Oxford Group

Oxford Group

The Oxford Group was a Christian movement that had a following in Europe, China, Africa, Australia, Scandinavia and America in the 1920s and 30s. It was initiated by an American Lutheran pastor, Frank Buchman, who was of Swiss descent. In 1908 he claimed a conversion experience in a chapel in Keswick, England and later he initiated a movement called A First Century Christian Fellowship in 1921; by 1931 this had grown into a movement which attracted thousands of adherents, many well-to-do, which became known as the Oxford Group.[1]

Its leader, Frank Buchman, made the cover of Time Magazine as "Cultist Frank Buchman: God is a Millionaire" in 1936.[2] The group was unlike other forms of evangelism in that it targeted and directed its efforts to the "up and outers": the elite and wealthy of society. It made use of publicity regarding its prominent converts, and was caricatured by critics as a "Salvation Army for snobs". Buchman's message did not challenge the status quo and thus aided the Group's popularity among the well-to-do.[3]

For a U.S. headquarters, he built a multimillion-dollar establishment on Michigan's Mackinac Island, with room for 1,000 visitors. From Caux to London's Berkeley Square to New York's Westchester County layouts, Buchman and his followers had the best. In response to criticism, Buchman had an answer: "Isn't God a millionaire?" he would ask.[4]

The Oxford Group achieved popularity worldwide for a time, but it was a minority voice in America. The Oxford Group movement was in reaction to the mainstream Christian churches, which were concerned with social systematic problems; their gospels emphasized liberal and social issues. The Oxford Group's focus was on personal concerns and placed the entire problem of human existence on self, the idea of personal sinfulness, asserting that individual sin was the key problem and the entire solution was in the individual's conviction, confession, and surrender to God. The Group revived an older 19th century approach in which the focus was on sin and conversion; it practiced a form of ethical and religious perfectionism that was reduced to a call for a renewed morality.[5]

Buchman, who had little intellectual interest or interest in theology, believed all change happens from the individual outward, and stressed simplicity. He summed up the Group's philosophy in a few sentences: all people are sinners, all sinners can be changed, confession is a prerequisite to change, the change can access God directly, miracles are again possible, the change must change others.[6]

By the 1940s the Group had fallen into public disfavor; the public associated it with revivalist Protestantism, which many mainstream Protestants and most Roman Catholics rejected. It began to be ridiculed in popular plays and books.[7] In 1938, a time of military re-armament, Buchman proclaimed a need for "moral and spiritual re-armament" and that phrase—shortened to Moral Re-Armament (MRA)—became the movement's name.

The Oxfords Group's influence can be found in Alcoholics Anonymous. Ebby Thacher, Rowland Hazard III, Bill Wilson and Bob Smith, with Bill & Bob the two co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, were also members of the Oxford Group up until 1940. Though early AA sought to distance itself from the Oxford Groups, Wilson later acknowledged, "The early AA got its ideas of self-examination, acknowledgment of character defects, restitution for harm done and working with others straight from the Oxford Group and directly from Sam Shoemaker, their former leader in America, and from nowhere else."[8]


God control

In various speeches given by Frank Buchman, the Group's purpose was outlined.

  • The secret is God control. The only sane people in an insane world are those controlled by God. God-controlled personalities make God-controlled nationalities. This is the aim of the Oxford Group. The true patriot gives his life to bring his nation under God's control. Those people who oppose that control are public enemies.... World peace will only come through nations which have achieved God-control. And everybody can listen to God. You can. I can. Everybody can have a part.[9]
  • There are those who feel that internationalism is not enough. Nationalism can unite a nation. Supernationalism can unite a world. God-controlled supernationalism seems to be the only sure foundation for world peace![10]
  • I challenge Denmark to be a miracle among the nations, her national policy dictated by God, her national defense the respect and gratitude of her neighbors, her national armament an army of life-changers. Denmark can demonstrate to the nations that spiritual power is the first force in the world. The true patriot gives his life to bring about his country's resurrection.[11]
  • The international problems are, at bottom, personal problems of selfishness and fear. Lives must be changed if problems are to be solved. Peace in the world can only spring from peace in the hearts of men. A dynamic experience of God’s free spirit is the answer to regional antagonism, economic depression, racial conflict and international strife.[9]
  • Sin...Blinds,Binds,Multiplies,Deadens & Deafens.
  • Be rid of false distinctions right away, the problem of most of us is not the open sin, but the secret; not the sin that makes us uncomfortable, but the comfortable sins. We must cease dealing with symptoms and get down to root causes and motives.[12]

The name

The name "Oxford Group" originated in South Africa in 1929, as a result of a railway porter writing the name on the windows of those compartments reserved by a traveling team of Frank Buchman followers. They were from Oxford, England and in South Africa to promote the movement. The South African press picked up on the name and it stuck.[13]

