The Use of Crucifixes
NCW 53, March-April 1998
Q. What is your Church's attitude towards the use of crosses in church buildings and meeting places?
We have had many questions of this type over the years and they are not easy to answer, but answerable they are.
The cross has, over the centuries, become the established symbol of Christen- dom and is used by all major church groupings. It is also used by the secular society as a symbol of death. Thus maps showing war-dead will often be represented by small black crosses. Crosses are also uses as decorative symbols and jewelry by unbelievers and variations or mutations of it are used by New Agers (such as the Ankh cross which has a loop instead of the vertical post). There are also many different types of cross, from the Latin (U) to the Celtic (W), and the Saltire (X) to the Tau (T). The Greek Orthodox Church has its own Cross consisting of a Latin cross with an inscription at the top (INRI) and a foot rest at the bottom. The Protestant churches tend to use the Latin cross as this cluster of denominations emerged from Catholicism.
The question as to whether or not one should use crosses has been debated by New Covenant Christians for a decade now as its members have come from different traditions. We have tended not to use crosses in our meeting houses or places of worship, save on our regular banners, though from 1992 onwards the Church adopted and began to use the Patriarchal Cross, more commonly known as the Calvary Cross. Although this particular version of the cross has been in use for a very long time it has a rather special meaning for New Covenant Christians. It consists of a Latin cross atop three graded steps. The cross itself symbolises a cluster of concepts which include the death and resurrection of Christ and, more importantly, new life in Christ which is made possible only by the first two. The three steps correspond to the Church (on one level) and its three principle ministries of the Apostle-Patriarchs, Elders and Deacons (the foundation being the Deaconate), and to the Godhead (on another level) of Father, Son and Holy Spirit (the foundation being the Holy Spirit). There are other meanings but these are the main ones. Three is also a number of perfection and corresponds to the three resurrections of glory.
This logo, usually gold on a red background, is commonly found on our pulpits. Crosses are not otherwise found in our churches or meeting rooms. The Patriarchal Cross is also found on the shield of the knight-and-rider logo of a Metropolitan Colony. Sometimes a small priesthood logo (consisting of white lamb on a book lying on a gold interlacing six-point triangle) is to be found at the intersection of the cross.
New Covenant Christians like simplicity of worship and our meeting places are not therefore found to contain many symbols apart from the colonial banners and the Patriarchal Cross on the pulpit. The traditional Latin cross, which so often reminds people only of death, is not often used by us, and the crosses of the Orthodox, Celtic and other churches, are not usually to be found. The cross is, in any case, more a concept than a symbol for us, embracing, as it does, the whole message of salvation. For further information, see The Olive Branch, p.94, footnote #89
This page was created on 9 May 1998
Last updated on 9 May 1998
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