flag". Bob Jones University. Archived from the original on September 5, 2005. Retrieved 2007-10-18.
The white on the flag represents purity and peace. The blue stands for faithfulness, truth, and sincerity. Red, of course, is the color of sacrifice, in this case calling to mind the blood shed by Christ on Calvary, represented by the cross.
- The American Lutheran. 22–24. American Lutheran Publicity Bureau. 1939.
- A Theological Miscellany. Thomas Nelson. 24 March 2005.
The flag is white (for purity and peace), with a blue field (faithfulness, truth, and sincerity) and a red cross (the sacrifice of Christ).
- "Christian Flag". The Christian Advocate. New York: T. Carlton & J. Porter. 84. 7 January 1909.
Within recent years (1897) a flag has been designed which shall stand as an emblem; (Jesse L. Jones-McKay) which all Christian nations and various denominations may rally in allegiance and devotion. This banner is called the Christian flag. It was originated by Charles C. Overton of Brooklyn, N.Y., whose first thought of it came to him while addressing a Sunday school at a rally day service. The flag is most symbolic. The ground is white, representing peace, purity and innocence. In the upper corner is a blue square, the color of the unclouded sky, emblematic of heave, the home of the Christian; also a symbol of faith and trust. in the center of the blue is the cross, the ensign and chosen symbol of Christianity: the cross is red, typical of Christ's blood. The use of the national flag in Christian churches has become almost universal throughout the world.
- Coffman, Elesha. "Do you know the history of the Christian flag?". Christianity Today. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
- FitzGerald, Thomas E. (2004). The Ecumenical Movement: An Introductory History. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 245. ISBN 9780313306068.
- "Christian Flag". The Christian Advocate. New York: T. Carlton & J. Porter. 84. 7 January 1909.
Mr. Overton has dedicated his flag to the Christian world, refusing to copyright or patent it. It stands for no creed or denomination, but for Christianity. Every sect of Christ's followers can indorse this flag and it is equally appropriate for all nations. The hymn written by Fanny Crosby is also dedicated to the free use and followers of Christ the world over.
- The Quiver. Cassell Limited. 1900. p. 380. Retrieved 4 May 2014.
Miss Fanny J. Crosby, the veteran American hymn writer, has dedicated a hymn, called “The Christian Flag,” to the movement, the first verse of which is :— “ The Christian Flag!
- Pollock, James R. (23 March 1996). Congratulations to The Christian Flag (Fourth ed.).
- "Presbyterian Mission Agency Signs and symbols". Presbyterian Church (USA). Retrieved 9 January 2018.
If a national flag is used alongside a symbol of God’s realm (such as the popularly accepted “Christian flag,” found mostly in U.S. congregations), the Christian flag is appropriately given a preeminent place.
- The Christian Century, Volume 59. Christian Century Company. 1942. p. 165.
- Grose, Howard Benjamin (1917). Missions: American Baptist International Magazine, Volume 8. American Baptist Convention. p. 497.
- Fr. Brian Daniels. "Flags in Church" (in Roann and Indiana).
- Diffendorfer, Ralph Eugene (1917). Missionary Education in Home and School. Abingdon Press. p. 184.
The Christian flag is not patented, and is free from commercialism. Anyone may manufacture it, and it may be used on all proper occasions. Christian flags may be displayed at conventions, conferences, church demonstrations, and parades, and with the American flag may be used for general decorative purposes. For boys' and girls' societies and clubs and for the church school, especially on program occasions, the two flags may be presented and saluted.
- Brown, Drew (25 March 2016). "Newfoundland's Government Flies a 'Christian Flag,' Low-Key Holy War Follows". Vice. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
- McCrummen, Stephanie (22 December 2017). "Taking up the Christian banner". The Washington Post. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
- Elesha Coffman (Jul 13, 2001), "Do You Know the History of the Christian Flag?", Christianity Today.
- Balmer, Randall Herbert (2002), Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism, Baylor University Press, p. 134.
- Land, Richard (2011), The Divided States of America?: What Liberals and Conservatives Get Wrong about Faith and Politics (revised ed.), Thomas Nelson, p. 41.
- Marvin, C (1996), "Blood sacrifice and the nation: Revisiting civil religion", Journal of the American Academy of Religion.
- Coffman, Elesha (13 July 2001), "Christian History & Biography", Christianity Today
- History & Symbolism of the Christian Flag, Society of the Christian Flag
- "The Christian Flag Hymn", The Christian Flag, Cyber Hymnal
- Sidwell, Mark (18 December 1998), "The Christian Flag", Fundamentalism File Research Report, BJU
- "Christian Flag", Flags of the World