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Christian Flag

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Christian Flag
UseBanner Small vexillological symbol or pictogram in black and white showing the different uses of the flag
AdoptedSeptember 26, 1897; 126 years ago (1897-09-26) (unofficial)
January 23, 1942; 82 years ago (1942-01-23) (official)
DesignA white banner with a red Latin Cross charged upon a blue canton
Designed byCharles C. Overton and Ralph Eugene Diffendorfer

The Christian Flag is an ecumenical flag designed in the late 19th century to represent much of Christianity and Christendom.[1] Since its adoption by the United States Federal Council of Churches in 1942, it has had varied usage by congregations of many Christian traditions,[2][1] including Anglican,[3][4] Baptist,[5] Congregationalist,[6][7] Lutheran,[8] Mennonite,[9] Methodist,[2][10] Moravian,[11] Presbyterian,[12] and Reformed, among others.[13]

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.[14] The blue represents the waters of baptism as well as the faithfulness of Jesus.[15] The white represents Jesus' purity.[16] The dimensions of the flag and canton have no official specifications.[17]


The Christian Flag flies outside Focus on the Family's headquarters in Colorado.
Ecuadorians parading the Christian Flag along with an Ecuadorian one.

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.[18] Overton thought about his improvised speech for many years afterward.

In 1903, Fanny Crosby wrote the song "The Christian Flag! Behold It" about the symbolism of the flag.

In 1907, Overton and Ralph Diffendorfer, secretary of the Methodist Young People's Missionary Movement, designed and began promoting the flag.[19] With regard to the Christian symbolism of the Christian Flag:

The ground is white, representing purity. In the upper corner is a blue square, the color of the waters of baptism, 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.[18]

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, 45 years after unofficial use since 1897;[2][1] the Federal Council of Churches represented Baptist, Brethren, Eastern Orthodox, Episcopal, Methodist, Moravian, Lutheran, Oriental Orthodox, Polish National Catholic, Presbyterian, Quaker, and Reformed traditions, among others.[20][21][22] The Christian Flag intentionally has had no copyright or trademark rights connected to it, as the designer freely dedicated the flag to all of Christendom.[23] Fanny Crosby wrote the words to a hymn called "The Christian Flag" with music by R. Huntington Woodman.[1] Like the flag, the hymn is free use.[24] On the Sunday nearest September 26, 1997, the Christian Flag celebrated its one hundredth anniversary.[25]


The Christian Flag to the right of the U.S. flag and the pulpit in a Presbyterian church in California; eagle and cross finials are on each flag pole respectively.
The Christian Flag being displayed in the chancel of an Anglican sanctuary in Illinois.
Mexican children displaying the Christian Flag alongside the Mexican one.

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.[26] 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.[27][failed verification] 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.[28]

The Christian Flag spread outside North America with Christian missionaries.[29] It can be seen today in or outside many Christian churches throughout the world, particularly in Latin America and in Africa.[29] By the 1930s the flag had been adopted by some Protestant churches in Europe, Asia, and Africa as well.[30]

The Christian Flag is not patented and therefore, "Anyone may manufacture it, and it may be used on all proper occasions."[31]

In U.S. evangelical Christian schools, it is customary for the Christian flag to be displayed opposite the U.S. flag.[citation needed]

In Canada and the United States, accommodationists and separationists have entered impassioned debate on the legality of erecting the Christian Flag atop governmental buildings.[32][33]


Some churches and organizations in the USA practice a "pledge of allegiance" or "affirmation of loyalty" to the Christian Flag, which is similar to the Pledge of Allegiance to the U.S. 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.[34] 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.[34]

Some more conservative evangelical, Lutheran, Adventist, and Baptist churches and schools 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 to all who believe.[34]

An alternate version that some Lutheran schools use is this:

I pledge allegiance to the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ and to the Faith, for which it stands. One Savior, King Eternal, with mercy and grace for all.

Others 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.[35]

For the Christian Flag Pledge, it is customary to stand with the right hand over the heart.


The anthem of the Christian Flag was written in 1903 by Fanny Crosby:

The Christian Flag! Behold It,
And Hail It With A Song,
And Let The Voice Of Millions
The Joyful Strain Prolong,
To Every Clime And Nation,
We Send It Forth Today;
God Speed Its Glorious Mission,
With Earnest Hearts We Pray.

The Christian Flag! Behold It,
And Hail It With A Song,
And Let The Voice Of Millions
The Joyful Strain Prolong.

The Christian Flag! Unfurl It,
That All The World May See
The Bloodstained Cross Of Jesus,
Who Died To Make Us Free.
The Christian Flag! Unfurl It,
And O’er And O’er Again,
Oh! May It Bear The Message,
"Good Will And Peace To Men."