Even though in 1938, Buchman chose to rename the Group and call it Moral Re-Armament. In June 1939 he applied to the Board of Trade in London to incorporate the name Oxford Group. The Oxford Group was considered legally non-existent in an earlier court ruling and Buchman could not collect a £500 inheritance left to the group by a member. The use of the name Oxford by Buchman brought opposition from Oxford University. The application was eventually approved, although the proposal had been debated both in Oxford and in the House of Commons, as opponents claimed Buchman was trying to capitalize on the name of Oxford; 232 Members of Parliament signed a petition supporting the incorporation, while 50 signed a motion opposing it. In June 1939 the Board of Trade decided in the Group’s favour.[14][15][16]

International expansion

The Oxford Group conducted campaigns in many European countries. In 1934 a team of 30 visited Norway at the invitation of Carl Hambro, President of the Norwegian Parliament. Nearly fourteen thousand people attended the three meetings in Oslo, Norway. At the end of that year the Oslo daily Tidens Tegn commented in its Christmas number, "A handful of foreigners who neither knew our language, nor understood our ways and customs, came to the country. A few days later the whole country was talking about God, and two months after the thirty foreigners arrived, the mental outlook of the whole country has definitely changed".[17] On 22 April 1945, Arne Fjellbu, Bishop of Trondheim, preached in the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields, London. "I wish to state publicly," he said, "that the foundations of the united resistance of Norwegian Churchmen to Nazism were laid by the Oxford Group's work".[18]

In 1935 a team of 250 people were welcomed to Switzerland by the President, Rudolf Minger. A large number of meetings took place. On one night in Geneva, Calvin's cathedral and one of the city's largest halls both overflowed. "For many, these meetings were a turning point in their lives", according to professor Theophil Spoerri of the University of Zurich. "It was almost as if something new was penetrating between the chink of the shutters. A businessman, alone in his office, would feel a faint sense of unease if he was planning to cheat his fellow citizens. The public conscience became more sensitive. The Director of Finance in one canton reported that after the national day of thanksgiving and repentance, 6,000 tax payments were recorded, something which had never occurred before".[19]

While in Geneva, Prime Minister Edvard Beneš of Czechoslovakia invited Buchman and his colleagues to address a luncheon at the League of Nations, attended by 32 of the League's Ministers Plenipotentiary. They listened to Hambro's account of the Oxford Group's impact in Norway. "No man who has been in touch with the Group will go back to his international work in the same spirit as before", he told them. "It has been made impossible for him to be ruled by hate or prejudice".[19]

Similar stories can be told of campaigns in Denmark, where Bishop Fuglsang-Damgaard, Bishop of Copenhagen, said that the Oxford Group "has opened my eyes to that gift of God which is called Christian fellowship, and which I have experienced in this Group to which I now belong".[20] When the Nazis invaded Denmark, Bishop Fuglsang-Damgaard was sent to a concentration camp. Before imprisonment he smuggled a message to Buchman saying that through the Oxford Group he had found a spirit which the Nazis could not break and that he went without fear.[21]

In 1937 Buchman visited the Netherlands. 100,000 people attended gatherings in Utrecht over Whitsun that year. "The greatest surprise was the appearance of Dr J Patijn, our Ambassador in Brussels", reported the Socialist paper Het Volk. "Only those who know him as Burgomaster of The Hague, a sound but unapproachable man and averse to any public show, will be able to appreciate fully what it must have cost him to speak about his inmost self before many thousands. 'It is not for everyone,' he said, 'to speak in public about his faith, and it is not easy for me to do so. Every man, however, must have the courage of his convictions... Through the Oxford Group I have learnt to see my fellow men, the world and my whole life in a new perspective'".


By the 1950s the Group was banned by the Catholic Church. Ildefonso Schuster, Cardinal Archbishop of Milan, stated that the Moral Re-Armament Movement endangered both Catholics and non-Catholics. He called the movement dangerous for non-Catholics because it presents a "form of religion cut in half and suggestive, morality without dogma, without the principle of authority, without a supremely revealed faith — in a word, an arbitrary religion, and therefore, one full of errors." The Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano stated that secular and regular clergy were forbidden to attend any meeting of Moral Re-Armament and that lay Catholics were forbidden to serve it in any responsible capacity.[22][23]

A report concerning MRA by the Social and Industrial Council of the Church of England criticized MRA on three counts: theology, psychology and social thinking. The report found theology woefully wanting in MRA. It said, "A certain blindness to the duty of thinking is a characteristic... We have at times been haunted by a picture of the movement, with its hectic heartiness, its mass gaiety and its reiterated slogans, as a colossal drive of escapism from responsible living."[23][24]

Nazi leaders

At the beginning of the 1930s, Frank Buchman kept in close touch with Germans active in the Oxford Group. Adolf Hitler had, at first, presented himself as a defender of Christianity, declaring in 1928, "We shall not tolerate in our ranks anyone who hurts Christian ideas". Buchman was convinced that without a change in the heart of the National Socialist regime, a world war would become inevitable. He also believed that any person, including the German leaders, could find a living Christian faith with a commitment to Christ's moral values.[25]

