The Presbyterian Church confesses its faith through the creeds and confessions contained in The Book of Confessions. These confessions help the Presbyterian Church explain:
- who and what it is
- what it believes and
- what it resolves to do
These confessions were written over time and in response to specific world events. As a way of defining who we are, these confessions were adopted and/or chartered by the Presbyterian Church.
See the text of these confessions at the following URL: http://www.pcusa.org/oga/publications/boc.pdf
The banners shown here represent these confessions. We are grateful to West Side member Nandy Fowls who headed the design team for our new banners, replacements for those lost in the fire of 2002. Our new banners were used for the first time in a special Festival of Banners on Reformation Sunday, October 31, 2010. They will continue to be used at similar services in the future. Fortunately, through this website, you can see them any time!
THE NICENE CREED
The CROSS which is also a sword is a symbol for the Emperor Constantine and his successors. He called the Ecumenical Council that began the deliberations which resulted in this creed. Constantine was the first Christian emperor, and he began the tradition of imperial Christianity. The cross is central on this banner because the doctrine of Christ is central in the Nicene Creed. The GREEN TRIANGLE and the three symbols with it stand for the doctrine of the Trinity formalized in the Nicene Creed. The hand reaching down is a symbol for God the Father. The Chi Rho monogram is for Christ. These are the first two letters of the Greek word for Christ, used by Constantine on shields and helmets of his army. The DOVE is our symbol for God the Holy Spirit, since the Gospels tell how the Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove from the sky. The CROWNS on the banner speak of the rule and glory of God.
THE APOSTLES’ CREED
The somber BROWN COLOR reminds us of the difficulty and rigor of early Christianity under persecution. It may also represent for us the monks — the monastic tradition of the early centuries. The PURPLE ARCHES suggest the entrances to caves or catacombs where early Christians met in secret. They also represent the shape of church windows. The ANCHOR CROSS symbolizes security in Christ, as found by the apostles, some of whom were fishermen. The FISH is 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 CHALICE points to the Lord’s Supper and the earnest and simple fellowship of the early church. The UPSIDE-DOWN CROSS stands for Peter, chief of the apostles. In legend Peter is said to have been crucified upside down, because he thought himself unworthy of a death like his Master’s.
THE SCOTS CONFESSION
The BLUE of the shield is the background color of the seal of the Church of Scotland. The cross appears in some form on all nine banners. The TARTAN, X-SHAPED CROSS is a form called St. Andrew’s Cross. St. Andrew was the apostle who became the patron saint of early Christians in that part of the world. 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 is another ancient form associated with Christians in the British Isles. The circle on the cross may stand for the whole of life, or the whole of the world for which Christ died. The SHIP is a symbol for the church. This confession contains a remarkable and strong doctrine of the church. The BIBLE and SWORD: the Apostle 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 reminds us of Moses’ experience on Mt. Sinai. This symbol for God’s presence and God’s call to service is a prominent symbol of the Church of Scotland.
THE HEIDELBERG CATECHISM
The regal RED and GOLD constitute 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 are symbols of MISERY, REDEMPTION, and THANKFULNESS, which are the three basic themes of the catechism. The TABLETS stand for the Ten Commandments, which appear in the catechism’s instruction that OBEDIENCE is the proper form of thankfulness to God. The two LIGHTS and the FIRE represent the Trinity, with the Hebrew name of God on the left orb, and the flame standing for the Holy Spirit. There is a lengthy discussion on the Trinity in the catechism.
THE SECOND HELVETIC CONFESSION
The BLUE and WHITE colors of the banner are heraldic colors of ancient Switzerland. The CROSS is again dominant in this banner, because of the extensive discussion of the meaning of salvation in the confession. The HAND and the BURNING HEART are traditional symbols for John Calvin, the father of Presbyterianism. The LAMP stands for knowledge and discipline, two of the themes of the Helvetic which make it unique. The SHEPHERD’S CROOK and the PASTURE symbolize the pastoral ministry and the flock’s care for its own members. The CHALICE and the WAVES are symbols for the two sacraments of the Presbyterian Church, Baptism and Holy Communion.
THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION AND CATECHISMS
The THREE LONG PANELS and the MAROON TRIANGLE symbolize the Trinity. The EYE is a symbol for God’s providence and sovereignty, God’s control of all life and history, which are dominant themes of Westminster. The CROWN stands for God’s rule over life and over the world. The OPEN BIBLE represents the authority of Scripture, a basic teaching of this confession. The ALPHA and OMEGA at the bottom of the banner are the A and Z of the Greek alphabet, the first and the last. They refer to the eternal life we are promised in Christ.
THE BARMEN DECLARATION
The broken and fading SWASTIKA with the CROSS rising from the flames constitute a protest and witness against Nazi tyranny and any political effort to take the role of God and try to control the church. The FIRE speaks of the suffering and death experienced by some of the Barmen writers, which resulted from their defense of the faith against tyranny.
THE CONFESSION OF 1967
The BLUE, RED and GOLD are colors of the official seal of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. for which this confession was composed during the turbulent 1960’s. The golden down-reaching HAND, repeated from the banner for the Nicene Creed, is the symbol for God relating to God’s world. The CROWN, repeated from the Westminster banner, and the nail-scarred HAND stand together for the death and victory of Christ as he reconciled the world. The FOUR HANDS of different colors, the CLASPED HANDS, and the GREEN CIRCLE represent the reconciled world at the foot of the cross, since God’s act of reconciliation is the starting point and the theme of the Confession of 1967. The STARS and PLANETS on the blue background suggest to us the Space-age setting of this confession.
THE BRIEF STATEMENT OF FAITH
The CROSS at the center of the banner is in a rainbow of colors representing the diversity of races and cultures living in Christ. The BLUE BACKGROUND symbolizes the universe as the light of the Word of God bringing us together. The EARTH is cracked symbolizing our divisiveness and diversity, and affirming the faith we confess that unites us with the one universal Church. The SECURE HANDS OF GOD remind us that the God who holds our world together in turmoil will unite us in the 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 symbol of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) represents the descending dove of peace and the baptism of Christ. The open Bible symbol and the pulpit point to the Word of God proclaimed. The Font recalls our baptism, while the table image recalls the Lord’s Supper. The FLAMES represent the burning bush and Pentecost fire. The overall image suggests a human figure with outstretched arms.