Thursday, July 30, 2009
Dispute Rages On Between Community Of Christ And Devon Park Restoration Branch In Independence, Missouri Over Use Of RLDS Name And Symbols
A dispute between the Community of Christ and the Devon Park Restoration Branch in Independence, Missouri over the branch's use of the RLDS name and symbols continues, and was the subject of a July 29th report in the Kansas City Star. A May 2009 Examiner article provides additional background on this case. A February 2009 post on the Warrenb234 blog provides more insight.
According to the Star, the Devon Park branch has found it necessary remove an old RLDS flag from their sanctuary, apply duct tape to the church sign out front to cover up the words “Reorganized” and “of Latter Day Saints”, and to stretch a black trash bag over the heavy bronze "lion and lamb" seal which is attached by threaded screws to the interior wall studs inside their chapel. They took these measures to comply with a preliminary injunction granted to the Community of Christ, formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (RLDS), by U.S. District Judge Gary Fenner during this past spring which prohibits the Devon Park Restoration Branch from using the lion and lamb symbol, as well as the RLDS name. These are trademarks which the Community of Christ contends it still owns.
The seeds of this dispute actually date back to the early 1980s. At the Community of Christ's 1984 world conference, church members voted in favor of accepting a revelation announced by then-church President Wallace B. Smith authorizing the church to begin conferring the Priesthood upon women and ordaining them to its various offices. This revelation was not exactly without controversy; over the ensuing years, about 20 percent of active members split from the church.
Many of them eventually organized themselves in two ways; some formed the Remnant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, while others organized various independent Restoration Branches, now loosely controlled by the Joint Conference of Restoration Branches (JCRB: Old website HERE, newer website HERE), neither of which extend Priesthood membership to women. The Devon Park branch is part of the JCRB, which, despite the ongoing row between the Devon Park branch and the Community of Christ, ironically held its most recent JCRB General Conference in the Community of Christ Auditorium from April 5-11, 2009.
In 2001, the RLDS Church changed its name to the Community of Christ. However, various restoration branches continued to use the RLDS name and symbols. The Community of Christ feared this would lead to brand confusion, since although they abandoned the RLDS designation, they continue to use the lion and lamb seal, which is attached to the side of their auditorium. But when efforts to reconcile the differences outside the court system proved unsuccessful, the C of C then decided upon litigation, first filing suit against a Restoration congregation in Raymore, and then launching their current suit against the Devon Park branch in December 2008. In their response, Devon Park claims the C of C abandoned the RLDS brand name, and that they purchased their seal from a private party, such seals once made available to Restoration branches by the C of C. The C of C found this response unsatisfactory, and so they obtained their injuction in January 2009.
The Devon Park branch has already committed about $200,000 in legal fees to fight the lawsuit. Since the branch only has 30 members, financial help has also been provided by some other restoration branches. A Federal civil trial is expected sometime during the spring of 2010.