Moni von Crammon, a German member of the Oxford Group, was the invited guest of Heinrich Himmler for the Nuremberg Rally and she in turn invited Buchman. Von Crammon and Buchman sat beside Himmler at an informal luncheon, where they discussed religion and politics. Due to his family background, Buchman spoke German fluently. Buchman and von Crammon attended two of the Nazi Party rallies, one in 1934 and the other in 1935. Von Crammon later claimed after the war, that her association with Himmler came as a result of her seeking him out in the matter of her possible arrest, due to a piece of literature that was construed as anti-Nazi, found in her possession by a maid.[26]

In August 1936, Buchman was Himmler's guest at the Berlin Olympics. Buchman offered to introduce British Member of Parliament Kenneth Lindsay to Himmler, referring to Himmler as "a great lad".[27] Buchman added that Hitler himself was being most helpful to the Group: "He lets us have house-parties whenever we like". Buchman did not seem to think much of England or of Canada: England was in a terrible state — "seething with Communism"; and so was Canada. Lindsay disagreed: he thought that such an assessment showed that Buchman really knew very little about England or Canada.[28] Oxford group member Garth Lean writes in his book that according to Buchman's young followers who went with him, Himmler came in with his henchmen, gave a propagandist account of Nazism and left, without giving Buchman a chance to speak.[29] Lean also cites a Danish reporter, Jacob Kronika, who in January 1962 gave an account in a small newspaper he edited, the Flensborg Avis, of a meeting in Berlin with Buchman:

Frank Buchman when Buchman stayed at the Hotel Esplanade in Berlin. One day we ate lunch together. In the afternoon he was to have a conversation with SS Chief Himmler, who had invited Dr. Buchman to come and see him. The conversation, of course, became a complete fiasco. Himmler could not, as he intended, exploit the 'absolute obedience' of the MRA people towards God for the benefit of the obedient slaves of the SS and the Nazis.

The British Foreign Office had a different report. In a confidential minute dated 16 January 1939, Makins records impressions Dr. Burckhardt had gained from his recent talks in Berlin. Asked whether he thought Himmler should be included among the extremists or the moderates of the Nazis, Dr. Burckhardt said Himmler had been very much disgusted by the anti-Semitic outrages. He said Himmler was "a very curious character" and that both he and his wife were members of the Oxford Group.[30]

Buchman expressed concerns, stating, "Germany has come under the dominion of a terrible demoniac force. A counter-action is urgent. We must ask God for guidance and strength to start an anti-demoniac counter-action under the sign of the Cross of Christ in the democratic countries bordering on Germany, especially in the small neighboring countries."[31]

In 1936 Buchman had hope that Germany could be diverted from its course. When he returned from the Berlin Olympics he gave an interview to the New York World-Telegram.

"I thank Heaven for a man like Adolf Hitler, who built a front line of defense against the anti-Christ of Communism," he said today in his book-lined office in the annex of Calvary Church, Fourth Ave and 21st St. "My barber in London told me Hitler Nazis do Anti-Semitism? Bad, naturally. I suppose Hitler sees a Karl Marx in every Jew. But think what it would mean to the world if Hitler surrendered to the control of God. Or Mussolini. Or any dictator. Through such a man God could control a nation overnight and solve every last, bewildering problem. The world won't listen to God, but God has a plan for every person, for every nation. The world needs the dictatorship of the living spirit of God. I like to put it this way: God is a perpetual broadcasting station and all you need to do is tune in. What we need is a supernatural network of live wires across the world to every last man, in every last place, in every last situation... Human ingenuity is not enough. That is why the isms are pitted against each other and blood falls. Spain has taught us what godless Communism will bring. Who would have dreamed that nuns would be running naked in the streets? Human problems aren't economic. They're moral and they can't be solved by immoral measures. They could be solved within a God-controlled democracy, or perhaps I should say a theocracy, and they could be solved through a God-controlled Fascist dictatorship."[32][33]

The Rev. Garrett Stearly, one of Buchman's colleagues from Princeton University, said statements were taken out of context. When Buchman was asked about Germany, he said that Germany needed a new Christian spirit, yet one had to face the fact that Hitler had been a bulwark against Communism there - and you could at least thank heaven for that.[34]

The Oxford Group held a rally in Stockbridge, Massachusetts where the marchers in the parade carried the flags of 48 States and 18 nations, including Germany's swastika. A negative comment on this drew the response that "the Oxford Group bring nations together".[35]

