Haven’t I Seen That Somewhere Before?


Last month when the Fellowship of Presbyterians was rolling out the new Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians they debuted and explained the new logo and the preferred acronym (that would be ECO not ECOPs).

At the time someone tweeted or blogged that the logo reminded him or her of X – and I have been looking back and trying to figure out who I saw say that both to give them credit as well as to be sure what X is. My failing memory tells me that they suggested the logo for Presbyterians for Earth Care shown above.

Well, after they mentioned that I started seeing similarities to other logos.  I have included two examples above, one from the Friends of Calvin Crest and the other for a non-denominational church in our area.

Now to be clear, the Calvin Crest logo is not a deciduous leaf but a pine needle cluster or maybe a pine cone. But the look and feel is sure similar.

The presbygeeks out there know that this variation on a plant theme is nothing new for Presbyterians…



Yes, each of these global Presbyterian seals rocks the burning bush theme adopted by Presbyterians long ago.  (Clockwise from upper left – old Church of Scotland seal, current Church of Scotland logo, Free Church of Scotland, United Free Church of Scotland, old Presbyterian Church in Ireland, current Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster, Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand, Malaysian Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in Canada, and Presbyterian Church of Taiwan)

[Note: Please see the comment by Alec below with a correction and some fascinating history of the symbols.]

So what got American Presbyterians sidetracked?  There are a couple of exceptions

other logos




… and that BPC logo does have the burning bush. But for the most part American Presbyterians, and a couple more I threw in, tend to use the cross as their dominant theme.

cross logos
(Tempting to leave this as an identification challenge but here are the logos: Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Presbyterian Church, old United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Presbyterian Church of Australia, and the Uniting Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa.) You can spot the burning bush or flame symbolism there in some of these, but the central motif has become the cross.

Where logo design goes from here will be interesting to see.  If early American Presbyterians had a logo they did not use it much. I don’t know if it was simply because they did not feel a need to have a brand identity or maybe it was not worth the extra cost to print it on their documents, or maybe they though it came too close to violating the Second Commandment. Maybe some research on that sometime.

But these days it seems necessary to have a logo for brand identity, and if it is simple and can be reduced to a small size for your online avatar all the better. ECO clearly thought that having a unique (sort-of) logo was a worth while endeavor to put early effort into.

We will see where it takes them.

8 thoughts on “Haven’t I Seen That Somewhere Before?

  1. emily

    cool logos all! I had no idea, but like the scottish burning bush themes in there…
    so many logos, so many presbyterians!

  2. Alec


    Thanks for posting all of the seals/logos. It’s fun to see so many together.

    There is a distinction worth noting, though: The first two you show are not the “old logo” and the “new logo” of the Church of Scotland. The first (which dates back to 1691) is the seal of the Kirk, while the second (dating from the 1930s) is the logo or emblem of the Kirk. They are both current — the technical difference is in their intended function, not in old vs. new — though in 2005 the Council of Assembly specifically encouraged the use of the seal as a symbol of the Kirk. What you called the “old logo” is what currently appears over the doors of the Church Offices in Edinburgh. (BTW, the Church of Scotland also has a flag — a burning bush on the Cross of St. Andrew. It can be seen at http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a8/Church-scotland-standard.PNG.)

    In much the same way, the original adoption of the PC(USA) emblem provided that the emblem with the encircling words was the seal of the denomination, while without the encircling words it was the logo or symbol of the denomination. I think the same is true with regard to the old-new distinctions for the symbols of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.

    The technical distinction, of course, is that a symbol is just that, while a seal is a symbol that has the specific purpose of attesting to the authenticity of the document or whatever else it appears on. That said, seals are often used in a more general way.

    The Huguenots were the first in the Reformed family to use the burning bush as a symbol — they adopted it at their 12th National Synod in 1583. It is still found in the current logo of the Reformed Church of France (which can be seen at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Logo-erf-4chrome.jpg).

    The burning bush also appeared in the seal of the PCUSA (post-Civil War, pre-union with the UPCNA), though it was very hard to find, and in the seal of the PCUS (http://neatnik2009.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/presbyterian-church-in-the-united-states.jpg?w=506&h=691). Interestingly, neither of these included a cross — the UPCUSA was the first American Presbyterian seal to include a cross. The interim seal of the PC(USA), designed for the Reuniting Assembly in 1983, showed a burning bush on the bottom part of a Celtic Cross.

    Anyone interested should check out John M. Mulder’s book “Sealed in Christ” or his article “Symbols as Teachers.” (The latter is available at http://theologytoday.ptsem.edu/jul1985/v42-2-article4.htm and includes pictures of seals of the PC(USA)’s predecessor denominations.)

  3. Steve Salyards


    Thank you very much for the correction about the seals and logos and the history lesson. I appreciate the correction and particularly learning the history of the burning bush image originating with the Huguenots. I clearly threw this post together too quickly and did not do enough research.

    I have made the correction above and highlighted your very interesting comments.

    Thanks again and blessings

  4. Alec

    Glad to provide the info, Steve. But after looking last night at some historical information I have, I do need to modify something I said. I said that PCUSA seal did not include a cross and that the UPCUSA’s was the first American seal to include a cross. That’s actually not correct.

    In the early 1800s, the Trustees of the General Assembly of the PCUSA (the corporate body recognized by law) adopted a seal. That seal showed a serpent on a cross with a rising sun behind it — it was actually described in the 1892 GA minutes adopting the PCUSA’s seal as “a brazen serpent suspended from a cruciform pole uplifted within a wilderness.” This, of course, was a references to Numbers 21:9.

    When the PCUSA adopted its seal in 1892, it incorporated the seal of the of the GA Trustees. I commented in my earlier comment that the burning bush is hard to find in the old PCUSA. The serpent on the cross is as well. What they did was start with the seal of the Westminister Assembly (an open Bible bearing the words “The Word of God” within a wreath of palm). They moved those words to one page, along with the reference “1 Peter i. 23” at the top of the page. On the other page, they combined the burning bush, the serpent on the cross, a wreath of palm, the motto “Christus Exaltus Salvator” and at the top of the page the reference “John iii. 14.” You can imagine how difficult it was to pick the distinct elements out of all that.

    The whole thing was surrounded by palm branches above and an olive branch and oak branch below. By doing all of this, the seal set forth various aspects of the PCUSA’s heritage: The Westminster Assembly (open Bible and palm branches), the univeral church and the USA (olive branch), Genevan (the oak branch), the Church of Scotland (the burning bush) and American Presbyterianism (the serpent on the cross).

    The old PCUSA seal can be seen as Figure 2 in John M. Mulder’s article to which I linked above — “Symbols as Teachers.” (http://theologytoday.ptsem.edu/jul1985/v42-2-article4.htm) I think you’ll agree that the seal is quite complicated and busy compared to more modern seals, symbols and logos.

  5. J Tate

    The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) has been trying to create a logo for years, with multiple GA’s requesting it, but nothing official has come out. There was an “unofficial” logo with a sword, a heart on one side and a bible on the other, but that’s fallen out of use.

  6. Steve Salyards

    Thanks and sorry for the delay getting your comment up. I have wondered about the logo, or lack thereof, for the PCA.


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