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Pastor Argues It’s Time for the Cross and Flame to Go

cross and flame
The North Texas Conference voted at its Sept. 19 annual meeting to submit legislation to General Conference 2021 that would begin the process of changing the church’s Cross and Flame insignia. Logo courtesy of United Methodist Communications.

A pastor’s call to replace the Cross and Flame as the official insignia of The United Methodist Church has picked up the backing of the North Texas Conference.

The Rev. Edlen Cowley wrote a column this summer urging that the denomination move away from the Cross and Flame, saying the emblem conjures for him and other African Americans the terror of Ku Klux Klan cross burnings.

The North Texas Conference voted 558-176 on Sept. 19, at its annual meeting, to submit to the 2021 General Conference legislation drafted by Cowley that would begin the process of changing the insignia.

Cowley said in an interview that a rebranding of The United Methodist Church is in order, given that the denomination faces a possible split and has begun an anti-racism campaign.

The Rev. Edlen Cowley Photo courtesy of the North Texas Conference.

“This would be a monumental change in a monumental moment,” Cowley said of replacing the Cross and Flame.

Cowley is pastor of Fellowship United Methodist Church in the Dallas suburb of Trophy Club, and a North Texas Conference delegate to the 2021 General Conference.

He wrote in his column that as a boy traveling by car with his family from east Texas to Shreveport, Louisiana, he had seen a cross burning and never forgotten it.

In speaking to the North Texas Conference, he called cross burning “a historically powerful image that for over 100 years has been and still is being used today to assert dominance and invoke fear.”

Cowley also noted that The United Methodist Church had officially been created at the Uniting Conference in Dallas.

“The United Methodist Church was born in North Texas in 1968,” Cowley told fellow conference members. “It would be fitting that the genesis of its re-brand and to some degree its rebirth would begin right here in North Texas.”

In 1966, as The Methodist Church and The Evangelical United Brethren Church were moving toward merger, a commission on union was assigned to devise an official insignia.

Edward J. Mikula and Edwin H. Maynard worked on various design options. The Cross and Flame prevailed and was adopted by the Uniting Conference. The insignia was registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 1971 and gradually became commonly displayed by churches around the connection.

The insignia combines the cross, as a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice, with two flames. Those suggest the “tongues, as of fire” (Acts 2:3) present through the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, as well as the Methodist Church and EUB.