Of the thousands of Gestapo documents made available after the war[36] Oxford Group member Garth Lean found only three that concerned the Oxford Group. One suggests the Group was "a new and dangerous opponent of National Socialism". Another states it preaches revolution against the national state and has quite evidently become its Christian opponent. The third, from 1942, says "No other Christian movement has underlined so strongly the character of Christianity as being supernational and independent of all racial barriers... It tries fanatically to make all men into brothers". Lean claims the information source is a file called Die Oxford- oder Gruppenbewegung, Herausgegeben vom Sicherheitshauptamt, November 1936", Geheim, Nummeriertes Exemplar Nr. 1".[37]

In 1938, after another Nuremberg rally and the Anschluss, Oxford Group members telephoned both Diana Mosley and her sister Unity "Bobo" Mitford, who were in Munich at the time attending the celebrations. The Oxford members requested an invitation and introduction to Hitler, for the purpose of "changing" him. The request was refused by both Mitford and Mosley. Later that same evening Oxford Group members phoned Mitford's father, Lord Redesdale, who was also visiting Munich, making the same request. His reply was "no, damn it, I like the feller the way he is."[38] Travel writer and journalist Robert Byron, who had persuaded Hitler's English admirer Mitford, to include him in her party, entered in his diary: "Himmler apparently dotes on the Oxford Group and writes to its English members discussing their troubles with them".[39]

According to Oxford group member Garth Lean, during the war, the Oxford Group in Germany divided into three parts. Some submitted to Himmler's demand that they cut all links with Buchman and the Oxford Group abroad. The largest group continued the work of bringing Christian change to people under a different name, Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Seelsorge (Working team for the Care of Souls), without being involved in politics and always subject to surveillance. A third group joined the active opposition. Von Crammon's son-in-law was one of those executed along with Adam von Trott zu Solz[40][41] under Hitler's orders after the 20 July plot.

Buchman's attempts to convert the Nazi leadership was condemned by Dietrich Bonhoeffer who wrote: "The Oxford Group has been naïve enough to try to convert Hitler - a ridiculous failure to understand what is going on - it is we who are to be converted, not Hitler."[42]

A report from the Social and Industrial Council of the Church of England also condemned Buchman's approach in dealing with the Nazi regime, It stated: "It was surely this that led Dr. Buchman, so it is alleged, to believe that through 'change' induced in Hitler there could come a 'God-controlled fascist dictatorship.' His error was not so much that his appraisal of Hitler was so naive... but that he failed to see... that dictatorship is not bad just because it has a bad man as dictator."[43]

Spiritual tenets

The Oxford Group literature defines the group as not being a religion, for it had "no hierarchy, no temples, no endowments, its workers no salaries, no plans but God's plan." Their chief aim was "A new world order for Christ, the King."[44] In fact one could not belong to the Oxford group for it had no membership list, badges, or definite location. It was simply a group of people from all walks of life who have surrendered their life to God. Their endeavor was to lead a spiritual life under God's Guidance and their purpose was to carry their message so others could do the same.

The group was more like a religious revolution, unhampered by institutional ties, it combined social activities with religion, it had no organized board of officers. The group declared itself to be not an "organization" but an "organism". Though Frank Buchman was the group's founder and leader, group members believed their true leader to be the Holy spirit and relied on God Control, meaning guidance received from God by those people who had fully "surrendered" to God's will.[45] By working within all the churches, regardless of denomination, they drew new members.[46] A newspaper account in 1933 described it as "personal evangelism -- one man talking to another or one woman discussing her problems with another woman was the order of the day".[47] In 1936, Good Housekeeping described the Group having no membership, no dues, no paid leaders, no new theological creed, nor regular meetings, it is simply a fellowship of people who desire to follow a way of life, a determination not a denomination.[48]

The Four Absolutes

Moral standards of absolute honesty, absolute purity, absolute unselfishness, and absolute love, though recognized as impossible to attain, were guidelines to help determine whether a course of action was directed by God.

In Oxford terms sin is "anything that kept one from God or one another", "as contagious as any bodily disease". In other words: "The soul needs cleaning... We all know 'nice' sinless sinners who need that surgical spiritual operation as keenly as the most miserable sinner of us all."[49]

Buchman's use of the four absolutes came through his teacher Robert E. Speer and his book "the Principles of Jesus" and Speer's summarization of the Sermon on the Mount being the Oxford Group's Four Absolutes test of right or wrong.

