(RNS) — It’s known in the United Methodist Church as the “Cross and Flame.”
But the denomination’s logo — two red flames intertwined with a thin, black cross — means something else to the Rev. Edlen Cowley, pastor of Fellowship United Methodist Church near Dallas.
It reminds Cowley, who is Black, of the first burning cross he saw.
He was 10 years old, riding in the car with his family from Marshall, Texas, where his dad pastored Miles Memorial Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, to Shreveport, Louisiana. His mother pointed it out, burning alongside the freeway, explaining that the symbol was meant to instill fear in Black people.
“No longer should we be represented by an image that was devised to evoke fear in the minds of so many,” Cowley wrote this summer for United Methodist News Service.
Now one of the United Methodist Church’s regional conferences has taken up the call to replace the denomination’s logo because of its association for many with the racist imagery of a burning cross.
The North Texas Annual Conference voted 558-176 at its annual meeting last weekend (Sept. 19) to send legislation to the 2021 General Conference, the denomination’s global decision-making body, to begin the process for changing that logo.
“If the logo itself has become a stumbling block to part of the population we’re trying to reach, then it’s time for a change,” the Rev. Clayton Oliphint, who chairs the North Texas delegation to the General Conference, told United Methodist News Service.
The move comes as the General Conference’s quadrennial meeting in Minneapolis was postponed more than a year, from May 2020 to two weeks in late August and early September 2021, due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Most notably, delegates at that meeting are set to discuss a proposal to split the denomination over a decades-long disagreement on same-sex marriage and the ordination of LGBTQ clergy.
It also comes as the United Methodist Church, the second-largest Protestant denomination in the United States, launches an initiative called Dismantling Racism.
It’s unclear whether the General Conference will take up the legislation as a spokesperson for the United Methodist Church said the deadline to submit petitions for the 2021 meeting had passed.
Some in the North Texas Annual Conference questioned whether it was also the right time to discuss creating a new logo, according to United Methodist News Service.
But, Cowley told UMNS, “This would be a monumental change in a monumental moment.”