Should Protestants start making the Sign of the Cross?

At a unique day-long conference in February that was co-sponsored by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Birmingham (AL) and (Baptist) Samford University’s Center for Pastoral Excellence, I gave one of my several talks that day on Paul and the spirituality of the cross. I specifically spoke about the cross as not only the source but also the shape of our salvation.

In the Q&A someone asked for suggestions on concrete ways to remember and practice that point. I noted that although it can be trivialized and abused, making the sign of the cross–slowly and reverently–is certainly one way some Christians do that. At that point, I raised the question, “What would happen if all of us Protestants joined Catholics, the Orthodox, and some fellow Protestants (Lutherans, Episcopalians [to the extent they are Protestants]) in making the sign of the cross?”

Two things happened very quickly. First, since it was time for lunch, the Baptist director of the Center invited us all to make the sign of the cross as he led us in grace before the meal! Second, the reporter from the Birmingham newspaper cornered me at the end of the day (looking for an angle other than “nice ecumenical event for the year of St. Paul”) to get me to elaborate a bit. He then made this one point I raised the focus of his article–which caused a bit of a stir in Birmingham, if the paper’s blog is any indication. (Typical post: “show me where it’s in the Bible, and I’ll do it” [like sitting on pew cushions, having altar calls, holding vacation Bible school, and celebrating Christmas in December, I suppose].) Part of the article is here for free access:

http://www.al.com/birminghamnews/stories/index.ssf?/base/news/1233998106164210.xml&coll=2

(The full text is here:

http://chnetwork.org/forums/forum31/5728.html;

other sites may also have copied it in full.)

So now I raise this question for a wider audience. As I said to the reporter, “It’s time for us Protestants to get over our anti-Catholic bias and return to the ancient practice to focus better on the source and shape of our salvation” (or something like that).

What do you think? Do you agree? If not, why not? If so, how do we go about implementing it?

2 Responses to “Should Protestants start making the Sign of the Cross?”

  1. Mike C. says:

    1. Yes…with all we’ve allowed to tear us apart, surely THIS important memory we can share and remember together!

    2. It has the beautiful ability to enjoin us, like communion, across cultures, languages, and parochial pot-holes. And to think—all without words! It is simply “cross cultural”!

    3. Which leads us back to another theme in this blog and MJG’s work… What better way to begin embodying “participative soteriology”? Physical recitation, enactment, and participation…beyond iteration. “And the Word became flesh and lived among us…”

    4. On how to do it? Just do it! I’m game…between prayerfully participating and the precious opportunities to encourage and explain this, perhaps we will inch our way toward the right kind (shape) of participation! There is lots of road to travel between the “signs.”

    5. Surely, many of our pastors would jump at the chance to teach this and welcome this in their community worship as well. Let’s show them this piece too! I’m gonna show my pastor today.

    Thanks Mike G!
    Mike C.

  2. MJG says:

    Thanks, Mike C. for this. I especially like your “cross cultural” take and the idea of participation actually being embodied–physical. The (Eastern) Orthodox would resonate.

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