  1. Absolute Honesty: "Truth in an Age of Lies."
  2. Absolute Purity: "Moral purity began with the eye & thought. We may need to deal with the tongue and the touch. For many of us our history is this-the look, the thought, the fascination of the thought and then the fall."
  3. Absolute Love: "Hate is equivalent to murder. Is there anyone for whom you still cherish feelings of dislike, resentment and lack of forgiveness? Sins against love are common with the tongue. Only say to others what you say to them. Jealousy is devastating to peace of mind and spiritual power. So are snobbery and superiority, whether social, intellectual or spirtiual. Temper cuts across love. The sin of Fear is sin against love. Perfect love casteth out fear."
  4. Absolute Unselfishness: "Your problems are mixed up with the things you love most and which count most to you. Self-Respect is ninety percent-self, ten percent-respect. "We do God's work, but not His will. We do not God's best, but a good of our own."[cite this quote]

The Five C's

The "Five C's" were formulated as a mnemonic aid for spiritual guidance:

  1. Confidence: Nothing could be done unless the other person[clarification needed] had confidence in you, and knew that you could keep confidences.
  2. Confession: Getting honest about the real state of affairs behind one's public persona. One further aspect of becoming a free person[clarification needed] was the need to make restitution – to put right, as far as possible, any wrong done (e.g. returning stolen goods or money or admitting to having told lies). Sometimes, if the sin was a public one, restitution might involve making a public confession.
  3. Conviction: The conviction of sin and a desire to change.
  4. Conversion: A decision of the will to live God's way.
  5. Continuance: The ongoing support of people who had decided to change. He[clarification needed] felt that this was the most neglected "C".

The Four Spiritual Practices

To be spiritually reborn, the Oxford Group advocated four practices:[50]

  1. Sharing our sins and temptations with another Christian life given to God.
  2. Surrendering our life past, present and future, into God's keeping and direction.
  3. Restitution to all whom we have wronged directly or indirectly.
  4. Listening for God's guidance, and carrying it out.


The central practice to the Oxford/MRA members was guidance, which was usually sought in the "quiet time" of early morning using pen and paper. The grouper would normally read the Bible or other spiritual literature, then take time in quiet with pen and paper, seeking God's direction for the day ahead, trying to find God's perspective on whatever issues were on the listener's mind. He or she would test their thoughts against the standards of absolute honesty, purity, unselfishness and love, and normally check with a colleague.

Guidance was also sought collectively from groupers when they formed teams. They would take time in quiet, each individual writing his or her sense of God's direction on the matter in question. They would then check with each other, seeking consensus on the action to take.

Some church leaders criticised this practice, for example Rt. Rev. M. J. Browne, Bishop of Galloway wrote: "Groupists actually speak of "listening -in" to the Holy Ghost: whenever they run up against a difficulty they stop for guidance. Such an idea of God is crudely anthropomorphic, derogatory to God's honour, and contrary to natural morality... Guidance as understood by the Groups encourages all kinds of illusions, it undermines the sense of personal moral responsibility, it leads to fanaticism."[51]

Buchman would share the thoughts which he felt were guided by God, but whether others pursued those thoughts were up to them. He sent one member of the group a wire sharing his thought that the member should bring John D. Rockefeller III to New York to have a chat with Queen Marie of Romania. The member wired back that this might be Frank Buchman's guidance but it was not his.[52] When some of Buchman's followers booked a second-class passage, he told them rather sharply that he had been guided that they should change to first class to form more significant contacts.[53]

Oxford theologian, Dr. B. H. Streeter, stated that, throughout the ages, men and women have sought God's will in quiet and listening. The Oxford Group, he wrote, was following a long tradition.[54]

Sometimes groupers were banal in their descriptions of guidance. The cook for a large Oxford group gathering told reporters that the menu was planned by God, another individual at a group gathering, who despite being a proud Englishmen, was guided by God to completely surrender his national pride, and hoist the Stars and Stripes.[55]

However, The Oxford Group books and publications gave examples of groupers discovering creative initiatives through times of quiet seeking God's direction.,[56][57]


In the Oxford Group, sharing was considered a necessity, it allowed one to be healed, therefore it was also a blessing to share.[58] Sharing not only brought relief but honest sharing of sin and of victory over sin helped others to openness about themselves. Sharing built trust. The sharing of our sins and temptations with another Christian life given to God, and to use Sharing as witness, to help others, still unchanged, to recognize and acknowledge their sins. The message one brings to others by speaking of one's own experiences, the power of God in guiding one's life would bring hope to others that a spiritually changed life gives strength to overcome life’s difficulties.[59]

Some regarded this approach with cynicism. Time magazine wrote: The first public confession can be stirring, but the tenth is likely to strike one as the same old thing And the fatal suspicion arises that confessions are made not through humility but to persuade. They sound a little too much coached, perfected to the point where they seem artificial...[60]

Beverley Nichols stated "And all that business about telling one's sins in public.... It is spiritual nudism!"[61] Margaret Rawlings, an actress, stood up at a 2000 member Group gathering and said, "this public exposure of the soul, this psychic exhibitionism, with its natural accompaniment of sensual satisfaction', was 'as shocking, indecent and indelicate as it would be if a man took all his clothes off in Piccadilly Circus".[62] The act of Public Confessions, brought criticism from outsiders who believed the Group had an undue interest in sex.[63]

Marie of Romania stated "I have met Buchman. I did not like him. He spoke of God as if He were the oldest title in the Almanach de Gotha. And all that business about telling one's sins in public -- He wanted me ... me ... to get up before my children and confess everything I had ever done! Ça se ne fait pas."[64]

However, Cuthbert Bardsley, who worked with Buchman for some years and later became Bishop of Coventry, said "I never came across public confession in house parties - or very, very rarely. Frank tried to prevent it - and was very annoyed if people ever trespassed beyond the bounds of decency."[65] Buchman's biographer, Garth Lean, a supporter of Buchman and promoter of the group, wrote that he attended meetings from 1932 on "and cannot recall hearing any unwise public confessions."


