Sabbath Issues in the Pacific Islands
Thoughts on Pr. Hay's Paper
“The change of ‘Day’ in Samoa
It’s implication for 7th day Sabbath Observance

Pr. Hay's Document Posted Here

by Ulrike

Firstly, I commend Pr. Hay for his historic depiction of events leading to the acceptance of the Prime Meridian (line “0”) running through Greenwich, England in the year 1884. Having the general historic outline as well as the scientific reason why a round world needs a day line, affords a rational platform for constructive dialogue on the implications of Sabbath Observance in Samoa.

There are some things I’d like to add to this historic outline. Pr. Hays gives a general historical picture that deals mainly with the mathematical dividing of the earth into time zones governed by longitudes. However, in practice there are two ways this dividing of the earth into time zones is practiced.

1) The Nautical (Sea) time zones

2) The Terrestrial (Land) Time zones

The establishment of nautical standard times, nautical standard time zones and the nautical date line took place at the Anglo-French Conference on Time-keeping at Sea held in London in June 1917. It is the nautical time system that changes the hour at each longitude placed 15 degrees apart. It is also the nautical time system that looks to the 180th meridian as the “dateline”. This system is used by ships on high seas when they communicate their position and time.

Terrestrial Time zones follow the nautical time zones only in approximation, not with mathematical precision, as Terrestrial Time can vary by several hours from the mathematical “guide” of the longitudes. For example, China spans five longitudes but the whole country observes the same time, UTC+08:00, or eight hours ahead of Greenwich.

Another example—even though the Prime Meridian (0°) passes through Spain and France, they use time 15 degrees east (Central European Time) or one hour earlier than Greenwich. As we look at any time zone map we see a lot of variations from the nautical time zones all around the world; each country determining for themselves how they will count time within an approximation of their position to the longitudes.

Ships, when they are in harbor accept the terrestrial time Zone.

The 180th longitude is just another longitude that is bent to accommodate the countries near it. There is nothing wrong with choosing to be UTC+13:00, or thirteen hours ahead of Greenwich (which is only one hour variation from their position to the longitudes) yet holds them to the same day as observed by most of their larger neighbors.

The 180 Degree Meridian – It’s Consistency as a Base for Future Time

Pr. Hays wrote:

It seemed remote that the Prime Meridian of Greenwich would be altered or even transferred to another location, having been well supported by the nations. Obviously this would mean that the 180th meridian, halfway round the world would also be a steady and reliable reference line of longitude in the pacific sphere in matters relating to the organization and function of time.”

This assumption concerning the 180th’s function of time may be correct for ships at sea, but it is totally incorrect for terrestrial time zones. These Islands in the Pacific are NOT naturally connected with America. Their “natural connection” is with the Islands in the eastern hemisphere. (i.e.New Zealand, Australia, Fuji, etc.) The original migration to these islands came from the east; the first missionaries came from the east, why even our Seventh-day Adventist Conference places them under the direction of Australia and New Zealand. Why should these Islands be divided by a day line? This is a question the governments in these Islands have been struggling with since the 180th was imposed on them back in the 1890’s.

Pr. Hays gave the history of the moving dateline for Samoa. The first switch in 1892 came due to the pressure of Americans and other colonialists wanting to establish the newly devised time zones. Samoa (along with other Islands east of the 180th) complied, but the Tonga islands resisted and refused the change. By 1922 Samoa already wanted to return to the original terrestrial time zone, but America interfered. In the last few years we’ve seen a number of these Islands return to their original time zone.

So the obvious conclusion is that the 180th meridian has never been steady or reliable in defining the dateline. It disrupted and divided the Pacific Islands from each other, and now these islands are one by one returning to the same time zone.

Establishing the International Dateline

Dr Hays wrote:

“It is interesting that no actual forthright statement was made, or official report enacted by delegates attending the 1884 IMC, declaring the 180th meridian as the date line all countries were to observe. No binding agreement took place and even up to the present time (2011) none has been enacted by the nations of the world. In the absence of such Pacific nations affected by the path of the 180th meridian line of day change, may make changes in its direction to suit their needs.”

