SDA Church dispute on assets heads to court

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The SDA Kosena church in Matatufu village

The SDA Kosena church in Matatufu village


Last month leaders of the SDA church in the South Pacific Division (SPD) met again in Australia with pastors from Samoa and Samoan pastors representing Samoan churches in New Zealand and Australia. The bible conference discussed the impasse in Samoa which is detrimental to a fundamental doctrine of the SDA church where there are now two seventh-day Sabbaths, some worshipping on Saturday and the majority worshipping on Sunday.

An outcome of the meeting is the matter to be referred to the Biblical Research Committee of the South Pacific Division for further research.

But in Samoa, the local church administration has instructed the law office of Schuster-Betham-Annandale to write to the Leauva’a-uta SDA members who are worshipping on Saturday to refrain from using the church facility there. The letter dated 6th February warns that failure to comply within 7 days will result in the matter been taken to the High Court for an order regarding ownership, demolition and removal by the church of assets.

The letter from the lawyer however states that the church does not dispute the land belongs to the title Sala (held by Fonoti Peteli). This is further confirmed in a letter from the Register of the Lands and Titles Court stating the ownership of the land known as Laumasa is with Sala Fonoti Peteli and is not being disputed. The Register however goes further advising the parties involved to seek legal advice from lawyers in regards to dividing of church assets.

The SDA Sabbath dilemma in Samoa today centers around which day is the seventh-day of the week after the IDL change in 2011, the second time Samoa has changed its location to the IDL. Is it Saturday or Sunday?

Seventh-day Adventists keeps the Sabbath on the ‘seventh day’ of the week which is Saturday like everywhere else in the world. Most Christian churches in Samoa however also call Sunday the Sabbath but for a different reason; to commemorate the day of Jesus’ resurrection which falls on Sunday the ‘first day’ of the week,

On the TVNZ program Tagata Pasefika last year, President of the SDA church in Samoa, Pastor Uili Solofa stated that “now in Samoa, the seventh-day falls on Sunday”.

The same argument was published in the Samoa Observer 1st July issue saying, “The practical result in terms of Sabbath keeping is that Sunday not Saturday has become the seventh day of the week.”

In a document dated 29th December 2011, Pastor Uili Solofa wrote, “The majority of church leaders, worshippers and villages (in Samoa) are not saying they are happy that Seventh-day Adventists are keeping Sunday, instead what they are saying is that – we are going to keep the Sabbath of the Seventh-day Adventist church; praise God!”

In a separate correspondence, Pastor Uili Solofa also wrote, “You have to know that all the other Christian religions in Samoa have publicly testified that they have moved to keep the seventh–day Sabbath of the Bible.”

Catholic Chancellor Ono does not appear to share that view. Asked about casinos opening on Sunday, Father Ioane says that personally, he had no problems with it.

“For Catholics or any Christian for that matter, Sunday is a day of rest, a day of giving thanks and praise to the Lord. It is also a day of joy and celebration because for the Catholic Church, Sunday is the day of resurrection of Jesus.” (Samoa Observer, March 12, 2013)

Such statement by SDA leaders in Samoa and the Pacific that Sunday is the ‘seventh-day’ in Samoa today contradicts why Christian churches worship on Sunday being the first day of the week to commemorate the day of Jesus’ resurrection.