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NINE BANNERS DEPICTING CONFESSIONS FROM THE BOOK OF CONFESSIONS 

At the 178th General Assembly in 1966, the Church Constitution was changed to include a new Book of Confessions, adopting eight confessions for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). This Book of Confessions was the product of the church merger of the former Presbyterian Church of the United States and the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.
 
Following the adoption of the Book of Confessions, the Rev. Richard K. Avery, Pastor, and Mr. Donald S. Marsh, Choir Director, both of the Port Jervis, NJ Presbyterian Church, designed eight banners symbolic of the confessions that have since been officially adopted by the church.
 
In 1976 the women of our Church created a complete set of eight banners with materials provided by a Memorial Fund. Following the dedication service on October 31, 1976, the banners were displayed on the nave of the sanctuary as constant reminders of our Christian heritage. In 2008/9 other women of the church created a new set of banners including an additional one adopted in 1991, designed by Gay M. Sorenson.
 

THE NICENE CREED  

(4TH Century)
 
Soon after the period of the church’s history revealed in the New Testament, many different opinions about the meaning of God and Christ developed. Many were faithful to the original Gospel, but some were distortions of the Good News. As years passed, a clear concise statement of belief was needed to unify the church and guide Christians in their understanding. The Nicene Creed was a response to that need, the result of remarkable efforts by ancient theologians over several decades.  
 
The roots of this first creed in our Book of Confessions may be traced to the First Ecumenical Council, called by Constantine, the first Christian Emperor, and held in Nicea in 325 AD. For centuries the Nicene Creed served to unite Christians of all denominations and nationalities in understanding the meaning of Christ and the Trinitarian nature of God.
 
THE BANNER
 
The Cross, also a Sword, is a symbol for the Emperor Constantine and his successors. He called together the Ecumenical Council that created this creed. As the first Christian emperor, he began the tradition of imperial Christianity. The Cross is central because the doctrine of Christ is central to the Nicene Creed.
 
The triangle and the three symbols with it stand for the doctrine of the Trinity formalized in the Nicene Creed. The Hand is a symbol for God the Father. Symbolizing Christ, Chi Rho, the first two letters of the Greek word for Christ, were used by Constantine on his army’s shields and helmets. The Dove is the symbol for God, the Holy Spirit. The Crowns represent the rule and glory of God.
 
 
 
 
THE APOSTLES’ CREED
 
The Apostles’ Creed is better known in American churches than the Nicene Creed, although it is less widely used in all churches around the world. Its origins are not precisely known and it does not have the early official status of the Nicene Creed; nevertheless, the Apostles’ Creed serves as a simple reminder of the basic tenets of the Christian faith and reflects the faith of the first apostles of the New Testament Church.
 
The creed expresses the beliefs for which early Christians died, beliefs that survived into the more sophisticated Middle Ages and the modern era where this creed has become cherished by millions of people in our Western civilization.
 
THE BANNER
 
The somber brown color reminds us of the difficulty and rigor of early Christianity under persecution. It may also represent the monks of the monastic tradition of early centuries. The purple arches suggest entrances to caves or catacombs where early Christians met in secret. They also represent the shape of church windows.
 
The anchor Cross symbolizes the security in Christ experienced by the apostles, some of whom were fishermen. The Fish is an ancient symbol of the Christian faith, perhaps a secret code marking. Letters of the Greek word for fish, Chi and Rho, come from the first letters of the phrase, “Jesus Christ, God’s Son and Savior.”
 
The Chalice is a symbol of 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
(Scotland, 1560)
 
The Protestant Reformation occurred during the 16th century in Scotland. It was a stormy time, and in Scotland much suffering and bloodshed took place as many changes occurred in church life and belief. It is amazing that such a strong and articulate statement emerged in this time and place. John Knox, the outspoken, vigorous “Father of Presbyterianism in Scotland,” and five colleagues wrote the Scots Confession in 1560 in a period of four days. The writing had been commissioned by the Scottish Parliament to unite Protestants around a single statement of faith.
 
