Why do United Methodist missionaries wear an anchor cross?

Clockwise from top left: Detail from Butyka Mausoleum by Globetrotter19, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons; stained glass window by Kathleen Barry, UM News; Bible and cross by Mike DuBose, UMNS; detail of aanchor and two fish courtesy of Catacombe Domitilla; the Rev. George Miller by Mike DuBose, UM News.
Clockwise from top left: Detail from Butyka Mausoleum by Globetrotter19, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons; stained glass window by Kathleen Barry, UM News; Bible and cross by Mike DuBose, UMNS; detail of aanchor and two fish courtesy of Catacombe Domitilla; the Rev. George Miller by Mike DuBose, UM News.

When missionaries are commissioned for service, an anchor cross is placed around their necks, as a symbol of their call to mission service.  It identifies them as United Methodist missionaries and serves as a constant reminder of their covenant. The anchor cross symbolizes the need for the missionary to be anchored in Christ and in the community they serve, and their call to ministry with all people, wherever there is need.

The United Methodist Church has a long tradition of sending people into mission service. Throughout history, the church has understood that Christian mission can be a perilous journey. The challenges of mission are no less today than any other time.

The anchor cross, one of the oldest Christian symbols, expresses faith and hope in Christ, a message found in Hebrews: “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Hebrews 6:19 (NIV) We still find examples of this early icon on tombs in the ancient Roman catacombs, on gravestones and in Christian art.

Together the anchor and the cross remind missionaries to be anchored in faith, hope and love while engaging in God’s mission. This symbol also connects each missionary to the larger community of United Methodist missionaries, ever reminding them of these companions in the journey.

Have questions? Ask The UMC or talk with a pastor near you. And check out other recent Q&As.

This content was produced by Ask The UMC, a ministry of United Methodist Communications