Will Anglicanism Become the New — or Returned — Religion of Pitcairn Island

ANGWIN, CALIFORNIA — An American priest of the Anglican Rite Old Catholic church has announced plans to challenge the 130-year-long history of the Seventh-day Adventist religious faith on Pitcairn Island, the small South Pacific island home of about 50 descendants of the ill-famed mutineers of the ship H.M.S. Bounty.

In a message to the Pitcairn Islands Study Center in California, John Brantley, vicar of the Holyrood Anglican Church of Princeton, North Carolina, has announced a four-stage plan to reintroduce Anglicanism, the faith the Pitcairners had loosely followed for several decades before an American Adventist layman introduced them to the Seventh-day Adventist faith in 1886.

“Our campaign will be done in four states,” writes Brantley. “The first stage, fund-raising, is already partially completed.

“In the next few months we will be starting the second stage by sending boxes of literature (to Pitcairn), and doing further fund-raising.

“After 12-15 months of further fund-raising, we plan to send a mission priest – in April or May of 2018 is what we are shooting for – to the island to work and build a relationship with the islanders. His primary goal is not going to be to convert the people on the island, but, rather, to build a relationship with the community and relay back to us what the population needs.

“Stage four is to provide fulfillment of those needs to the people of the island and settle two or three Anglican families on the island. If the people of the island embrace Anglicanism, then we will be very blessed to have helped in the progress of God’s work. If they choose not to, then we will continue to serve God and help the people of the island.

“We have put a great deal of research into the project,” writes Brantley, “and we certainly don’t expect it to be an easy one, but we do expect it to be a fulfilling one.”

Today’s Pitcairn islanders are eighth and ninth generation descendants of British sailors who in 1789 mutinied against captain William Bligh of the British ship H.M.S. Bounty. Nine of the mutineers, along with Polynesian consorts, settled on Pitcairn Island in 1790, where they hid away from the outside world for nearly two decades before they were found.

Scores of books and five widely-viewed movies about the mutiny have made the naval incident and Pitcairn Island famous worldwide.

The Anglican Book of Common Prayer and a Bible, taken from the ship Bounty when it was burned at Pitcairn by the mutineers in 1790, served as the basis for religion on Pitcairn through much of the 1800s until Adventist layman John Tay’s arrival there in 1886. After five weeks of Tay’s sharing his faith with them, practically all the island population decided to change their religion to that of the Seventh-day Adventist faith. Since then it has been the only organized religion on Pitcairn Island.

Image: Early drawing of Bounty Bay, Pitcairn Island, courtesy Pacific Union College Library.

Herbert Ford is Director of the Pitcairn Islands Study Center at Pacific Union College.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7758

Will they stay with the Moses (Ex 20:8) JESUS (Mk 2:27) and PAUL (Acts 13:44) or will they go the way of 99% of antinomian Christianity (SUNday)?

Will they Just Change the International Date Line. LOL!

Peter-- Thanks for the Expanded Understanding of the current dynamics of the Island people group.
Apparently they have NOT received Books from President TW and from partner Doug Batchelor.
And are NOT listening to Hope Channel–Radio.


There are only 50 permanent inhabitants on this island, originating from four main original families. As of 2000, eight of the then forty islanders attended services regularly. Adventism has already significantly declined on Pitcairn. While the implications of this seem sad, will the Adventist denomination respect the religious freedom of Pitcairn’s people? I think it would be unseemly for Adventists to engage in open competition with the Anglicans. Pitcairners have known Adventism for 130 years. It is a part of their culture, although few of the inhabitants are active Adventists. They have sufficient understanding to make their choices. They deserve the freedom and respect to do so.

Consider, too, that sexual abuse has been significant on Pitcairn in recent years. So much so that an “entry clearance application” must be made for any child under the age of 16, prior to visiting Pitcairn. Does that describe a devoutly “Adventist” population or a small, inbred group of people very much in need of social and spiritual help. We can’t even assume that the few who still attend church would be interested in becoming Anglo-Catholics.

The islands have suffered a substantial population decline since 1940, and the viability of the island’s community is in doubt. In recent years, the government has been trying to attract new migrants. However, these initiatives have not been effective.

As of 2012, just two children had been born on Pitcairn in the 21 years prior. A diaspora survey projected that by 2045, if nothing were done, only three people of working age would be left on the island, with the rest being very old. And there is a strong possibility that, ultimately, Pitcairn will once again become uninhabited and considered uninhabitable.