For 100 years this confession was the basic standard of belief for the Church of Scotland that is considered by many to be our parent church. The Scots Confession pointed out, often in angry terms, many of the errors of medieval Roman Catholicism and the tyranny of the throne, leading Christians to a way of faithfulness in the church, a way of loyalty to God’s Kingdom.
 
THE BANNER
 
The blue of the Shield is the background of the seal of the Church of Scotland. The Cross appears in some form in all eight banners. The Tartan, X-shaped Cross is called St. Andrew’s Cross, he being the apostle who brought the gospel to Scotland. The Tartan, or plaid, is from the Hamilton clan, in honor of the first martyr of the Scottish Reformation, Patrick Hamilton.
 
The Celtic Cross is an ancient form associated with Christians in the British Isles. The Ship is a symbol for the church. The Bible and the Sword relate to Paul’s calling the word of God, “the sword of spirit” and the sharpness of John Knox’s preaching of the Word that was a major power for reformation in Scotland. The Burning Bush that is not consumed reminds us of Moses’ experience on Mt. Sinai. This is the chief symbol of the Church of Scotland.

 

 
THE HEIDELBERG CONFESSION
(also called Heidelberg Catechism)(Germany, 1563)
 

During the 16th century, Lutheran teachings and forms of church life had found a warm reception in most of Germany. But in Southwest Germany there was a period of strong Presbyterianism under the Elector Palatine Frederick III who commissioned the writing of a catechism, a series of questions and answers for teaching new Christians in his area. Two young theologians, Olivianus and Ursinus, wrote this catechism in 1563. It is a uniquely warm-hearted, appealing and sound Biblical statement of faith as an expression of personal experience. The Heidelberg Catechism has received wide use and popularity in German Reformed Churches, in the Netherlands, and around the world.

 
THE BANNER
 
The regal red and gold constitute a tribute to the rule of Frederick III, who ordered the writing of the catechism for the followers of John Calvin in Germany. The Crown of Thorns, the German Cross, and the Tablets are symbols of misery, redemption and thankfulness, the three basic themes of the catechism. The Tablets stand for the Ten Commandments that 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, the Greek monogram for Jesus on the right Orb, and the Flame standing for the Holy Spirit. There is a lengthy discussion of the Trinity in this catechism.

 

 
 
 
 
THE SECOND HELVETIC CONFESSION
(Switzerland, 1566)
 
Switzerland was the actual birthplace of the Presbyterian and reformed tradition. It is therefore appropriate that our Book of Confessions includes a statement of faith from the16th century Reformation Period from that land. This confession was inspired by the work and teachings of John Calvin, who is called “The Father of World Presbyterianism.” The author of the Second Helvetic, or Swiss, Confession was Heinrich Bullinger, a friend of John Calvin and a pastor in Zurich.
 
As with all Reformation confessions of faith, this statement sets a course for church life and Christian thought. The path is very detailed and
practical, dealing with specific issues of church work and administration, as well as outlining carefully a doctrine of salvation that is in keeping with Protestant condemnations of Roman Catholic doctrines of that time.
 
THE BANNER
 
The blue and white colors of the banner are heraldic colors of ancient Switzerland. The Cross is dominant because of the extensive discussion of the meaning of salvation in the confession. The Hand and the Burning Heart are a traditional symbol of John Calvin, “The Father of World Presbyterianism.”
 
The Lamp stands for knowledge and discipline, two of the themes of the Helvetic Confession that make it unique. The Shepherd’s Crook and the Pasture symbolize the pastoral ministry and the flock’s care of its own members. The Chalice and the Waves are symbols for the two sacraments, Holy Communion and Baptism.

 

 
 
 
THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION
AND THE SHORTER CATECHISM
(England, 1647)
 
For most of the Presbyterian Church’s history, the Westminster documents of 1647 endured as the church’s theological standards, the major statements of faith in our church’s constitution. But with the adoption of a larger, more comprehensive Book of Confessions in 1967, the Westminster statements were no longer the only foundation stone. However, they continue to have unique importance in the spirit of our church.
 
Created by the lengthy Westminster Assembly of Divines and adopted by the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 1958, this Confession and the Shorter and Larger Catechisms were accepted by the British Parliament in 1968. The 35 articles of the Confession and the 107 questions and answers of the Shorter Catechism still speak with power and vitality as they are recorded in the Book of Confessions used by Presbyterians of today.
 