Exactly! Yet, Colonialists put pressure on these Islands to change. Why? Somehow the false idea spread that the islands MUST align themselves to this new situation. We can observe this in the letters of Adventist visitors and missionaries who came to these islands around the 1890’s (at the height of this agitation) as they report back home that everyone on these Islands kept the right Sabbath but called it Sunday. Yet, those London Society Missionaries and Wesleyan Missionaries who taught people to worship on Sunday, were operating on eastern time, and Sunday was truly Sunday. The next day was Monday. The eastern time zone had been established by Protestant missionaries in these Islands some 60-80 years previous to 1884. They didn’t make a “mistake”, nor did they “fail to realize they crossed the dateline” eighty years prior to the IMC meeting. Coming via Australia they naturally kept the same day on all the Islands they evangelised. When Adventists came in the 1890’s they wrote their mission reports based on their belief in something that was never enacted by any nation.

Had they understood the above quote from Pr. Hays, we might never have had the precedent of Sunday keeping Adventists in Tonga.

The Inevitable Seventh-day Sabbath choice facing Adventists lying well to the East of the 180th Meridian

Was the choice “inevitable”?

Pr. Hay wrote:

“Early church employees such as the George Tenney family on travelling to Australia and then NZ noticed on 19 May 1888 people in Samoa observing Sunday worship on the seventh day Sabbath. This occurred because following the resolutions of the IMC in 1884, the 180th meridian had become the line where ‘day’ change had taken place and as Samoa lay well to the east of this line the people naturally observed Western Hemisphere Day Sequence.”

In 1888 people in Samoa were still “naturally” following the Eastern Hemisphere time, not western. They didn’t switch to western time till 1892 when two 4th of July’s were celebrated to bring about the switch. There was really nothing “natural” for Adventists to observe Western Day count when everyone else on the Island were observing eastern day count. They were ASSUMING, probably because America and other colonialists were putting on the pressure for the change, that change would come.

Pr. Hay quotes Ellen White’s experience:

“Between Samoa and Auckland we crossed the day line and for the first time in our lives had a week of six days. Tuesday, 1 December was dropped from our reckoning and we passed from Monday to Wednesday. RH 9 Feb. 1892

Ellen White is simply recording her experience, not writing a prophetic message. She was sailing on an American ship that accepted the embryonic nautical dateline. They were on “high sea” and the nautical dateline is at the 180th. But the terrestrial dateline at that point in time was still east of Samoa. .

Pr. Hay quotes Robert Leo Odom

When the Alameda stopped at Apia in the Samoan islands, the date according to the time count on the ship as Mrs. White’s record indicates was ‘Friday, November 27, 1891...But according to the time count ashore it was Saturday, November 28, 1891...the skipper of the Alameda ignored the erroneous time count and waited three more days—until he reached the 180th meridian – to make the necessary adjustment. (p.221)

Again, the nautical dateline should not be confused with the terrestrial dateline. According to the account the ship stopped at Apia for just a few hours, arriving in the morning and leaving at 1:00 p.m. (BEcho, January 1, 1892 par. 12.) Ellen White only viewed the island from the ship, she didn’t go ashore. There is no problem with the ship remaining on nautical time.

Pr. Hay presents a few more people who felt the 180th was officially enacted, thus ignoring the local time. But this is only shows the bias that was present in America at the time, not the true time of the islands.

Observing the Seventh-day Sabbath in the Samoan Islands – Choices and Consequences

Pr. Hay presents some “consequences” should Samoan worship on Saturday.

1. Adventist Identity Kept in Tact
Worshipping on the 7th day of Eastern hemisphere ‘day’ reckoning would keep the Adventist identity clearly before the people and provide an attractive Biblical alternative to first day Sabbath observers.

Yes, this is a key consideration and I’m thankful Pr. Hay brought it out.

To worship on Sunday diminishes the Adventist identity and prophetic message. The first day of the week is given the honor belonging to the Sabbath. And Sunday is recognized as the first day of the week by the population of Samoa.

2. Further possible ‘day’ change. In changing to Eastern Hemisphere Day sequence so as to maintain their distinctive Saturday/Sabbath witness, Adventists are throwing in their lot with government and by doing so are virtually making it difficult for themselves if another ‘day’ change were to occur sometime in the future.

This is excusing Sunday worship on a mere supposition. Samoa has returned to the time zone it was in originally. It is the more “natural” time zone for them, when we consider their heritage and the majority of her neighbors. The first change was imposed on them by colonialists (even if the chief of the islands agreed). The second switch was by the nations own choice. The chances of Independent Samoan switching once more are remote. Indeed the chances of American Samoa switching may be greater.

3. Adventists Regarded as loyal and useful citizens

That’s a good thing. Why should they live in a confused world setting their own terrestrial dateline, unrecognized by the country they live in or by any other country?

