Church NORTH AMERICA DIVISION
February 24, 1998
(Dictated February 17, 1998)
Larry R. Larson
Dear Mr. Larson:
Elder McClure has asked me to respond to your letter of February 3. First, I want to let you know that Dell Rapids almost feels like home to me. I suspect you didn't think anyone at the world headquarters building would know where Dell Rapids was, but my wife's grandparents homesteaded a farm just south of Coleman, South Dakota. I have visited there many times and worshiped more than occasionally in the Coleman Seventh-day Adventist Church. I understand that it has now closed, so I presume you attend either the Madison or Sioux Falls churches. I am so grateful to read of your joining the Seventh-day Adventist Church recently. I hope that you continue to find strength and joy in the message of the Adventist Church and the fellowship with believers in the church.
The decisions we have made to pursue litigation and they have been very rare decisions against certain groups using the name, "Seventh-day Adventist," have been an attempt to protect the Church from being misunderstood and ridiculed. While you may feel that there should never be a time that we would stop people from using the name, "Seventh-day Adventist," a few examples may help you change that opinion. I am certain you would agree with me that a church that wanted members to leave all their clothing at the door each Sabbath morning should not be allowed to use the name, "Seventh-day Adventist." There are no churches like that, but I wanted to draw an extreme example so that you would readily see why it is important for us to keep the name "Seventh-day Adventist" free of misinterpretations by certain fringe groups.
Let me give you a true example. There is a church in Florida that calls itself a Seventh-day Adventist Church. It is not part of either the Florida Conference or the Southeastern Conference. Indeed, it is not part of any Seventh-day Adventist organization. This church likes to print advertisements in newspapers far from where it lives. These advertisements are vitriolically anti- Catholic. They spread unsubstantiated rumors about the pope and the American president. The ads make claims and statements that antagonize Roman Catholic members, many of whom are fine, upstanding Christians and who are angered rather than enlightened by the advertisement. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is instituting legal proceedings to stop this local church from using the name "Seventh-day Adventist."
There have been other similar instances where entities or groups proclaim themselves to be the Seventh-day Adventist denomination, but are not part of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In instances where these entities do not fairly and accurately represent the beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, we must step in. If we do not, the public will receive the wrong impression of what Seventh-day Adventists believe, what we practice, and what we do.
In my experience, the Adventist Church has initiated legal action fewer than a dozen times. It does not absorb a great deal of attention or time here at the Church headquarters. When we do institute legal proceedings it is only to protect God's name and God's image as represented by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. We cannot allow fringe groups to portray this Church, which I believe was raised up by God with a special end-time message, in ways that would bring ridicule or hatred to God's cause.
It is a painful thing when the church must take believers to task. But church discipline is an important part of what both the Scriptures and Ellen White have talked to us about. For those reasons we cannot shrink from our responsibilities as leaders of God's cause. Please pray for us that we will have wisdom to discern when these important issues must be dealt with.
God bless you,
Assistant to the President for Communication
bcc: Bjarne Christensen
A. C. McClure