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The Christian Flag

Apr 14, 2017

[The Christian Flag]

The "Christian Flag" is a white flag with a blue canton and a red cross in it. It was designed by Charles Overton in 1897 to represent Protestants of all denominations. (See the Knopf "Eyewitness Books" volume entitled "Flag".) Of course all the Scandinavian cross flags could be called Christian, considering the story of King Valdemar in 1219 inDenmark, who saw the cross of Christ, and it led him to victory. 

[Meaning of the colours: White: purity and peace; Blue: faith and truth; Red: blood of Jesus Christ and love]

Having lived in Sydney for over seven years, I have never seen the Christian Flag displayed (let alone flown) in Australia. 

I think the original idea was to have a symbol to represent a quasi-ecumenical revivalist movement within American Protestantism in the late 19th century. As to who uses the flag, doing some quick web surfs, I found the following facts:

- Such mainstream Protestant groups as the Methodists and Presbyterians gave explicit sanction to the use of the "Christian" Flag in churches in resolutions passed in the 1940s. 

- A great many local church websites of mainstream Protestant churches (Presbyterian, Methodist, and, of course, Baptist) mention either the display of the "Christian" Flag or the pledge to it. This suggests that its use is rather widespread, beyond just the conservative evangelical bodies. 

- Several sites mention that Lutheran churches began using the Christian Flag along with the US flag in churches during the World War II years. They attribute this practice to German-Americans wanting to prove their patriotism. 

- The United Methodist and Evangelical Lutheran churches' websites contain articles expressing disapproval of the display of either the US or "Christian" Flags in churches. On the other hand, neither was prepared to say that their use is impermissible.

To put things in perspective, the sizes of the denominations we're talking about here are about 30 million Baptists (of which about 16 million are Southern Baptists); 13 million Methodists (of which about 8 million United Methodists); 8 million Lutherans (roughly 5 million Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and 3 million conservative Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod); 4 million Presbyterians; 2 million Episcopalians. These compare to some 60 million Roman Catholics (virtually all of whom have the Stars and Stripes and Holy See flags in their churches). 

A conference of "mainstream" Protestant denominations some decades ago concluded that the Christian Flag, if displayed, should take precedence in a church over the national flag. Actual practice varies between individual parishes/congregations. The Catholic church my wife and children belong to has the US and Holy See flags in the seating area of the church, with the Holy See flag on the right (US flag code says under that arrangement, the US flag should be on the right). The Presbyterian church to which I belong has the US and Christian flags right at the base of the raised area on which the minister conducts the service. Again, the Christian Flag is on the right, the reverse of the US flag code arrangement. But the nearby colonial-era Episcopal church has the US and Episcopal flags hanging on the wall above the pulpit, with the US flag to its own right, as the Flag Code calls for.

Perhaps one might start by describing this flag either as "The Christian Flag (TM)" or "_a_ Christian flag". It is by no means accepted (or even known) by Christians world-wide (or even just in the U.S.)

This flag should really be designated as "Christian Flag", i.e. with *heavy* quotation marks. It is no more *The* Christian Flag than any of the Earth flags is *The* flag for this planet. I don't think that this is a question of denominations, but rather a question of nationality. It is pretty well known in the USA, but beside some vexillologists no one outside USA knows it, I guess. And even more, as we have discussed a little bit the topic "flags in churches", there is obviously no need felt by Christians in other countries to have a common Christian flag. There are just too many different traditions of flying flags *in* the church or *from* the church building or *on* church grounds!

It's correct that this flag isn't known by Christians world-wide. Because it's a free flag and doesn't stand for a political entity or a certain church, its acceptance can't be decreed. This flag is as successful as it is known and accepted by Christians. The designation 'Christian Flag' does not apply to its acceptance but to its *message*. This flag is over-denominational and wants to symbolize the Christian faith, the faithfulness for Christ and represent all Christian believers. This was also the intention of its creator. Therefore it was called 'Christian Flag' from the beginning, and, as I can see, this designation has been accepted wherever this flag was shown. Moreover I haven't met another flag with that name (there are many denominational Church flags but not with the claim to represent all Christians). So I think it's not exaggerated to write 'Christian Flag' with a big F (in German with a big C). Indeed this flag is being used more by Protestants than by Catholics but this has foremost historical reasons (it was created in a Protestant church and thus spread more in the Protestant sphere) and I suppose that the concurrence of the Vatican flag plays its role.

As long as there is no other flag with the same meaning and claim, I don't see a problem calling it "the Christian Flag". As I said, its name refers to its message, not to its universal acceptance (which nobody alleges).
Just because there are many other particular flag traditions, there is a need for a common flag without institutional bonds.

The Christian Flag is reported in use (as well as in the USA) in Canada and I have seen photos from Brazil and even a photo from the South Sudanese SPLA soldiers carrying it. I know from two German Free-Churches using it and a German flag trader offering it on his website, and from some Swiss Christians.

There is one of those flags at my church (on the stage, along with the Canadian flag, the Canadian flag is on the viewer's left!), the blue is a lot lighter, though.
A few important notes on this fact: first of all, my church (and the denomination to which it belongs) is Canadian! I would also assume that the flag was purchased here in Winnipeg, so it must have some knowledge in Canada. My church denomination is also Protestant, we are a member of the Evangelical Free Church of Canada (I will say that I don't know if it's in other EFC churches in the country, I've only been in mine, and I haven't seen it in other Protestant churches that I've been in).

The flag is also used by some foreign Protestant groups connected to US evangelical missionary organizations, particularly in Latin America.

Pictures on the Frontline Fellowship website showing the Christian Flag are mostly taken in Sudan and Zambia. Hundreds of Christian Flags are flying in each of those countries. They have all been taken in the last few years. These flags most certainly do play a part in the Christian communities. They serve as a witness, as an identification symbol, as an inspiration, and as a reminder that we are also citizens of the Kingdom of heaven.