A new symbol for a decaying denomination (2024)

One of my greatest sorrows is to pass by empty and shuttered Episcopal churches nestled in various towns and cities across these fruited plains. These gorgeous stone and wooden structures often possess carved red doors that once stood open even on weekdays. Tasteful signs announced that “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You.” Red is a churchy color—both inviting and richly reminiscent of the blood of Christ. And, sometimes on or over the door, many churches had shields, often hand-painted, representing the local congregation, town, state, and, most importantly, The Episcopal Church.

The old shield bore St. George’s Cross. In the corner, nine crosses for the nine original dioceses recalled St. Andrew, patron of the Scottish church that gave America her first bishop. St. George the dragon slayer has been banished, though, and in his place is the emblem of lust and pride.

The church’sofficial website explains:

“The design retains the upper-left blue corner of The Episcopal Church’s shield logo and incorporates elements of the traditional Pride flag as well as the Progress Pride flag and Philadelphia Pride flag. In their use of black, brown, pink, and light-blue diagonal lines, the latter two flags represent intersectional progress in acknowledging people who are often overlooked by the mainstream LGBTQ+ movement: communities of color; the transgender community; and the many thousands harmed by anti-LGBTQ+ policy—from those who lost their lives in the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and ’90s, to those still disproportionately impacted today.”

Pride has been around so long it confers its own traditions. That, along with “disproportionate impact,” furnished senior graphic designer Melissa Walker with the creative vision she needed. “I hope many more people feel seen and included by this new graphic as we enter Pride month,” she said.

What are the consequences of taking away the signs and symbols of Christian faith and replacing them with those of the LGBTQ+ movement? At the very least, the old shield was dignified and the new one is, well, just vulgar. The old version welcomed the worshipper into the solemn, historic, and Biblical rhythms of morning and evening prayer. The new shield, by contrast, declares a rigid creed of self-affirmation and self-acceptance, one that, wrapped ironically in the sign of God’s wrath, turns the worshipper inward toward herself rather than outward toward God’s grace.

When the Church becomes about diversity, equity, and inclusion rather than the Way, the Truth, and the Life, its new emblem necessarily clashes with all previous symbolic touchstones.

But I think the most disappointing consequence of throwing away the old Episcopal Shield and replacing it with Pride is that it’s not even vestigially Christian. Except for the little crosses in the corner, which with all the other colors appear only mutely decorative, the rainbow of intersectionality represents a dismally narrow corporate ideology.

Last year, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, in the way former Episcopalians such as myself have come to expect, issued a theologically vague declaration of pride: “I believe deep in my soul that God is always seeking to create a world and society where all are loved, where justice is done, and where the God-given equality of us all is honored in our relationship, in our social relationships, and in law.” One would have hoped that the head of a supposed Christian body would have known that God, who won peace by the blood of the cross, isn’t “seeking” to do anything other than what he has already done—“It is finished,” said Jesus when He was high and lifted up (John 19:30). What He is doing now is calling out His sheep to form the Bride which is the Church.

The cross, that moment when the great serpent was cast down by our champion and Lord, always speaks of the felicitous embrace of justice and mercy (Psalm 85:10). The jumble of multicolored lines pointing in every direction, by contrast, represents a confused and disordered temporality in which God can only impotently seek and passively hope that we will accomplish His justice by our self-adoring love. When the Church becomes about diversity, equity, and inclusion rather than the Way, the Truth, and the Life, its new emblem necessarily clashes with all previous symbolic touchstones (John 14:6).

At the time the shield was unveiled, TEC announced “the hire of its first gender justice staff officer, a new position called for by the 80th General Convention and dedicated to justice, advocacy, and inclusion work focused on women and LGBTQ+ people.” If you don’t know what “gender justice” is, it is the embodied version of the Pride shield, the person who shows up to make sure nothing Biblical or Christian gets spoken in any Episcopal Church space, however empty.

A new symbol for a decaying denomination (2024)
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