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What is the correct protocol for the display of the Christian flag and American flag in our church?

It is important to keep in mind that we are dealing an adiaphoron here: something that God has neither commanded nor forbidden. Christians thus have freedom to display or not display flags in their churches.

If a church is going to display flags (an American and a church flag) in the chancel, they would probably cause the least confusion by following the Flag Code guidelines. Those guidelines state: “When used on a speaker’s platform, the flag, if displayed flat, should be displayed above and behind the speaker. When displayed from a staff in a church or public auditorium, the flag of the United States of America should hold the position of superior prominence, in advance of the audience, and in the position of honor at the clergyman’s or speaker’s right as he faces the audience. Any other flag so displayed should be placed on the left of the clergyman or speaker or to the right of the audience.”

If a church is not going to display flags, they would have reason for doing so. In that regard, let me pass along information from Christian Worship: Manual, the companion book to Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal. In the chapter titled “The Worship Space,” there is this guidance: “Some churches like to include the national, Christian, and denominational flags in the chancel. While many Lutheran congregations have displayed flags of one sort or another, building committees ought to carefully analyze this tradition. Altar, pulpit, and font ‘all point to Christ,’ while national flags ‘speak not of Christ, but of the nation’ [Brugginck and Droppers, Christ and Architecture, pp. 250ff]. Especially in an age when so many Christian churches confuse the separate roles of church and state, it may be wise to place national flags in the narthex rather than in the chancel. The use of the Christian flag may promote an imprecise view of the church and false ecumenism besides. Denominational loyalty is important in a congregation, but recent history seems to indicate that it is better to teach loyalty to the Scriptures that cannot err than to denominations that can. The important work of the church body can surely be emphasized in better ways than with a flag” (pp. 85-86).

Again, because this is a matter on which Scripture is silent, congregations do well to explain clearly their rationale for whatever their particular practice in this area might be.

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