Judicial Council Decisions Search
Decision No. 828
April 24 1998
In Re: Request from the General Council on Finance and Administration for Declaratory Decision on the Meaning of the Phrase "Any Official United Methodist Agency" in ¶ 807.5 of the 1996 Discipline in the Context of Who May Use the Official United Methodist Insigne.
Digest of Case
The Judicial Council rules that the phrase "any official United Methodist agency," in ¶ 807.5, means any organization defined as an agency under ¶¶ 701.1 and 701.2.
Statement of Facts
The Cross and Flame is the official symbol of The United Methodist Church. It was designed by Edward J. Mikula and Edwin H. Maynard, Art Director and Editorial Director, respectively, of the Division of Interpretation of the Program Council of The United Methodist Church and legislation regarding its use was adopted by the 1968 General Conference. It has become firmly established as the identifying insignia for the United Methodist denomination. We quote the following Statement of Facts from the brief filed by the General Council on Finance and Administration: The 1968 Uniting Conference adopted the recommendation from the Joint Commission on Church Union that there should be an official insigne for the new United Methodist Church, and that it should be protected from infringement. The Program Council of the newly united denomination in October 1968 adopted as the official mark the design that Mikula and Maynard designed and presented the Commission on Promotion and Cultivation the previous year. The first reference to the official insigne of The United Methodist Church in the Discipline was in 1968. Par. 833.8 stated that: 8. To design and supervise the use of an official insignia for The United Methodist Church, which may be used by any official agency of the Church or any Annual Conference thereof to identify the work, program, and materials of The United Methodist Church. The design of the official insignia shall be approved by the Division of Interpretation. The official insignia shall be registered as a trademark in behalf of The United Methodist Church by the Division of Interpretation, and the division shall supervise the use of the official insignia in order to preserve the integrity of its design and to protect it against unauthorized use. The division shall provide patterns of the insignia for purposes of their use by any board or agency of The United Methodist Church and its Annual Conferences. The Cross and Flame was registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office as a service mark and collective membership mark in 1971. That registration was renewed in 1991 and remains in effect today. In 1976, the disciplinary language was revised slightly. ¶ 1111.16 assigned to United Methodist Communications the responsibility to "supervise the use of the official insignia of The United Methodist Church and preserve the integrity of its design." This disciplinary provision also stated that, "The insignia shall be registered by this agency in behalf of The United Methodist Church and may be used by any official agency of the Church or any subdivision, including local churches, to identify the work, program, and materials of The United Methodist Church." This language was revised again slightly by the 1980 General Conference. The phrase "shall be registered" was revised to "shall maintain appropriate registration" and the phrase "or any subdivision" was deleted. This revised Disciplinary language remained the same thereafter until the 1996 General Conference, when the responsibility for protecting the Cross and Flame was transferred to GCFA. The nature of the responsibility, as well as who may use the insigne, was left intact by the 1996 General Conference. The paragraph was moved to become one of GCFA’s designated responsibilities, and three substantive changes were made in the wording as a part of the move: (1) GCFA is to supervise the use of the mark, "in cooperation with the General Commission on Communication," (2) the phrase "the insignia should not be altered or modified" was added, and (3) explicit authorization for commercial use was now specified as needing to be "in writing." (¶ 807.5) The transfer of files and practical transfer of responsibility from United Methodist Communications to GCFA occurred in the summer of 1996. GCFA began actively assuming its responsibilities in the fall and winter of 1996-1997. The General Council on Finance and Administration requested a declaratory decision as to the meaning of the phrase "any official United Methodist agency," in ¶ 807.5, in the context of who may use the official United Methodist insignia. At an oral hearing on April 23, 1998, in Seattle, Washington, Mary Logan appeared, representing the General Council on Finance and Administration. Jurisdiction The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2616 of the 1996 Discipline. Analysis And Rationale It is noted that the cross and flame symbol is in the nature of a historical designation and is not meant to imply a master-servant or principal agent relationship between these bodies and the conference or other bodies that create them. (¶ 701.2) Par. 509 states that: No person, no paper, no organization, has the authority to speak officially for The United Methodist Church, this right having been reserved exclusively to the General Conference under the Constitution. The central issue is what is an "official United Methodist agency" as that phrase is used in ¶ 807.5. It is instructive to note that ¶ 701.1(a) defines the term "agency" in this way: The term "agency," whenever it appears in The Book of Discipline, is a term used to describe the various councils, boards, commissions, committees, divisions, or other units constituted within the various levels of church organization (General, jurisdictional, central, annual, district, and charge conferences) under authority granted by The Book of Discipline . . . ." The Discipline does not define the term "official" although it is used numerous times throughout the Discipline. It is possible, however, to arrive at a definition of the term "official" which seems consistent with the way the Discipline uses the term. Black’s Law Dictionary defines official, in pertinent part, as meaning "pertaining to an office; invested with the character of an officer; proceeding from, sanctioned by, or done by an officer. Authorized act." This definition is consistent with the "agency" definition in ¶ 701.1(a) that agencies are those organizations which operate "under authority granted by the Book of Discipline." This means that "official agencies" of The United Methodist Church are those organizations which have been authorized by a proper authority within the Church. United Methodist churches can, of course, use the Cross and Flame insignia. However, an association of United Methodist churches with a common cause cannot use the official United Methodist insignia if it is not an "official agency" of The United Methodist Church. The council believes that the 1968 General Conference was wise in adopting the disciplinary language that the official insignia of The United Methodist Church could be used only by official agencies of the denomination. These restrictions, while distressing to some unofficial organizations, protect the symbol of The United Methodist Church from misuse and minimize the possibility that any organization identifying itself as United Methodist, with any cause or calling, will use the Cross and Flame to identify their organization or cause.
The Judicial Council rules that the phrase "any official United Methodist agency," in ¶ 807.5, means any organization defined as an agency under ¶¶ 701.1 and 701.2. This copy subject to final editing and correction.