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Confessional Banners
Confessional Banners
The Confessional Banners of the Presbyterian Church symbolize nine creeds and confessions from the early Christian era to the twentieth century. These historic statements of faith represent our Christian heritage from the Roman Empire to the Reformation, including contemporary reflections of faith in our own time.

Banner Brief Stmnt

Statement of Faith

 A Brief Statement of Faith which was adopted following the reunion of the former United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America and the Presbyterian Church of the United States (the “Southern” Presbyterian church).


The rainbow-colored cross suggests the diversity of the cultures and races that live in Christ. The blue background symbolizes the universe that is the light of the Word of God that brings us together. The globe in the center of the cross has cracks that symbolize our broken-ness, while the secure “hands of God” remind us that the one who holds our world together in turmoil will unite us in the grace of Christ.


The white descending dove over an open book (the Bible) that is at once also a pulpit and a table abutted by the flames of the Holy Spirit is the official symbol of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).


 Banner Heidelberg


The Heidelberg Catechism, the fourth (chronologically) of the eleven documents of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Book of Confessions. Written in 1563, in Heidelberg, the Catechism had the purpose of uniting the two movements of the Protestant Reformation, the “Lutheran” and the “Reformed,” which were divided over the question of Christ’s bodily presence in the elements of the Lord’s Supper, around their commonly held theological affirmations.


The crown of thorns, the “German” cross, and the tablets -- symbols of misery, redemption and thankfulness, respectively -- represent the three basic themes of the Catechism. (The tablets stand for the Ten Commandments, which appear in the Catechism where it teaches that obedience is the proper form of thankfulness.) The two lights and the fire represent the “Trinity” (about which there is a long discussion in the Catechism), with the Hebrew name for God (Yah-weh) in the left orb, the Greek monogram for Jesus in the right orb, and the flame representing the Holy Spirit beneath the two.

 Banner Scots


The Scots Confession, written in 1560 (by John Knox and five other Scottish clergy) in celebration of the favorable conclusion to the civil war with England and recognition of Scotland’s sovereignty, which the “Presbyterian” Scots understood as “providential deliverance.”


The Scots Confession is one of the 11 creedal documents of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Book of Confessions. In the banner, the blue background of the shield is the color of the Church of Scotland. The X-shaped cross represents St. Andrew who, according to church tradition, is the apostle who brought the gospel to Scotland, and the tartan is the plaid of the clan Hamilton in honor of the Scottish Reformation’s first martyr, Patrick Hamilton.


The white Celtic cross is another ancient form associated with Christians of the British Isles; the ship at the lower left, an ancient symbol for “the Church,” suggests the strong doctrine of “the church” contained in the Confession; the Bible and sword (lower right) suggest the razor-like sharpness of John Knox’s preaching and also, with St. Paul, that the word of God is “the sword of the Spirit;” and the burning bush which is not consumed, at the bottom center, reminds us of Moses’ experience on Mt. Sinai and thus is a symbol of God’s constant presence and call, a primary theological affirmation of the Church of Scotland.

 Banner Westminster


Three of the documents produced by the Westminster Assembly of Divines during the tumultuous years in England between 1643 and 1649: The Westminster Confession and the Larger and Shorter catechisms, all three of which are now part of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Book of Confessions.


In the large center banner, the three vertical panels and the maroon triangle suggest the Confession’s “Trinitarian” emphasis. The eye represents God’s providence and sovereignty over all of life and history (a dominant theme of Westminster), the crown suggests God’s rule, the open Bible stands for the authority of the “written” Word (also basic to this Confession’s teachings), and the Greek alpha and omega, the first and last, refer to Christ and his death for us as central to our faith. The two banners at each side of the center suggest the question (Q) and answer (A) formats of the “Shorter” and “Larger” (i.e., longer) catechisms.


 Banner Apostles


The Apostles’ Creed, which first appeared, in its earliest form, in the late second century and is one of the eleven confessions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The somber brown background color represents the difficulty and rigor of early Christianity under persecution as well as the church’s “monastic” tradition. The purple arches suggest the shape of Gothic church windows but also represent entrances to caves and catacombs where early Christians met in secret. The four symbols at the corners are the anchor cross, representing security in Christ as first experienced by the apostles, some of whom were fishermen; the fish, which is an ancient symbol for the Christian faith and perhaps a secret code mark (In the Greek language, the word for “fish” is spelled by the first letters in the phrase Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior); the chalice, representing the Lord’s Supper; and the upside-down cross, an ancient symbol for Peter, who, in legend, is said to have been crucified head down because he considered himself unworthy of a death like his Master’s. (The Apostles’ Creed can be found on Page 14 of the Hymnal.)


 Banner Barmen



The Theological Declaration of Barmen, one of the 11 documents of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Book of Confessions.


The Barmen Declaration was adopted in May, 1934 (at Gemarke Church, Barmen, in the city of Wupperthal, Germany) by a group of 139 German ministers, lay persons, and theologians who opposed the accommodation of the so-called “German Christians” to the ideals of Hitler’s National Socialism. The “crossed out” swastika and the cross of Christ rising from the flames represent the courageous protest and witness that the signers of the Declaration made against Nazi tyranny and against any effort to take the role of God and take control of the Church. The fire at the bottom of the banner suggests the suffering and death that, at times, have followed from defense of the faith against tyranny (which indeed occurred in the instances of several of the Barmen signers). The cross, rising even out of flames, always survives such persecution and crisis.



 Banner 1967


The Confession of 1967 of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The banners colors (blue, red, and gold) were the colors of the official seal of the church in 1967. The gold, down-reaching hand represents God relating to the created world. The crown and the nail-scarred hand suggest the death and victory of Christ in reconciling the world. The four hands of different colors, the clasped hands, and the green circle together represent the reconciled world at the foot of the cross – God’s act of reconciliation being the starting point and theme of The Confession of 1967.


 Banner Nicene



The Nicene Creed (c. A.D. 325), one of the eleven confessions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The cross, which is also a sword, symbolizes Constantine, the first “Christian” emperor of the Roman Empire, who called together the ecumenical council that began the process resulting in this Creed. The cross is central because the doctrine of Christ is central to the Creed. The green triangle and three symbols with it suggest the doctrine of the Trinity: the hand reaching down, God the Father; the monogram Chi/Rho (the first two letters of the Greek word for Christ, used by Constantine on shields and helmets of his army), God the Son; and the dove, God the Holy Spirit. The circle of crowns represents the rule and glory of God. (The Nicene Creed can be found on Page 15 of the Hymnal.)


 Banner Helv

Second Helvetic

The Second Helvetic Confession, originally composed by Heinrich Bullinger, minister of the Reformed church in Zurich, Switzerland (The word “Helvetic” is Latin for “Swiss.), and now one of the 11 creedal documents of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Book of Confessions.


The blue and white of the banner are the heraldic colors of ancient Switzerland. The Cross is dominant because of the extensive discussion of salvation in the Confession; the hand and burning heart are a traditional symbol of John Calvin, father of Presbyterianism in its Swiss homeland; the lamp represents knowledge and discipline, two of the themes of the Confession which distinguish it; the shepherd’s crook and the pasture suggest pastoral ministry and the flock’s responsibility for its own members; and the chalice and the waves (water) suggest the two sacraments in Protestantism, Holy Communion and Baptism.

Last Published: April 19, 2008 6:44 PM
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