Christian Flag

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The Christian Flag

The Christian Flag is a flag designed in the early 20th century to represent all of Christianity and Christendom, and has been most popular among Christian churches in North America, Africa and Latin America. 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 Jesus shed on Calvary.[1] The blue represents the waters of baptism as well as the faithfulness of Jesus.[2] The white represents Jesus' purity.[3] In conventional vexillology, a white flag is linked to surrender, a reference to the Biblical description of Jesus' non-violence and surrender.[4] The dimensions of the flag and canton have no official specifications.


The Christian Flag being displayed on the chancel of a Lutheran sanctuary.

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, was forced to give an impromptu lecture to the gathered students, because the scheduled speaker had failed to arrive for the event. Overton saw a flag of the United States in the front of the chapel (a common custom in many American churches). Drawing on the flag for inspiration, 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.


The Christian Flag displayed alongside the flag of the United States next to the pulpit in a church in California. Note the eagle and cross finials on the flag poles.

The flag was first accepted by the mainline Protestant denominations in the United States, and by the 1980s many institutions had described policies for displaying it inside churches. 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 with Germany.[citation needed]

The Christian Flag spread outside North America with Protestant missionaries. It can be seen today in or outside many Protestant churches throughout the world, particularly in Latin America and Africa, as well as some Roman Catholic churches.[5] It has so far been adopted by very few churches in Europe. Eastern Orthodox, and other branches of Christianity have only recently started to use the flag.

Some individuals within certain Protestant denominations have challenged the presence of the Christian flag in worship settings, saying that, "[the flag] violates much of what anyone knows of ecclesiastical heraldry," and have criticized its existence by indicating that the individual who created the flag still receives royalties on every flag that is sold.[6]


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.[7] He wrote the following pledge:

A version of the Christian Flag, specialized for the Eastern Orthodox Church

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.[7]

There are several other versions of the pledge, including the following:

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.

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 to all who repent and believe The Gospel.

I pledge allegiance to the Christian flag and to the Saviour for whose kingdom it stands; One brotherhood, uniting all true Christians in service and in love.

I pledge allegiance to the Christian flag and to the gospel for which it stands; One Saviour, crucified, risen and coming again, with life eternal for all who believe.

Denominational flags[edit]

Many Christian denominations have their own denominational flag and display it alongside the Christian Flag or independent from it.[8]

Catholic Churches in communion with the Holy See often display the Vatican flag along with their respective national flag, typically on opposite sides of the sanctuary, near the front door, or hoisted on flagstaffs outside. Individual dioceses may also fly flags based on the diocesan coat of arms.

Eastern Orthodox Churches, particularly jurisdictions of the Greek Orthodox Church under the direct authority of the Ecumenical Patriarch, often display his flag, which is a Byzantine double-headed eagle on a yellow (Or) field.

Parishes in the Episcopal Church frequently fly the Episcopal flag, a Cross of St. George with the upper-left canton containing a Cross of St. Andrew formed by nine cross-crosslets (representing the nine original dioceses) on a blue background.

The Salvation Army has a flag with a blue border (symbolizing the purity of God the Father), a red field (symbolizing the blood of Jesus Christ), and a gold eight-pointed star (symbolizing the fire of the Holy Spirit). The star bears the Salvation army's motto, "Blood and Fire".

The Anglican Communion have a blue flag with a St George's Cross in the centre surrounded with a gold band with the wording, "The Truth shall make you free." in New Testament Greek on it. From the band sprout the points of a compass (symbolising the spread worldwide of Anglicanism). On the "North" of the compass is a mitre (a symbol of apostolic order essential to all Churches and Provinces constituting the Anglican Communion).

The Church of Scotland use a Flag of Scotland depicting the Burning Bush (or Unburnt Bush, in some traditions).

The Church in Wales use a blue Cross of St George defaced with a gold Celtic Cross.

The Church of Ireland use the St Patrick's Saltire but also use the Compass-rose Flag of the Anglican Communion equally.

Additionally, many Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox churches maintain the use of the Labarum, a historical symbol of Christianity, which is rarely used as a flag at present.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Christian Flag". Bob Jones University. Archived from the original on Sep 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." 
  2. ^ The American Lutheran. 22–24. American Lutheran Publicity Bureau. 1939. 
  3. ^ 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)." 
  4. ^ "The Christian Flag". Prayer Foundation. Retrieved 2007-10-18. "The flag's most conspicuous symbol is the Christian cross, the most universal symbol for Christianity. The red color represents the blood of Christ and brings to mind his crucifixion. Christians believe that Jesus Christ's death and resurrection is the means God uses to save believers from their sins. The cross and blood have been used since earliest Christianity to symbolize salvation through Jesus; in the words of the Apostle Paul, "And having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself;" — Colossians 1:20. The white field draws on symbolism throughout the Bible equating white clothes with purity and forgiveness. People who have been "washed white as snow" in the Bible have been cleansed from their sins (Isaiah 1:18; Psalm 51:2). In conventional vexillology (the study of flags, their history and sybolism), a white flag is linked to surrender, a reference to the Biblical description Jesus' non-violence and surrender to God's will. The symbolism behind the blue canton has been interpreted to represent Heaven, truth, or the Christian ritual of Baptism in water." 
  5. ^ Christian Flag. Catholic Saints. 2008. "A Catholic sign or icon, such as the Christian Flag, is an object, character, figure, or color used to represent abstract ideas or concepts – a picture that represents an idea." 
  6. ^ "Flags", Worship (FAQ), LCMS .
  7. ^ a b Do you know the history of the Christian flag?, "Ask the expert", Christianity Today, Jul 13, 2001 .
  8. ^ Christian Flag Facts, Montney .

Further reading[edit]

  • Marvin, C (1996), "Blood sacrifice and the nation: Revisiting civil religion", Journal of the American Academy of Religion .
  • Land, Richard (2011), The Divided States of America?: What Liberals and Conservatives Get Wrong about Faith and Politics (revised ed.), Thomas Nelson, p. 41 .
  • Balmer, Randall Herbert (2002), Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism, Baylor University Press, p. 134 .

External links[edit]

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