Perhaps praying for Pitcairn is the best thing we can do. And a greater witness than competing for the denominational affiliation of a dozen or less people.


Some might say it is unseemly for any neo-colonial power to impose its religious system on a group of people uninvited and unasked. This might be applied equally to Anglicans and Adventists and any who feel compelled to foist their convictions on others without invitation.


A couple of years ago, Rhiannon Adam received a scholarship from the BBC to spend three months on Pitcairn Island. She documented her experience in an interesting and ultimately disturbing documentary available on the BBC Radio 4 Website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06j144b. It is well worth a listen. It would be interesting to observe what difference the presence of two or three new families would make on the Island.

all they need to do is send copies of John R. W. Scott’s books. TZ


Thank you for sharing that link. Given that the attrition rate guarantees almost zero population by the year 2045, maybe we should pray for Anglican success.

It seems the most urgent need on the island at this time is to interest people in settling there after the reputation of the island culture darkened following the child molestation trials. Most of the young people have only been too eager to leave the island throughout the years. Maybe the Anglicans will be successful with that and save the island from extinction.

I might be pushing on the limits of the editorial policy here by submitting a second comment - not in reply to previous comments but to add a complimentary point.

I wish it was possible to raise the bar of the priest’s rhetoric somewhat.

One could express the wish and conviction that people from all walks of life would feel welcome and free to practice whatever religion they choose in any country that they find themselves by choice or by birth. As we don’t prescribe to people how they should think and evaluate choices in life, we would hope that everybody on the Island would feel able to choose the faith (or no faith) that they feel most accurately reflect what they are convicted by. Furthermore, the Adventists Church would encourage any collaborative effort with anybody who has the health and well-being of the individuals and community of Pitcairn Island as a key goal.


It is a little problematic that the Adventist church, who have historically always had a minister and a nurse on the island, were unaware of the sexual abuse that was going in. This does bring into question the extent that the official representatives of the church were trusted with confidentialities by the residents. If the locals could not trust the minister, the question would be “why not?”. And if they did trust the minister and were sharing their concerns, why were these concerns not take up? Perhaps the non taking up of these concerns by the ministers led to the breakdown in trust.

It must be time for the shaking to occur.

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The Anglican Rite Old Catholic Church is apparently more Catholic than Anglican. It is more than a little confusing as some groups with a similar name rejected the modern revised Book of Common Prayer while others claim to be the continuation of the pre-Reformation English Catholic Church. Here’s something on the latter: http://www.anglicanritecatholicchurch.org/faq.html


Pretty sure we’ll keep on being Seventh Day Adventist. And, you know, those Anglican visitors may just decide to become SDA, too.

One possibility would be for a well-balanced, Christ-centred, Adventist couple to move to Pitcairn with the mission of presenting the attractiveness of Christ to all the inhabitants. The most powerful argument in favour of Christianity (and Adventism) is a loving and a lovable Christian.
The Anglicans are welcome to come but if Adventism is presented and lived as it should be the choice would be easier.

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Just because these people have been predominately SdA, at least nominally, for the last 130 years doesn’t give the church a monopoly here. Religion is a personal choice. If people choose to become members of another church, so be it.


The pitcairn people may not see much difference in Anglicanism v Adventism. The hymns that Anglicans have are used by Adventists and most of what Ellen White plagiarised are from Anglican divines. Anglicans at the church I frequent believe the state of the dead the same as Adventists and also baptism by immersion although they baptise children too.
One advantage of Anglicanism is they have a clear understanding of the gospel and don’t have any Investigative Judgement.
My opinions are from an Anglican evangelical position I don’t know about anglo catholic beliefs and practices.

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Fascinating sequel to what, in the 1890s was the most ambitious funding of “evangelistic activity” by Adventism.

