Like many other Christian traditions, Presbyterian are confessional. There are moments and periods in history, in other words, that require people of faith to think critically about what it means to be followers of Jesus Christ. In the years following Jesus' resurrection, Christians spent time thinking about who he was and what he did. Hence, the eventual creation of the Nicene Creed and its declaration that Jesus was both fully divine and fully human. Many years later, Christians in Europe found themselves needing to take a stand against Hitler and the rise of Nazism. The thoughtful engagement of Christians with that issue led to the creation of the Barmen Declaration and the basic assertion that people of faith owe their allegiance, finally, to Jesus Christ and nothing (or no one) else.
We invite you to enjoy the banners that represent the various statements of faith adopted by the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. Along with the descriptive plaques that accompany each one, they offer insight into the Christian faith in general, and the Presbyterian tradition in particular.
THE NICENE CREED (4TH CENTURY)
THE CROSS WHICH IS ALSO A SWORD:
A symbol for the Emperor Constantine and his successors because he called the ecumenical council which began the process of thinking which resulted in this creed; because he was the first Christian emperor and because he began the tradition of imperial Christianity. The cross is central here because the doctrine of Christ is central in the Creed.
THE BLUE TRIANGLE AND THE THREE SYMBOLS WITH IT:
The doctrine of the Trinity formalized in the Nicene Creed.
THE HAND REACHING DOWN:
God, the Father.
THE CHI RHO MONOGRAM:
Christ the first two letters of the Greek word for Christ, used by Constantine on shields and helmets of his Army.
The Holy Spirit.
The rule and glory of GOD
THE APOSTLE'S CREED
THE SOMBER BROWN COLOR:
The difficulty and rigor of early Christianity under persecution; also the monastic tradition.
THE PURPLE ARCHES:
The entrances to caves or catacombs, where early Christians met in secret; also the shape of Gothic church windows.
THE ANCHOR CROSS:
Security in Christ, as found by the apostles, some of whom were fishermen.
An ancient symbol for the Christian faith, perhaps a secret code mark. Letters of the Greek word for fish can be used as the first letters in the phrase "Jesus Christ God's Son Savior."
The Lord's Supper, and thus the earnest and simple fellowship of the early church.
THE UPSIDE-DOWN CROSS:
Peter, chief of the apostles, who, in legend, is said to have been crucified upside-down because he thought himself unworthy of a death like his Master's.
THE SCOTS CONFESSION (SCOTLAND, 1560)
THE BLUE OF THE SHIELD:
The background color of the Church of Scotland.
THE TARTAN, X-Shaped CROSS:
A form called St Andrew's Cross, he being the apostle who brought the gospel to Scotland. The Tartan, or plaid, is that of the Hamilton clan in honor of the first martyr of the Scottish Reformation, Patrick Hamilton.
THE CELTIC CROSS:
Another ancient form associated with Christians of the British Isles.
A symbol for the Church; the Confession contains a remarkable, strong doctrine of the Church.
THE BIBLE AND THE SWORD:
Paul called the word of God "The sword of the Spirit," and the sharpness of John Knox's preaching of the Word was a major power for reformation in Scotland.
THE BURNING BUSH WHICH IS NOT CONSUMED:
Reminding us of Moses' Sinai experience, thus a symbol of God's presence and call: the chief symbol of the Church of Scotland.
THE HEIDELBERG CATECHISM (GERMANY, 1563)
THE REGAL RED AND GOLD:
A tribute to the rule of Frederick III who ordered the writing of the Catechism for followers of John Calvin in Germany.
THE CROWN OF THORNS, THE "GERMAN" CROSS AND THE TABLETS:
Symbols of Misery, Redemption and Thankfulness-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:
The Trinity-with the Hebrew name of God on the left orb, the Greek monogram for Jesus on the right orb, and the flame standing for the Holy Spirit. There is a long discussion of the Trinity in the Catechism
THE SECOND HELVETIC CONFESSION (SWITZERLAND, 1566)
THE BLUE AND WHITE:
Heraldic colors of ancient Switzerland.
Again dominant on this banner because of the extensive discussion of salvation in the Confession.
THE HAND AND THE BURNING HEART:
A traditional symbol for John Calvin, father of Presbyterianism in its Swiss homeland.
Knowledge and discipline, two of the themes of the Helvetic which make it unique.
THE SHEPHERD'S CROOK AND THE PASTURE:
The pastoral ministry and the flock's care for its own members.
THE CHALICE AND THE WAVES:
Holy Communion and Baptism. Catechism
THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION AND THE SHORTER CATECHISM (ENGLAND, 1646)
THE THREE LONG PANELS AND THE MAROON TRIANGLE:
God's providence and control of all life and history-a dominant theme of Westminster.
THE OPEN BIBLE:
The authority of the written Word, basic to this Confession's teachings.
THE ALPHA AND THE OMEGA:
The A and Z of the Greek alphabet, the first and last-referring to Christ and His death for us as central to our faith.
THEOLOGICAL DECLARATION OF BARMEN (GERMANY, 1934)
THE SWASTIKA CROSSED OUT AND THE CROSS RISING:
A protest and witness against Nazi tyranny and any effort to take the role of God and control of the church.
The suffering and death which follows from defense of the faith against tyranny, as for some of the Barinen signers. But the cross survives such persecution and the crisis of war, rising out of the flames..
THE CONFESSION OF 1967
THE BLUE, THE RED AND THE GOLD:
Colors of the official seal of the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.
THE GOLDEN, DOWN-REACHING HAND (REPEATED FROM THE NICENE BANNER):
God, relating to His world.
THE CROWN (REPEATED FROM THE WESTMINSTER BANNER) AND THE NAIL-SCARRED HAND:
The death and victory of Christ as he reconciles the world.
THE FOUR HANDS OF DIFFERENT COLORS, THE CLASPED HANDS AND THE GREEN CIRCLE:
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.
THE STARS AND PLANETS ON THE BLUE BACKGROUND:
The Space-Age setting of this Confession.
BRIEF STATEMENT OF FAITH
A rainbow of colors representing the celebration of unity with the diversity of cultures and races living in Christ.
THE BLUE BACKGROUND:
Symbolizes the universe as the light of the Word of God bringing us together.
THE EARTH CRACKS:
Symbolizing our divisiveness and diversity, yet our faith unites us with the one universal Church.
THE SECURE HANDS OF GOD:
Remind us that he who holds our world together in turmoil will unite us in grace of Jesus Christ. This is the foundation of our knowledge of God’s sovereign love and our living together in the Holy Spirit.
THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (USA):
Symbol of a Brief Statement of Faith The descending dove represents peace and the baptism of Christ.
THE OPEN BIBLE:
Symbolizes the Word of God. The Font recalls the Sacrament of Baptism, while the table recalls the Sacrament of Communion, and the pulpit, the preaching of the Word.
Represent the burning bush and Pentecost. The overall image suggests the human figure with stretched out arms.