The Sacredness of the Sabbath Day
November 9, 2010
Dear Ministers and Brethren,
The leadership of the Church has been accused of subtly watering down the observance of the Sabbath day. Papers have been written and circulated among the ministry and membership purporting this change, and Internet blogs and Web sites have run rampant with these write-ups and discussions. Some have assumed these claims must be true because the Church has not officially responded to these documents.
On October 15, in a President’s letter, I did address this subject. Quoting from my letter:
“A highly vocal few, particularly in online forums, have raised imaginary issues about the current administration and Council of Elders. These false issues center on recent letters published from Melvin Rhodes and me about the Sabbath day and about fasting. One of our letters, published shortly before the Festival season, confirmed the inviolate sacredness of the Sabbath day, but also discussed how one family in Chile was seeking counsel and resolution for a specific and non-routine issue regarding Sabbath observance…To be absolutely clear, nothing concerning the established teachings of the Church about the Sabbath has changed, nor is any change being considered. Further, given the established procedures set forth in the Church’s governing structure, it is impossible for the administration or the Council of Elders to make any doctrinal changes…”
Unfortunately, the inaccurate documents now circulating in some areas only selectively quote from either the original letter or my October 15 letter—choosing to ignore the fact that both letters emphasize the sanctity and sacredness of the Sabbath day. This memo by me seeks to once again clarify the situation. The Sabbath letter was written to explain the background to a situation that had developed in Chile, but it has become a doctrinal issue in the minds of some.
It is obvious that the title could be taken two different ways and would have been clearer if it had stated: “Facts Concerning a Chilean Family’s Personal Sabbath Situation.” The family from Chile was hammered, slandered and vilified over a period of weeks on the Internet concerning how they had handled this situation with the observance of the Sabbath. The implication on the Internet was that the leadership of the Church had given approval of how they handled the family’s situation. Consequently, the leadership was likewise being attacked on this issue.
Our letter went to great lengths to explain that no attempt is being made to change doctrine; yet, this is the charge. The letter was written to explain that we all believe in the sacredness of Sabbath, that we are not changing the teaching on the Sabbath, and to give the history of the situation in Chile. Two church pastors, in the span of nine or ten years, never discussed the issue with the family. We all might say that they should have sought advice from the ministry on this situation and that would be a fair statement. The family did make a good faith effort to resolve their situation by searching our literature to find precedent for their actions and based their decision on that research.
The letter was written to explain that once their decision was questioned, “given that the family has sought counsel and resolution from Church leaders, the specific issue will follow the traditionally accepted process.”
The Church for many decades has had to render judgments on Sabbath-keeping. The letter was hoping to clarify what happened, to demonstrate the sanctity of the Sabbath, and that an appeal had been made for a judgment in this situation. It was not a letter stating that anyone who has a business can keep it open on the Sabbath or Holy Days.
We hope this memo helps to give clarification. The majority of people we have talked to about the Sabbath letter understand that it was simply written to explain a personal situation. A number of Web links are listed below that further explain the Church’s teaching on various issues with regard to keeping the Sabbath.
Sincerely, in Christ’s service,
• Sunset to Sunset: God’s Sabbath Rest www.ucg.org/booklets/SS
• Letters on Keeping the Sabbath as Ranchers, Caregivers or Business Owners www.ucg.org/un/un0302/sabletters.htm
• Principles of Sabbath Observance: Eating Out on the Sabbath members.ucg.org/papers/sabbathobservance.pdf
• Remember the Sabbath to Keep It Holy: Business Questions www.ucg.org/un/un0302/sabbath.htm
• Beginning of the Sabbath: In Extreme Northern and Southern Regions members.ucg.org/papers/sabbathstarttime.pdf