Though it was claimed by members that the Oxford group did not solicit funding, others have observed that the Oxford Group/MRA did in fact solicit funding from members.

In 1933, Alan Thornhill, Fellow and Chaplain of Hertford College, Oxford, wrote in response to questions about the Oxford Group’s financing:

"The Oxford Group never asks for funds either by private or public appeal. The mythical millionaires who are supposed to finance the work do not exist and never have existed. The gifts received are given by friends who know that those gifts will be wisely spent in God’s service. Where members of the Oxford Group undertake any corporate activity, scrupulously careful accounts are kept. These are fully supervised, and open to anyone’s inspection. At the recent house party, at which some 5,000 people were present, the average inclusive cost to each individual was under 10 shillings a day. The Group has no paid secretaries. All the business arrangements for this house party were carried out by a team of young people, mostly undergraduates. The charge of extravagance is ill founded. And this is true also of the travelling team. Overseas teams, which include the elderly as well as the young, travel either third class or tourist third in Atlantic liners. Those who hold it against the Groups that the teams sometimes stay in large hotels have not thought the matter out as a business proposition. These hotels not only make drastic cuts in their prices for a large party, but also provide, free of charge, private sitting rooms and large halls for big public meetings. Those who give up safe jobs or precious vacations to go on such travelling teams do so always without salary and without security of any kind."[66]

A. J. Russell in his book For Sinners Only stated Frank Buchman solicited help in written correspondence:

"One of the stiffest letters Frank permitted himself to write was to some persons who were refusing to support him in a certain courageous action for the help of someone in need. Frank said their refusal to extend the help where greatly needed might involve them in a crop of cares they did not foresee at the moment.
Fifty or sixty letters a day are nothing to Frank. ...[67]

Marjorie Harrison in her book Saints Run Mad stated: "The finances of the Group are a complete mystery. In Canada the same perplexity was felt. How could a Team of fifty people travel by crack trains and stay in the best hotels throughout an extended tour of the Dominion and the United States unless there were a very rich backing somewhere?" The Group states that it "never asks for funds by either public or private appeal. Anyone doing so is disloyal to, and in direct conflict with, the principle and practice of the Group." As one member put it to me, "There is no collection or subscription." Quite. But what's in a name? At a House Party there is a "registration fee". This fee of five shillings levied on five hundred people amounts to 125 pounds. Any religious organization that could make sure of securing an average of five shillings from those participating in a concentrated activity would consider itself lucky.... There are large numbers of men and women who are attached to the Teams either as permanent workers or for long periods of time at a stretch. Who pays their expenses? Are their relations and friends content that they should "live on faith", which usually means living on other people? Or are they all people of substantial independent means? Many of them are very young."[68]

Geoffrey Williamson in his book reported that funds were solicited by the Group :

"one of the Governors of the College of the Good Road (the Moral Re-Armament school on Mackinac Island)... wound up his address with a request for funds to help carry on the good work of Moral Re-Armament. I had been assured in London that the Buchmanites never made any public appeal for funds. Yet here was Bernard Hallward, one of the movement's leading lights, not only asking us for money, but asking in a big way.
"We need three million francs!" he declared, "and we need them urgently."

He went on to explain that the money, which he was sure would be forthcoming, would be allocated equally between three main enterprises. One million would go towards the maintenance of Mountain House [the hotel in Caux, Switzerland]; one million towards the development of the College of the Good Road, and one million would be used to complete the production of The Good Road film. So, while a pianist played solemn music, ushers moved silently among the audience with silver salvers which were soon heaped high with contributions. No loopholes were allowed. Those without Swiss currency or who had left their cheque books behind were given prepared slips bearing addresses in America, Australia, Britain, Ireland, and New Zealand to which financial contributions could be sent on their return home. The fact that these slips had been run off on a duplicator seemed to suggest that this practice was a fairly regular one.