The Christian Flag! God Bless It!
Now Throw It To The Breeze,
And May It Wave Triumphant
O’er Land And Distant Seas,
Till All The Wide Creation
Upon Its Folds Shall Gaze,
And All The World United,
Our Loving Saviour Praise.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Resolution". Federal Council Bulletin. 25–27. Religious Publicity Service of the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America. 1942.
  2. ^ a b c 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.
  3. ^ Baptistry. Diocese of Fort Worth: Saint John’s Episcopal Church. Retrieved 23 September 2021. The Christian flag indicates that through baptism man shares in this divine victory over evil and eternal death.
  4. ^ Kelland, Ariana; Howells, Laura (23 March 2016). "Controversial Christian flag removed as provincial, national flags flown at half-mast". CBC News. Retrieved 2 January 2020. Rev. Howard Hynes is the pastor at St. Stephen the Martyr Anglican Network Church, which organized the flag raisings.
  5. ^ 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 truth, the red Cross symbolic of Calvary.
  6. ^ Flick, Stephen (24 September 2020). "Why We Fly the Christian Flag". Christian Heritage Fellowship. Retrieved 23 September 2021.
  7. ^ Miller, Nathan (4 July 2020). "We Have 2 Flags in our Sanctuary". Greeley: First Congregational Church. Retrieved 23 September 2021. On the other side of the sanctuary is a Christian flag.
  8. ^ "WELS Flag Presentation" (PDF). Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 November 2021. Retrieved 23 September 2021.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Aalberts, Leon (2021). "Flags in the Sanctuary" (PDF). Williamstown: First Congregational Church. p. 5. Retrieved 23 September 2021. Since its adoption by the United States Federal Council of Churches in 1942, it has been used by many Christian traditions, including the Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Moravian, Presbyterian, Quaker, and Reformed, among others.
  12. ^ Achtemeier, Katherine (1 July 2016). "Flags in worship". The Presbyterian Outlook. Retrieved 23 September 2021. For as long as anyone could remember, the American flag had been displayed in the front of the sanctuary to the congregation's left — to their right, the Christian flag.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ "The Christian Flag". Bob Jones University. Archived from the original on 5 September 2005. Retrieved 18 October 2007. 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.
  15. ^ The American Lutheran. Vol. 22–24. American Lutheran Publicity Bureau. 1939.
  16. ^ A Theological Miscellany. Thomas Nelson. 24 March 2005. ISBN 9781418552817. The flag is white (for purity and peace), with a blue field (faithfulness, truth, and sincerity) and a red cross (the sacrifice of Christ).
  17. ^ "A History Lesson". The Lamplighter. 69 (2). Saint Peter's United Church of Christ: 3. 2020.
  18. ^ a b "Christian Flag". The Christian Advocate. 84. New York: T. Carlton & J. Porter. 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.
  19. ^ Coffman, Elesha. "Do you know the history of the Christian flag?". Christianity Today. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
  20. ^ FitzGerald, Thomas E. (2004). The Ecumenical Movement: An Introductory History. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 245. ISBN 9780313306068.
  21. ^ Ahlstrom, Sydney E. (2004). A Religious History of the American People. Yale University Press. p. 985. ISBN 9780300100129.
  22. ^ "Convention of Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America Opposes Discrimination". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 6 December 1948. A statement calling on the churches of this country to press for extension of full social, political and economic rights to every citizen without discrimination as to race, color, creed or sex was adopted here this week-end at the three-day biennial convention of Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America. The Council represents 27 Protestant and Eastern Orthodox church bodies in the U.S.
  23. ^ "Christian Flag". The Christian Advocate. 84. New York: T. Carlton & J. Porter. 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.
  24. ^ 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!
  25. ^ Pollock, James R. (23 March 1996). Congratulations to The Christian Flag (Fourth ed.).
  26. ^ "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.
  27. ^ The Christian Century, Volume 59. Christian Century Company. 1942. p. 165.
  28. ^ "History of St. John Lutheran Church". St. John Lutheran Church. Retrieved 23 September 2021. Feelings of patriotism to the church characterized the period of World War II, 1940 – 1945. The American and Christian flags were presented to the church at this time.
  29. ^ a b Grose, Howard Benjamin (1917). Missions: American Baptist International Magazine, Volume 8. American Baptist Convention. p. 497.
  30. ^ 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.
  31. ^ 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.
  32. ^ Brown, Drew (25 March 2016). "Newfoundland's Government Flies a 'Christian Flag,' Low-Key Holy War Follows". Vice. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  33. ^ McCrummen, Stephanie (22 December 2017). "Taking up the Christian banner". The Washington Post. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  34. ^ a b c Elesha Coffman (13 July 2001), "Do You Know the History of the Christian Flag?", Christianity Today.
  35. ^ "National Royal Rangers Guidelines For Formations & Ceremonies" (PDF), Royal Rangers Guidelines, March 2013, archived from the original (PDF) on 17 April 2018, retrieved 31 May 2018.

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