The debate of which day is the ‘seventh day’ Sabbath in Samoa has taken on another twist with confirmation from the Seventh-day Adventist world headquarters in America, that there is no documented action by the General Conference endorsing or supporting the action of the Samoa SDA administration to change its Sabbath day of worship to Sunday.
The current Samoa Sabbath dilemma in fact has come about because the SDA leadership in Samoa and the Pacific region failed to accept that the Samoa government implemented a lawful and legitimate shift in the International Date Line, effectively moving Samoa to the same side as New Zealand and Australia for trading purposes.
While most Christian churches in Samoa also call Sunday the Sabbath, commemorating the day of Jesus’ resurrection on the first day of the week, Seventh-day Adventists keep the Sabbath on the ‘seventh day’ of the week, which is Saturday like everywhere in the world.
In order to facilitate the IDL adherence change, Samoa missed one day resulting in a ‘one off’ 6-day week. This experience is normal when crossing the IDL from the American to the Asian side. Friday 30th December 2011 in Samoa did not vanish into thin air as promoted by the local church administration whereby making Sunday 1st January 2012 the ‘seventh day’ of the weekly cycle in Samoa.
What happened in December 2011 was not a calendar change, nor was there any name change. What is confusing is the notion being promoted by the local administration and the South Pacific Division (SPD) regional office in Australia, “The practical result in terms of Sabbath keeping is that Sunday not Saturday has become the seventh day of the week.”
In fact, understanding which day is the ‘seventh day’ of the week is quite simple, contrary to a statement in a public notice from the Samoa Tokelau Mission that was published in the local Samoa Observer newspaper 1st July saying, “The subject of the change to the IDL and resulting implications for the weekly cycle and for Sabbath keeping is a complex one.”
Simply, Sunday is still the ‘first day’ of the week, and Saturday is still the ‘seventh day,’ both before and after the IDL change in Samoa, like everywhere else in the world.
In its presentation last year to promote Sunday Sabbath worship to Adventists in Samoa, the statement formulated by the SPD, that “the present practice of Sabbath keeping in the Pacific Islands around the dateline be maintained” was said to have been endorsed by the General Conference.
The statement refers to the current situation where SDA’s in Tonga, Kiribati and recently Wallis and Futuna worship on Sunday; the later countries due to the precedent set in Tonga.
With the confirmation that the General Conference did not endorse or support the change to Sunday worship in Samoa, nor endorsed or supported the view being promoted by the SPD of Sunday keeping for those Island States in the Pacific around the IDL, the motives behind the South Pacific Division’s actions to deliberately mislead is now being questioned.
The General Conference has since referred the Samoa Sabbath issue back to the Pacific regional office to be further discussed. A meeting is scheduled 2 August in Australia to be attended by senior Samoan ministers from Samoa, New Zealand and Australia and SPD executives with the hope of finding a way forward.
Today, church members from 21 Seventh-day Adventist churches around Samoa have returned to keeping the ‘seventh day’ Sabbath on Saturday, joining Adventists in American Samoa and the rest of the world.