I felt that it was as well that I had not played truant from that morning's assembly. My presence had at least exploded the myth that the Buchmanites never appeal for funds.[69]

Carl Jung on the Oxford Group

Carl Jung became aware of the Oxford Group in the 1920s when Alphonse Maeder, his colleague and former assistant, became involved with the movement. Although Jung recognized that troubled patients sometimes gained a sense of security, purpose and belonging from Group involvement, in his view there was a sacrifice in personal individuation. He therefore did not understand what attraction the group could have for someone with the psychoanalytic sophistication of Maeder. Jung did express approval of Group involvement for people who did not have the psychological resources to undertake the more demanding task of individuation.[70]

Jung gave this opinion during a seminar talk given on 5 April 1939 to the Guild of Pastoral Psychology, London:[71]

My attitude to these matters is that, as long as a patient is really a member of a church, he ought to be serious. He ought to be really and sincerely a member of that church, and he should not go to a doctor to get his conflicts settled when he believes that he should do it with God. For instance, when a member of the Oxford Group comes to me in order to get treatment, I say, "You are in the Oxford Group; so long as you are there, you settle your affair with the Oxford Group. I can't do it better than Jesus."

I will tell you a story of such a case. A hysterical alcoholic was cured by this Group movement, and they used him as a sort of model and sent him all round Europe, where he confessed so nicely and said that he had done wrong and how he had got cured through the Group movement. And when he had repeated his story twenty, or it may have been fifty, times, he got sick of it and took to drink again. The spiritual sensation had simply faded away. Now what are they going to do with him? They say, now he is pathological, he must go to a doctor. See, in the first stage he has been cured by Jesus, in the second by a doctor! I should and did refuse such a case. I sent that man back to these people and said, "If you believe that Jesus has cured this man, he will do it a second time. And if he can't do it, you don't suppose that I can do it better than Jesus?" But that is just exactly what they do expect: when a man is pathological, Jesus won't help him but the doctor will.

Moral Re-Armament

Main article: Moral Re-Armament


In 1938 Buchman made a speech in East Ham Town Hall, London, in which he stated: "The crisis is fundamentally a moral one. The nations must re-arm morally. Morally recovery is essentially the forerunner of economic recovery."[72]H. W. Austin edited the book Moral Rearmament (The Battle for Peace) that year.[73] Gradually the former Oxford Group developed into Moral Re-Armament.

In Britain the Oxford Group/Moral Re-Armament was active throughout the country. The novelist Daphne du Maurier published 'Come Wind, Come Weather', stories of ordinary Britons who had found hope and new life through the Group. She dedicated it to 'Frank Buchman.[25]

Military exemption

When war broke out, the British Government exempted about 30 Oxford Group workers from military service.

By 1940 Britain's Ernest Bevin, member of the Labour Party, put before Parliament that the Oxford Group members would no longer be able to claim exemption from Military Service. Bevin disliked the Group for its recruitment of the wealthy and influential in society and an implied linkage with the much earlier Oxford Movement led by Cardinal John Henry Newman. The Oxford Group had garnered support as a result of two years of lobbying, and approximately 2,500 clergy and ministers signed a petition opposing Bevins decision, as well as 174 Members of Parliament.[74] However Bevin made a strong case stating that the Oxford group was the only religious organization that had tried to claim such exemption, accused Buchman of supporting fascism,[74] and made it clear that he would resign from the Government if he was defeated. The MRA/Oxford Group's parliamentary supporters did not speak against Bevin's position and the result was the Oxford Group could no longer claim exemption from Military Service.[75] Among Bevin's supporters was Tom Driberg, who described Buchman as a "soapy racketeer who never repudiated his admiration for Hitler and Himmler.")[76] Driberg was a strong supporter of social change, labor and unions.[77] In 1992 Driberg was shown to have spied for the KGB in documents brought to Britain by defecting KGB officer Vasili Mitrokhin, yet there was no evidence he did anything that harmed national security or put lives at risk.[78]

In the United States, The Justice Department approved the stay of 28 British MRA workers as performing an essential service. Senator (later President) Harry Truman, Chair of the Senate Committee investigating war contracts, was one of six prominent Americans accused of 'protecting draft-dodgers' and MRA was accused of using Political influence to avoid the draft.[79] At a news conference Truman spoke in favor of MRA/Oxford group stating they have already achieved remarkable results in bringing teamwork into industry, on the principles not of "who's right" but of "what's right".'[80] But in the end, 22 of the MRA workers were drafted. This does not mean that Truman was integral to the group or that he understood its true nature or objectives.[81]

In 1944, journalist Georges Seldes warned Truman of the anti-Semitic and authoritarian tendencies of the Group, Truman then running for Vice-President, distanced himself from it.[81] Time magazine reported that Truman , as President of the United states, disclaimed any interest in the Oxford Group and said he never met Frank Buchman though it was noted he had in the past spoke at a couple of Oxford Meetings.[82]

Oxford Group member, Garth Lean, in his book states, as a Senator Truman had read a message from President Roosevelt at a Moral Re-Armament in Washington, where Buchman was also a speaker. He also had read account of the demonstration into the Congressional Record, adding 'It is rare in these days to find something which will unite men and nations on a plane above conflict of party, class and political philosophy.' Buchman was in the Senate gallery, at Truman's invitation.[83] Later, as President, Truman welcomed Buchman at a conference in San Francisco which established the United Nations.[84]

Oxford Group investigated by MI5 British Intelligence

In a document provided by MI5 British Security showed there was a fear that the Oxford Group might be a front for Nazi propaganda as a result of Buchman's involvement with Nazi members. This created a number of investigations from 1941–1950 , however, no evidence came to light that the group had been penetrated by the German Secret Service.

