Ask The UMC: Has The United Methodist Church always had an official symbol like the cross and flame?

(Left to right) Central United Methodist Church in Luanda, Angola, photo by Mike DuBose; food distribution site for the United Methodist Committee on Relief, Dagami, Philippines, photo by Mike DuBose; the Rev. Shalom Agtarap, photo by Paul Jeffrey; stained glass cross and flame, photo by Kathleen Barry.
(Left to right) Central United Methodist Church in Luanda, Angola, photo by Mike DuBose; food distribution site for the United Methodist Committee on Relief, Dagami, Philippines, photo by Mike DuBose; the Rev. Shalom Agtarap, photo by Paul Jeffrey; stained glass cross and flame, photo by Kathleen Barry.

The official insignia of The United Methodist Church has been the Cross and Flame since its founding in 1968. Prior to that, the Evangelical United Brethren Church, one of our predecessors, adopted an insignia with the church name encircling clasped hands in front of a Latin cross. The symbols and seals for other predecessor denominations were generally varied in form and use.

In 1966, a commission on church union, representing The Methodist Church and The Evangelical United Brethren, was authorized to develop an official insignia. Edward J. Mikula (art director) and Edwin H. Maynard (editorial director) were appointed to develop the design.

Artist Edward J. Mikula poses with the Cross and Flame emblem he had designed in 1968. This photo is from the book Keeping Up With The Revolution by Edwin Maynard. Archived Photo, United Methodist Communications.
Artist Edward J. Mikula poses with the Cross and Flame emblem he had designed in 1968. This photo is from the book Keeping Up With The Revolution by Edwin Maynard. Archived Photo, United Methodist Communications.
Early on they established principles for the design: that it should be simple, bold, instantly recognizable, obviously Christian and uniquely Wesleyan. They determined that it should have official colors, but also be capable of reproduction in black and white.

One of their designs, the one officially adopted, was the Cross and Flame. Following more than two dozen conceptualizations, a traditional symbol of the cross was linked with a single flame with dual tongues of fire.

The resulting insignia is rich in meaning. It relates The United Methodist Church to God through Christ (cross) and the Holy Spirit (flame). The flame is a reminder of Pentecost when witnesses were unified by the power of the Holy Spirit and saw "tongues, as of fire" (Acts 2:3).

The elements of the emblem also recall a transforming moment in the life of Methodism’s founder, John Wesley, when he sensed God's presence and felt his heart "strangely warmed." The two tongues can also represent the two bodies that united in 1968 to form The United Methodist Church.

The 1968 Uniting Conference adopted this design as the official insignia of the new denomination, and so it has been to this day.

Excerpted from “The Cross and Flame: A Personal Memoir” by Edwin H. Maynard

Video: Chuck Knows Church – UMC Logo

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This content was produced by Ask The UMC, a ministry of United Methodist Communications. First published Oct. 16, 2018.

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