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History Book: World Council of Churches turns 75


WORLD Radio - History Book: World Council of Churches turns 75

Plus, losing a Mars probe and a judge is suspended for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments memorial

The first business meeting of the World Council of Christian Churches (WCC) in Amsterdam, Aug. 23, 1948 Associated Press Photo

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Monday, August 21st. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Up next, the WORLD History Book. Twenty years ago, a judge is suspended for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments memorial. Plus, losing contact with an interplanetary probe. But first, 75 years ago this week, the birth of a worldwide church association. Here’s WORLD Radio executive producer Paul Butler.

PAUL BUTLER, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: On the heels of World War II, the international desire for cooperation isn’t just political. It also ecclesiastical.

NEWSREEL: It was a year of great decision. Of decisions made in the final reckoning by people like ourselves. By all of us…

In the summer of 1948, delegates from more than 40 countries and nearly 150 Christian denominations gather in Amsterdam, Holland.

NEWSREEL: The World Council of Churches, is constituted and established.

The ecumenical movement traces its roots to the great Edinburgh missionary conference of 1910 as Christians from many different denominations obey the great commission. An effort interrupted by the second world war.

But once conflict with Germany and Japan is over, the World Council of Churches assembly steps forward to offer hope to the war-torn world.


The opening ceremony begins on August 22nd with a procession of delegates—dressed in their national and ecclesiastical vestments, much like the parade of nations during Olympic events. The delegates sing “All People that on Earth do Dwell.”

The World Council of Churches General Secretary describes the present status of the Council as something unprecedented in Church history. He says: “We are a Council of Churches, not the Council of the one undivided Church. Our name indicates our weakness and our shame before God, for there can be and there is finally only one Church of Christ on earth.”

The obvious hope of the delegates is to discover a way forward to at least work together for a common Gospel purpose, if not come together in one unified body.


The assembly ends on September 4th with the singing of “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” The delegates leave without a comprehensive doctrinal statement that every branch of the Christian Church can fully embrace.

The World Council of Churches assembly meets once every six to eight years. Since its founding, some of its member denominations have left the orthodox tenets of the Christian faith—embracing forms of universalism, syncretism, and unbiblical views of human sexuality. The WCC has come under fire from many of the world’s largest evangelical denominations for leaving the true faith as expressed in its founding documents that reminded its members of Ephesians 4: that God Himself gives the church gifts for the equipping of the saints and the edifying of the body of Christ. Declaring that the unity of the faith only comes through the knowledge of the Son of God.

Next, August 21st, 1993. After an 11 month flight, the Mars Observer probe is fast approaching the red planet. Its mission is to orbit Mars for a full planetary year—687 days—recording data and images to send back to earth.

Three days before its ultimate destination, NASA loses communication with the spacecraft.

NEWSCAST: Somewhere in space tonight the Observer remained silent. America's first mission to Mars in 17 years is in jeopardy, possibly dashing the hopes of hundreds of scientists who've spent years on the project.

NASA is never able to reconnect with the probe. A lengthy investigation concludes that the probable cause of the failure is a fuel line rupture. The failed mission cost the space agency more than $800 million dollars. Although it wasn’t a total loss as NASA collected a lot of flight data…information that’s proven useful in its later missions to Mars.

And we end today with a battle over the ten commandments. It began in 1992 when Alabama circuit judge Roy Moore hangs a wooden plaque of the commandments in his courtroom. He carved it himself. When Moore becomes Chief Justice in 2001 he promises that “God's law will be publicly acknowledged in our court.”

On July 31st he installs a large stone monument in the courthouse rotunda without informing the eight associate justices.

He later told WSFA channel 12 news:

MOORE: We must acknowledge God to have a moral basis for our society and to retain that freedom of conscience which every person in this state in this country recognizes as very important.

On November 18th, 2002, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson orders the monument removed for violating the constitution’s ban on government establishment of religion. Thompson gives Moore an ultimatum: remove the monument by August 20th, 2003, or face the possibility of fines. Chief Justice Moore refuses. Four days before the deadline, he addresses a rally of supporters:

ROY MOORE: It's not about politics. It's not about religion. Let's get it straight. It's about one thing, it's about the acknowledgement of the God on which this nation in our laws are based.

Moore appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene but it declines to get involved. On August 21st, 2003, the Associate Justices of Alabama Supreme Court unanimously order the building manager to remove the monument. The next day, the State Judicial Inquiry Commission suspends Chief Justice Moore.

He tells C-SPAN:

MOORE: The monument is simply an acknowledgement of the moral foundation of our law. Our foundation is found in Holy Scriptures. It's clear from the very outset of this country that the moral foundation of law comes from the Bible.

Not only is the monument removed, but on November 13th, 2003, the Alabama Court of the Judiciary removes Roy Moore from office as chief justice.

Today, the 10 Commandments monument is on display once again in Montgomery, Alabama. This time at the offices of The Foundation for Moral Law, a religious liberty advocacy group started by Justice Moore.

That’s this week’s WORLD History Book. I’m Paul Butler.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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