Monday, October 26, 2020

The year was 1966. We remember the World Congress on Evangelism. Today's reading is a good word on the church's future from the Apocalypse of St. John.

It is the 26th of October 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at I'm Dan van Voorhis.

The year was 1966.

Here at the Almanac, we like to mark the days and times. In 1966 President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Uniform Time Act into law. The law made Daylight Savings a federal adjustment instead of letting individual states determine when they would push their clocks forward and set them back. The practice goes back to the early 20th century. But the father of all Almanacs, Ben Franklin, suggested a daylight savings time as early as the 18th century. Franklin, upset at people sleeping in and wasting valuable daylight, proposed a tax on candles and shutters to encourage workers to maximize efficiency during part of the year.

While Daylight savings is uniformly observed across the United States today, Arizona and Hawaii have told the Feds to pound sand. One last point: if it seems like the switch back to standard time in October has moved later than it used to be, it has. In 2007 the switch was moved to after Halloween, this on account of heavy lobbying from American candy companies.

1966 was a big year in the space race. It was the year that Russia successfully crashed a spacecraft into Venus and successfully landed another on the moon. The United States Gemini missions successfully orbited the moon and sent pictures of the earth from space back home. Space docking and extravehicular activity also were successful this year.

Everyone was getting into the mood for space travel and exploration. Houston became an international space center, and their local baseball team, the Colt .45s, took the name the "Astros" in honor of NASA. In 1966 the team moved into the Houston Astrodome, a soulless concrete dome called, with a straight face, the 8th wonder of the world. Fun fact: in the coming century, these Astros would become notorious cheaters, even stealing a world series.

It was in 1966 that Gene Roddenberry's "Star Trek" debuted on NBC. The universe of Humans, Romulans, Klingons, and Vulcans would become the gold standard for science fiction TV. While the original series might look cheesy to the modern viewer, the cast's diversity and the stories about literally universal themes would kick off a science fiction and space obsessed few decades.

Star Trek famously placed Star Fleet in San Francisco, the United Nations' home, as a nod to post-war conferences and committees for peace. After the World Wars, it seemed that the world wanted nothing more than to hold world conferences. And as the world goes, so, too, does the church. On this the 26th of October in 1966, the World Congress on Evangelism held its first meeting in Berlin on the topic of "One race, one gospel, one task."

The main impetus for the conference came from John Stott and Billy Graham. They had both been critical of the World Council of Churches and other ostensibly theological institutions that downplayed theological differences. Billy Graham used his significant influence with his Billy Graham Evangelistic Association as well as with Christianity Today.

Stott gave many presentations on the necessity of coordinating evangelistic work and uniting sound doctrine and social justice. Stott emphasized that social justice was not synonymous with the social gospel and that cooperative work for justice could further unite churches.

Furthermore, the conference dealt with problems on an international scale, helping to think through and develop the church's use of technology, business opportunities, and international travel. This world congress was primarily organized and run by American and western organizations, but the congress's content revealed a church that was shifting its center of gravity. The congress recognized that the church's future and growth opportunities were in developing countries in the global south.

As with post-war countries, fictional space people, and the church, the 60s were a time for grasping at peace and cooperation. And we saw it in Berlin on this the 26th of October in 1966 when the World Congress of Evangelism held its first meeting.

The reading for today is a good word on the church's future from the Apocalypse of St. John. This is Revelation chapter 7, verses 9-11.

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, "Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!"

And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, singing, "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen."

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 26th of October 2020 brought to you by 1517 at The show is produced by a man possessed with the logic of Spock and the smoldering angst of captain Kirk, Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. Remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true. Everything is going to be ok.

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