4. Exalting Saturday above the Biblical seventh-day in deciding on which day to observe the Sabbath. One could be persuaded that determining the day for Sabbath is made according to the use of the name Saturday on the calendar rather than according to the Biblical principle of the seventh day as it relates to its position to the longitude emanating from the Prime Meridian in Greenwich.

To base Sabbath keeping on the longitude is looking to an imaginary line marked off by man in the last couple centuries of earth’s history as the divine authorization of Biblical time. The Bible does not deal with longitudes. Even the established, recognized terrestrial dateline does not follow the 180th.

However, the name “Saturday” or it’s equivalent in other languages, can be traced and linked to the Biblical “seventh day” clear back to the days of Christ. The name “Sunday” can be traced back to the Biblical “first day” and to Constantine’s “venerable day of the Sun”.

Saturday in Samoa is the same day that Seventh-day Adventists observe in Fiji, New Guinea, New Zealand and Australia. The same sacred hours they observe, Samoa may honestly observe unto the Lord as well.

Many calendars now have Monday in the first space, and Sunday in the seventh space. But Sunday is still not the seventh day. We know the Sabbath by the common name the whole world attached to the Biblical seventh-day, and that name (in the English language) is Saturday.

5. A united witness for the same 7th day Sabbath observance east of the 180th meridian would be weakened. For more than 100 years Samoa has been observing the Seventh-day Sabbath of western ‘day’ reckoning, along with the kingdom of Tonga located at almost the same longitude. Samoa would now observe Sabbath one day earlier being part of Eastern ‘day’ reckoning. The past united witness of observing the same 7th day Sabbath by all island groups located east of the 180th meridian would be weakened. Onlookers and even critics could cite this changed situation as evidence of Adventists confusion over their day of worship.

The real problem is now identified by Pr. Hay. The kingdom of Tonga is the problem. They set the precedent and the precedent is very difficult to change. The question should be – is this precedent correct? The Tongan islands have AWAYS (since the week was introduced to them in 1797) maintained the eastern ‘day’ count, but Adventists have been keeping Sunday there these last 120 years. Tonga has never switched the day line, resisting the pressure of the colonialists back in the 1890’s. True, Adventists back in those days thought Tonga should and would switch, so they ignored the local time and followed American time, but the fact remains Tonga NEVER changed their time zone from eastern to western.

And now, because of this mix up in the 1890’s, Island after island in the Pacific is being led into Sunday worship as they too return to the eastern time zone.

Many already have seen Adventists confused over their day of worship because of the practice in Tonga. It is a fact that people laugh at us asking if we’ll all flee to Tonga or Samoa when the Sunday laws are enforced in our countries during the last day crises; because there it will be “OK” to keep Sunday instead of Saturday. It seems far more reasonable to have all Seventh-day Adventists worshipping on Saturday in a consistent worldwide unity.

What will we, in the rest of the world, say when we refuse to observe Sunday as the Sabbath in the last day crises when over in the Pacific it’s not only perfectly alright to do so, but authorized by the church itself? Especially since the world has never officially recognized or enacted the 180th as the terrestrial dateline.

6. Facing up to Samoan luma Possible embarrassment (luma) cultural to a degree, experienced by local Adventists who would need to explain after more than 100 years, apart from calling Saturday the Sabbath, why there was a need to embrace Eastern days. Later on, if government found it convenient to again modify the course fo the IDL would Adventists return to their former practice....

Admitting a mistake always brings the fear of embarrassment. But that would pass in time. It will be far harder for Tongan Adventists, than for Samoan Adventists to change. But the question should be – what day does God want me to uphold? It shouldn’t be any harder than for a newly converted Adventist to change to Sabbath (Saturday) observance. They too often face ridicule and embarrasment.

Also – this shouldn’t be based on a future unknown – the chances of Samoa switching again are very remote.

Pr. Hay presents some “consequences” should Samoan worship on Sunday
(the 180th Perspective).

1. Although God did not state the exact location for “day’ change, He does give guidance to nations. For just as he counselled Israel, the Psalmist say in Ps. 67:4 that he will guide the nations of the earth. Even in modern times God’s guidance could have assisted the nations to establish the Prime Meridian with its consequential establishment of the 180th meridian as the location for ‘day’ change. He also blesses when there are many advisors involved in making plans. (Pr. 15:22)

Pr. Hay is correct that God did not state the exact location for ‘day’ change, though some Adventist Pioneers like J.N.Andrews and a writer with intials (N.A.D.) have looked at texts like Job 38:12 to show that the day begins at the furtherst tip of habitable land east of Palistine.

