Josh+? On the use of the sign of the cross (plus sign) in clergy signatures

This is, admittedly, a half-baked opinion. However, I need to get back in the habit of blogging/writing regularly, so here goes.

In my opinion, the use of the sign of the cross in clergy names/signatures—unless it’s done in official ecclesiastical communication or immediately after a blessing or prayer for the recipient—is pretentious. It’s showy. At the very least, it conveys or connotes pretentiousness.

Note that I’m not making a claim about the *people* who use crosses in their signatures, their inner thoughts, or their intentions. For all I know, every single clergyperson out there says a prayer of blessing for their recipients every single time they use the sign of the cross in a signature. I’m also not writing this about any person in particular.

I’m merely observing what I take to be the *connotation* of a particular speech act.

It’s one thing to use a signature with the sign of the cross in, say, a letter to a parishioner that you end with “May the Lord bless you and keep you.” In that case, it’s more obviously functioning like a written replacement for the sign of the cross that one would make with one’s hand if one were giving a priestly blessing in person.

However, apart from the immediate context of a blessing or prayer, I dare say that most people just think it’s a plus sign. Perhaps a typo when one meant to hit backspace? A new subscription service for personal communication? Or maybe the new-and-improved version of so-and-so now that they’ve turned a corner in their life and things are looking up?

I’m not saying that we clerics need to stop using the sign of the cross in our signatures altogether! A poor connotation for something (say, wearing a clergy shirt in public) doesn’t mean we should abandon it. I’m just suggesting that we should be more judicious in its use.

By joshuapsteele

The Rev. Dev. I solve problems with a pastor's heart for people and a programmer's eye for detail. Learn more at