THE BANNER
 
The three long Panels and the maroon Triangle symbolize the Trinity. The Eye is a symbol for God’s providence and sovereignty over all life and history. It is the dominant theme of the Westminster Confession.  The Crown represents God’s rule. The Open Bible stands for the authority of the written Word, basic to this Confession’s teachings. The Alpha and Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, refer to Christ and His death for us – the center of our faith.

When Adolph Hitler came to power and tried to play God, when National Socialism in Germany tried to take control of the churches, and when the government tried to become the conscience of all people in Nazi Germany, many Christians simply gave in, along with a multitude of other Germans outside the church. But many leaders of Lutheran, Reformed Christian, and the Union Churches held an emergency meeting to voice their opposition, to find strength in each other, and to form a new force against Nazism.

THE THEOLOGICAL DECLARATION OF BARMEN
(Germany, 1934)
 
When Adolph Hitler came to power and tried to play God, when National Socialism in Germany tried to take control of the churches, and when the government tried to become the conscience of all people in Nazi Germany, many Christians simply gave in, along with a multitude of other Germans outside the church. But many leaders of Lutheran, Reformed Christian, and the Union Churches held an emergency meeting to voice their opposition, to find strength in each other, and to form a new force against Nazism.
 
Out of that gathering in May 1934, in Barmen, Germany, came this declaration. It spoke to the immediate situation based on centuries-old doctrines of the sovereignty of God, the authority of scripture, and the role of Christ as the only Savior of mankind. The declaration became the basis for Christian witness through the war years that followed. Today, the Declaration of Barmen stands as a landmark of militant Christianity among the great manifestoes of the church.
 
THE BANNER
 
The crossed-out Swastika and the rising Cross constitute a protest and witness against Nazi tyranny and any government effort to assume the role of God and control of the church. The Fire speaks of the suffering and death that followed from defense of faith against tyranny for some of the Barmen writers. But the Cross survived such persecution and the crisis of war, rising out of the flames!

 

 
 
 
 
 
THE CONFESSION OF 1967
(United States of America)
 
A great modern Presbyterian, John MacKay, has said, “The way into the future leads out of the past.” And that is the reason we have the Book of Confessions. But the maps of the past are not always entirely adequate for the challenging adventures of the present and future. Moreover, the Holy Spirit continues to do new things. Therefore, in 1967 this modern statement of the faith of the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, was written to supplement the Westminster Confession and the other statements of faith in our Book of Confessions. The Confession of 1967 is considered heavily influenced by the neo-orthodox views of Karl Barth, the Niebuhr brothers, and other theologians of the age. Its time and situation are our own. 
 
THE BANNER
 
The blue, red and gold are colors of the official seal of the United Presbyterian Church of the United States of America. The golden Hand reaching down (repeated from the Nicene Creed Banner) is the symbol of God relating to His world. The Crown (repeated from the Westminster Banner) and the nail-scarred Hand stand 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 theme of the Confession of 1967. The Stars and Planets on the blue background suggest the space-age setting of this confession.

 

 
 
 
A BRIEF STATEMENT OF FAITH
(United States of America, 1991)
 
A Brief Statement of Faith became part of the “Book of Confessions” in 1991, following its approval at the 203rd General Assembly. This statement is not intended to stand alone, apart from the confessions of our church. It does not pretend to be a complete list of all our beliefs. It is designed to be confessed by the whole congregation in the setting of public worship, and it may also serve pastors and teachers as an aid to Christian instruction. It celebrates our rediscovery that for all our undoubted diversity, we are bound together by a common faith and a common task.
 
THE BANNER
 
The Cross. 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 the faith we confess 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 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 Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Symbol of A Brief Statement of Faith has a prominent position on this banner. This symbol represents the descending dove of peace and the baptism of Christ. The open Bible symbol is the Word of God. The Font recalls the Sacrament of Baptism, while the table image recalls the other Sacrament of Communion, the Last Supper, and the pulpit of preaching of the Word. The flames represent the burning bush and Pentecost. The overall image suggests the human figure with stretched out arms.
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