Our Insignia

History of The United Methodist
 Cross and Flame Symbol


An Insignia Known the World Over

Think about the products that you use, see or hear about every day - food, clothes, home appliances and automobiles. Brand names, jingles and trademarks seem engraved on your memory. That's no coincidence. Industries are zealous in the protection of their brand names, jingles and trademarks. Each is valued highly.

The United Methodist church also has its insignia. Each time you see the cross and flame emblem, you are looking at United Methodism's official symbol.

Known informally as the cross and flame logo but formally as the denomination's insignia, it has been in use nearly two decades. It is seen in cities, towns and rural areas at every point of the compass.

The insignia identifies church buildings. Road signs bearing its insignia direct worshipers to local churches. It may grace a church altar as a freestanding symbol or may be seen behind the altar as a wall hanging. It is displayed on banners; imprinted on bulletins; and embossed on business cards, certificates and stationery.

United Methodism's cross and flame has been fashioned in wood and metals; preserved on film; reproduced in stained glass, stone and Native American beadwork. Is has been cut from felt, embossed on parchment, silk-screened on Plexiglas, embroidered on linen, encased in Lucite and etched in silver and gold.

A local church may own a United Methodist flag on which the insignia is imprinted. Cross and flame decals may be affixed to the church's glass doors. The church may give a formal note to its documents by using a corporate seal press, which reproduces the insignia.

United Methodists recognize the emblem on the cover of The Book of Discipline. In the pews, congregations use The Book of Hymns and The Book of Worship. The insignia is stamped on the cover and the spine of both volumes.

United Methodists frequently wear jewelry that displays the insignia. United Methodist Women have taken the insignia and created their own stylized version to remind them of the opportunities and obligations of discipleship. The Women's Program Division's reproduction of the insignia always appears within a teardrop-shaped outline.

On an automobile, you might spot the familiar cross and flame on a license plate frame or a bumper sticker. And, perhaps, young people piling into that car may be wearing T-shirts and caps that display the insignia.

In short, the insignia has been used in as many ways as creative minds can imagine. It has traveled as far as United Methodists can carry it. Now, the cross and flame is seen on every continent except Antarctica.

Its History

Creation of the United Methodist insignia began in 1968. The Uniting Conference directed the Division of Interpretation of the former Program Council to "design and supervise the use of an official insignia."

Edward J. Mikula, the division's art director, was assigned to create the insignia. Working with him - in research on symbolic aspects - was Edwin H. Maynard, then editorial director. Both men were determined that, whatever the insignia's form, some expression of warmth would be conveyed - a warmth such as John Wesley had experienced on a long-ago spring evening in Aldersgate Street.

Following some two dozen conceptualizations, a traditional symbol - the cross - was linked with a dual flame. The insignia thereby relates our church to God by way of the second and third persons of the Trinity, the Christ (cross) and the Holy Spirit (flame).

Apart from Wesleyan Trinitarian theology and warmth, the flame has two other connotations. The flame suggests Pentecost when witnesses saw "tongues as of fire." The duality of the flame was meant to represent the merger in 1968 of two denominations: the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church.

The insignia was formally adopted, one design with lettering (The United Methodist Church) and one without. In 1971, the insignia was registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office as a service insignia and collective membership insignia. That registration - officially No. 917,433 - remains in effect.

Since 1972, the Division of Program and Benevolence Interpretation, United Methodist Communications, has assumed custody of the emblem.

Its Integrity

Because the cross and flame is an official insignia, any reproduction must be faithful to the original design. For that reason, reproduction proofs are available. A set of two such proofs for letterpress and offset printing contain examples of the insignia with and without the words "The United Methodist Church." Insets bearing insignia in varying sizes are available on a single mimeo stencil. Spanish and Korean versions are available as well.

It is not hard to recognize an unauthorized or poor reproduction of the insignia. The persons who supervise the insignia's use scrutinize three areas in particular. The base of the flame should be lower than that of the cross. The tip of the left portion of the flame must align with the left arm of the cross. And - this is more difficult to detect - the space between the flame and the upright of the cross is wider at the top of the design than it is at the bottom.

Observing these and other criteria enables the user to make a faithful copy. General Conference has authorized use of the insignia under the following circumstances: The insignia may be used by any official agency of the Church, including local churches, to identify the work, program, and materials of The United Methodist Church. Any commercial use of the design must be explicitly authorized by an appropriate officer of this agency." (Discipline, Par. 1906.16)

For this consent, a letter of inquiry should be directed to the Division of Program and Benevolence Interpretation, United Methodist Communications, P. O. Box 320, Nashville, TN 37202-0320

In printing the emblem, avoid using odd two-color combinations. United Methodist Communications recommends that if more than one color is used, the flame be a specified shade of red known to printers as "PMS Warm Red." Ordinarily, when only one color is used, the entire design appears in a solid color. But it may be printed with the flame screened (shaded), thereby creating a contrast between it and the cross. If the cross and flame are printed in a solid single color, there should be a line of space all around the arm of the cross that lies against the flame. Otherwise, the arm will not be visible.

The words accompanying the design - The United Methodist Church - are as much a part of the insignia as are the cross and flame. Their positioning - both as horizontal and as vertical elements - should not be altered. The words always should appear in capital letters.

Perhaps someone might construe registration of our insignia as intent to prohibit or decrease its use. Actually, "Device No. 917,433" was registered to shield the integrity of its design and to encourage the use of an insignia known the world over.

[Church History]