I also agree that God has his hand in guiding nations. Though nations tend to do their own thing and God patiently works through their waywardness. I personally firmly believe the “day line” is in the Pacific Ocean. However, the nations have never established the 180th as the official terrestial day line. These nations all recognize the day line is not fixed on any arbitrary straight line, but adjusts to the nations relationships to each other in the Pacific. Thus the logic presented in the above “consequence” should be to accept the officially recognized dateline that places all these Islands in the Eastern Time Zone. The “multitude of advisors” (world wide) is on the officially recognized terrestial dateline, not the 180th meridian.

2. The 180th a firm foundation for Sabbath Change Now the Sabbath sunset arrives at each meridian in succession, and changes ‘day’ at a well anchored 180th...

Looking at my map I see the dateline being pushed further and further east, away from the 180th in the whole south of the equator region. The 180th never was “an anchor for day change in this region and most certainly is not an anchor today., though colonists did try to make it such in the 1890’s.

As to sunset arriving at each meridian in succession, that is unscientific. Clock time can be regulated by longitude, but not sunsets. The precise moments of sunrise and sunset vary not only with longitude but also with latitude north or south of the equator. Thus on a Friday around June 21st along the 180th longitude, those living at the equator would welcome the Sabbath at 6:00 p.m, while those in the antiacrtic would have welcomed the Sabbath shortly after the noon hour, and those living in Siberia would have to wait till 11:00 oclock at night before the Sabbath reached them. Yet all are along the 180th longitude.

3. All Islands on or near the 180th keep the same day.

In actuality this was true prior to the 1890’s when all the Islands were on Eastern Time. The 180th disrupted this situations causing Islands close to each other (like Fiji and Samoa) to be on different days. If all the Islands now west of the terrestrial dateline would accept this official line, there would be far more unity amongst the Islands “keeping the same day” than having some keeping Saturday (west of the 180th) some keeping a day later on Sunday (east of the 180th) and some keeping Saturday where the nautical and terrestrial day lines match.

4. Fastening the Sabbath to an unchanging Meridian

This is the same argument as #2. Though the longitude itself has not changed, it has never been the official terrestrial dateline (even Pr Hay has noted exceptions which even the Adventist church accepts)

5. Observing the same Sabbath presents a united witness. Adventists east of the 180th meridian are providing a united witness by observing the same seventh day Sabbath as the western day sequence...

But it’s not the same Sabbath in the South Pacific. Fiji Adventists observe Saturday, Tongan Adventists, though just an hour away, observe their Sabbath a day later on Sunday. Samoa, instead of now keeping the same day as Fiji which for them is now the world recognized seventh day Saturday, keep Sunday a day later with Tonga.

Yes, I realize this is explained by nautical date line, but that is internationally unrecognized as a terrestrial date line, thus the practice is not really a “united witness”. The reason Adventists from other lands see this is because they have the advantage of seeing how the world reacts to this “witness”. It’s an illusion to think the world is impressed by Seventh-day Adventists sticking to western time in defiance of the officially recognized dateline. It would be a more powerful witness if all the countries west of the official dateline worshipped on Saturday.

It would be a more powerful witness if all Adventists the world over observed the seventh-day on the official seventh day.

6. Western 7th day Sabbath observed for over 100 years....In 1922 when new Zealand wanted Samoa to revert to eastern day sequence, the executive committee...advised Sabbath observers thus:

“To make no change whatever in the observance of the Sabbath as it recurs in the weekly cycle, notwithstanding that the official name of the day may be changed by the Government from Saturday to Sunday.”

..An accompanying letter by Pastor A.W.Anderson...

“The Sabbath keepers in Samoa will simply continue to observe the day they have been observing as the Sabbath without any reference whatsoever to the name which is given officially to that day by the government....the fact that men call Sunday the Sabbath does not make it the Sabbath.”

Yes, the issue goes back a long time. It is “tradition” due to the Tongan precedent. But isn’t that the same argument the Sunday observers around the world make? First day observance goes back a long time, thus it must be correct to observe Sunday, they reason. Remember Sunday was observed by Sunday keeping Protestants in Samoa for about 75 years before Samoa was pulled into the western hemisphere. Protestants in Samoa have simply returned to their original Sunday. Protestants in Tonga have been keeping their FIRST day Sunday for 220 years, with Adventists joining them for the last 120 years.

I had to read the last sentence of A.W.Anderson’s quote several times for it struck me as a complete contradiction to his previous recommendation.
“The fact that men call Sunday the Sabbath does not make it the Sabbath.” I can only say “AMEN: to that sentence.

------ ------ ------

Sabbath Home Page