Are we slowly dropping the UMC cross & flame?

Is it just me . . . or is something missing? I see less and less of our beloved United Methodist cross and flame symbol. It apparently is being hidden under the proverbial bushel. It is becoming less predominant on church buildings, websites and even denominational publications.

Most of us know the origins of our insignia (brand) . . . having been created in 1968 at the merger of two great denominations, but have you taken a hard look at it lately? The official version depicts the dual flame (representing the Holy Spirit) slightly taller than the slender cross. No mistake that the predominant feature is the flame and has a direct association with John Wesley, whose “heart was strangely warmed.”

Are we subconsciously hiding our connection to the Holy Spirit? We believe in a Triune God, but maybe we simply are embarrassed about proclaiming that we are “filled with the Holy Spirit.” That phrase alone has gotten a bad rap in the past several decades. Maybe it is because the Holy Spirit is the least understood of the Three and harder to explain? Maybe we are trying to distance ourselves from a perceived “old style” denomination and offer a generic worship experience that can’t be discerned from any other “non-denominational” service? In either case, I’m disappointed that we don’t have more outward signs of our denomination and internal discussions of Wesleyan heritage and the Holy Spirit. Personally, I’d like to be a walking billboard for the UMC (on coffee mugs, satchels, phone cases, etc.) for nothing else than to spark conversations about my faith and my church. Every fire starts with a spark!

Now I’m the first to agree we shouldn’t try and market a church by corporate standards, but in light of the studies of the past few years that rank the United Methodist Church as one of the most respected denominations, we should do a better job of letting people know who we are. The 1968 hymn “They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Love” by Peter R. Scholtes, is a true statement and a noble aspiration. We should proclaim our love for Jesus Christ (simply by our actions) and proclaim our Methodism by our brand; neither of which should be hidden under a bushel.

David M. Vaughan
University UMC
Fort Worth, Texas

Special Contributor to UMR

Special Contributor

This story was written by a special contributor to The United Methodist Reporter. You may send your article submissions to

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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Larry W. Gray
Larry W. Gray

"…this is a place of worship that is open to everyone." (Except Gays)


I certainly hope The United Methodist Church holds on to the cross and flame symbol! I have also noticed here in south east Florida churches dropping the cross and flame symbol. Christ United Methodist Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida has dropped all outside symbols of the cross and flame. If you drive by the church it simply says Christ Church all signs and notices inside or out only contain Christ Church. The church I attend in Coral Springs has changed its name to First Church Coral Springs. It seems to be a trend for churches now to disassociate from denomination… Read more »


I hope The United Methodist Church holds on to the cross & flame symbol and does not replace it. It is a symbol across the world that is easily recognized and one knows immediately this is a place of worship that is open to everyone. For 17 years I was the associate treasurer for the Texas Annual Conference and worked under Wallace T. Shook and Jim Crawford. I loved working with all the senior pastors and treasurers during those years and to this day, everytime I pass a church with the cross & flame within the bounds of the TAC,… Read more »


You write: "We should proclaim our love for Jesus Christ (simply by our actions)…"
Simply by our actions? Shouldn't we talk about Jesus as well? If we don't, our actions might not necessarily be understood as being inspired by him (e.g. people might think we have ulterior motives).
See how much the Church in the New Testament talked about Jesus…


David, Thank you for this post. You ask some excellent questions that I pray readers will take the time to ponder and give some serious consideration. Since my teens I have proudly worn a silver James Avery Cross and Flame around my neck every day. I refuse to travel without it, not for superstitious reasons of being a lucky charm but because should anything happen to me while I am away from home I want there to be no doubt to those caring for me that I am a United Methodist with United Methodist beliefs and values. So our symbol… Read more »

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