NICK EICHER, HOST: Next up on The World and Everything in It: the WORLD Radio History Book.
Today the 50th anniversary of the founding of America’s largest mainline denomination.
Plus, 25 years ago, a plane crash in Africa and a nation loses its entire national soccer team, but not its faith in Christ.
MARY REICHARD: And the U.S. Navy accomplishes a maritime first. Here’s Paul Butler.
PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: We begin today on April 25th, 1960, 500 miles off the coast of Brazil—the American Navy submarine USS Triton completes the first underwater circumnavigation of the globe, a mission begun two months earlier.
AUDIO: As we begin our dive into the depths of the Atlantic off New London, we and our new ship are partners in an epic adventure to attempt the longest submerged cruise in history…
Audio from the 1960 documentary: Beyond Magellan. Most of the Navy crew believed this would be a simple “shake-down” cruise, but once underway, they learn of their mission: to follow the route of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan’s attempted round-the-world trip 400 years earlier.
AUDIO: …and who among us does not think for at least one second of the tragic fate of that brave sailor of four centuries ago…
Over its 60-day voyage, the sub crosses the equator 4 times and covers nearly 27,000 nautical miles, averaging 21 miles per hour. The crew faces many challenges, including depth-finder malfunctions, and reactor shutdowns, but the greatest struggle is the number of days underwater. After nearly 40 days, the crew is ready to return topside.
AUDIO: At such a time, a sailor likes to look heavenward for help. And that is why, as we cruise beneath the sight of all except God, church attendance rises as we make our final run…
Upon completion of the voyage, The New York Times writes that Triton’s successful circumnavigation of the world is “a triumph which the United States Navy can rank as one of its bright victories in man’s ultimate conquest of the seas.”
Next, April 23rd, 1968, 50 years ago today:
AUDIO: Mr. Chairman, on behalf of the council of bishops I submit this formal report …
At the general conference in Dallas, Texas, the Evangelical United Brethren Church joins with the Methodist Church, forming the United Methodist Church. It became America’s second-largest Protestant denomination, behind Southern Baptists:
OUTLER: God now gives us to be a church united, in order to be uniting. A church repentant in order to be a church redemptive, a church cruciform, in order to manifest God’s triumphant agony for mankind…
Albert Outler, Methodist theologian. The uniting conference ceremony features diverse representatives from both churches joining hands over the altar and pledging unity in Christ.
AUDIO: Lord of the Church, we are united in thee, in thy church and now in the United Methodist Church, Amen.
Membership peaked in the 1970s with more than 10 and a half million, but has steadily declined in the decades since to less than 7 million today.
The UMC has remained largely orthodox in its theology and practice, though current disputes over homosexuality threaten to split the church. The issue is scheduled for debate during next year’s special general conference in St. Louis.
And finally, 25 years ago this week, April 27th, 1993. While en route to a World Cup qualifying match in Senegal, 18 members of the Zambian national soccer team and 2 coaches are killed in a plane crash.
The tragedy shakes football fans around the world, but provides an opportunity for Christian witness as Zambia President Frederick Chiluba prays boldly for the nation during the team funeral service:
CHILUBA: We ask thee dear Lord, than even as I declare Zambia a Christian country, I re-dedicate this nation and submit it to you…even in these dark moments of our nation Lord, I ask this nation to join me to proclaim Lord Jesus as our Lord, to proclaim you Lord the ruler of this nation. We shall overcome in the name of the Lord Jesus…Amen.
Zambia quickly builds a new team around the players not on the flight. While Zambia unexpectedly makes it to the finals, they lose to Nigeria 2 to 1, but the team returns home as heros.
That’s this week’s WORLD Radio History Book, I’m Paul Butler.