Some thoughts about the expressed thoughts about Pitcairn, its people, and the possibility that Anglicanism may one day show its face on the Island:.
Today, proportionately, there are about the same number of members of the Adventist faith on Pitcairn as there were a half century ago, there has been no more waning of interest or practice of the faith on Pitcairn then we see in many Adventist communities in America, Australia or elsewhere.
The small numbers of islanders attending Sabbath services on Pitcairn today has almost nothing to do with a lack of faith, it has everything to do with all but fewer than 40 (adults) versus well over 100 just a few decades ago having either died or moved to New Zealand or elsewhere, because 1. Pitcairn offered almost no economic opportunity, health care, etc. (while New Zealand & elsewhere does), or 2. Pitcairn parents, having sent their children to higher level education at Palmerston, N.Z., followed their children to that favored land and found that it offered jobs and comforts only dreamed about on Pitcairn.
Any person, whether they be an Anglican priest or whatever, - if they meet visitor or residency rules - will be welcomed on Pitcairn. Those who do visit or take up permanent living there, find that Pitcairners are some of the most friendly people in the world - that friendliness has been recorded hundreds of times by visitors.
The sensationalized stories of what has been characterized as an almost total giving over to sexual immorality by the Pitcairners are far from truth. It is safe to say that the trial that placed six Pitcairn men in jail more than a decade ago was for sex crimes no greater that is found in any other place in the world when placed in the time frame for which the judgments were given.
For more than 100 years British-written laws for Pitcairn Island have been operative, a number of the dealing with sexual offenses like those dealt with in the 2004 trials. As a result of an-around-the-table conversation between Pitcairn women and a visiting British police officer, the ways of sex were learned on the Island were learned, and believing that some of these ways did not square with the ways of downtown London, she (the police officer) duly reported them.
The result was a world-wide investigation by British detectives in an attempt to find off-island Pitcairn born and raised women who had been violated.
As a result of the world-wide investigation, the head of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office - which ultimately controls Pitcairn Island, decided that the then operative laws of Pitcairn should be set aside, and a trial, which bundled 40 years of charges together, should be held in New Zealand - even, if the FCO head wrote - “it means the dehabitation of Pitcairn Island.” A flurry of new ordinances (laws on Pitcairn) were hastily written by Pitcairn’s British Governor, who sits nearly 4,000 miles away from the Island, to better accommodate the upcoming trial. The Pitcairners, recalling that the Pitcairn laws said that any crime committed on Pitcairn must be tried on Pitcairn (rather than in a foreign land like New Zealand) were able to get the trial venue changed to Pitcairn, believing that the trial, being held there, would likely keep it out of the world spotlight. But the Governor squelched that hope by inviting a cadre of six journalists from different parts of the worlds to “cover” the trial on Pitcairn.
The moving of the trial to Pitcairn introduced many international complexities, including that because it was so costly to bring victims from lands afar to the Island, they would be able to testify on internationally-arranged television, rather than having to face their violators in a courtroom. Scores of other matters which might have compromised justice were also a part of the make-up and conducting of the trial. Regardless, the verdict: six islanders found guilty of sex crimes, some of which were committed as long as 40 years ago, none of which had been committed in the immediate past half-decade.
So what of sex history of Pitcairn Island? The European history of the Island started in 1790. It makers were nine mutineers off the British ship Bounty, and 12 Polynesian female consorts. The sexual custom the women brought to the Island were that of the islands they came from: sexual activity was a plaything from among the very young. Resulting offspring became a community responsibility, not a cause for punishment. It is safe to say the mutineers were well pleased with the custom of the women - the large families (a dozen or more children) and a high illegitimacy rate on Pitcairn, plus the entire Island population caring for the offspring through much of the 19th century - is testimony to the fact.
It is also safe to say that the mind-set of most on Pitcairn has been to that custom of the Island’s history - despite what has been infrequent appeals (just like the world over) from the pulpit to an ever higher standard of sexual purity.
So, what to learn, what to draw from all of the above? As far as this writer is concerned it is that:
History did a disservice to the good people of Pitcairn Island for having painted them for more than a century as being virtual saints in an isolated Pacific Garden of Eden. They were not, and they are not. They’re very much like you or me in their lives, but their isolation from rest of the world - their inability to communicate with it - to easily allows others to mind-paint them differently than what they really are, sometimes with hurtful consequences to them.
And that, as the good Forrest would say, "Is all that I’ve got to say about that.


“There are 613 commandments in the Law, per official Jewish count.”

We disregard 603 of them.

Hooray for us nomians!


Not exactly. What about unclean meats? Or all the other laws contained largely in Leviticus, especially the solemn festivals in the 23rd chapter. How were those chosen to be observed today and those no longer applicable?

Are Adventists more Christian or Jewish in their rules to observe? How can both be valid?