After the War, the group encouraged an MRA approach to industrial relations, which became popularly associated with the cause of the employers and against that of the unions in, for example, the docks and mines. Serious consideration was given to allying with the MRA against British Communism, though the idea was rejected "...we do not think it advisable to enter into any direct relations with MRA which might enable the latter to claim they have common cause with HMG...we are not uninterested in the some success MRA have achieved in the conversion of communists"). -[85]


At the end of the war, the MRA workers returned to the task of establishing a lasting peace. In 1946 MRA bought and restored a large, derelict hotel at Caux in Switzerland, and this became a centre for reconciliation across Europe, bringing together thousands including German Chancellor Adenauer and French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman.[86] Its work was described by historians Douglas Johnston and Cynthia Sampson as an 'important contribution to one of the greatest achievements in the entire record of modern statecraft: the astonishingly rapid Franco-German reconciliation after 1945.'[87]

In the following decades MRA's work expanded across the globe, particularly into the African and Asian countries moving towards independence from colonial rule. In 1956 King Mohammed V of Morocco sent a message to Buchman: 'I thank you for all you have done for Morocco in the course of these last testing years. Moral Re-Armament must become for us Muslims as much an incentive as it is for you Christians and for all nations.'[88] In 1960 Archbishop Makarios and Dr. Kucuk, President and Vice-President of Cyprus, jointly sent the first flag of independent Cyprus to Frank Buchman at Caux in recognition of MRA's help.[89]

Oxford Group's position on labor and industry

In Buchman's view, management and labour could 'work together like the fingers on the hand,' and in order to make that possible he aimed to answer 'the self-will in management and labour who are both so right, and so wrong.' MRA's role was to offer the experience which would free those people's hearts and minds from the motivations or prejudices which prevent just solutions.[90] However it was also asserted Buchman preached the pacification of labor through the use of force, and many of his followers were anti union.[91]

Sir Patrick Joseph Henry Hannon, a Member of British Parliament and at one time a Group supporter, faulted the "Buchmanites" for making claim that they settled three impending work stoppages in the Midlands by promoting the Group's principles on management and labor. Sir Patrick's investigations found the trouble had been cured by pay raises plus better working hours.[92] Tom Driberg also a Member of Parliament , attacked the movement on industrial grounds. Its program seemed "nothing less than spiritual strike-breaking," he said, adding that in his opinion it was at its worst anti-socialist and anti-democratic.[93]

Time magazine reported: "The militantly anti-Communist International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, which represents 97 unions in 73 countries, tossed a monkey wrench toward the machinery of Moral Re-Armament, the nondenominational, untheological, polite revival movement that evolved out of Frank Buchman's old Oxford Group. A report prepared by ICFTU's secretariat accused the Moral Re-Armament movement of interfering "with trade-union activities and [making] anti-trade-union efforts, even to the extent of trying to found 'yellow unions.MRA, it said, was undemocratic: "Buchman does not build up his movement from below... but from the ranks of leaders.... The sources from which the Moral Re-Armament movement draws its necessary funds are completely unknown. All that can be said is that those who supply the money must be very well off."[94][94]

However, the report was never presented to or voted on by the Congress itself, the only body entitled to make policy statements on the Confederations' behalf. The report declared it had been prepared at the request of the Socialist Trade Unions of India, Hind Mazdoor Sabha. However, the Hind Mazdoor Sabha's President, Sibnath Banerjee, promptly denied that either he or anyone of his executive had made such a request.[95]

A similar situation arose when the Church of England's Social and Industrial Council investigated MRA, and condemned its practices as a means of avoiding responsible living.[96] The Chair and a member of the Council demonstrated their hostility to MRA during the investigation by writing a strongly critical letter to the Daily Telegraph (13 Jan 1954) (a letter answered by a strong statement by the Moderator of the Church of Scotland and the leaders of all the Free Churches two days later). Their report was debated for two days by the Church Assembly, which decided to receive it but not adopt it.

William Grogan, an International Vice-President of the American Transport Workers' Union, said that 'between 1946 and 1953 national union leaders, local union officials, shop stewards and rank and file union members from 75 countries had received training' in MRA principles.[97] Evert Kupers, for 20 years President of the Dutch Confederation of Trades Unions, stated that 'the thousands who have visited Caux have been deeply impressed by its message for our age and by the real comradeship they found there.'[98] In France Maurice Mercier, Secretary-General of the textile workers within the Force Ouvriere, said: 'Class war today means one half of humanity against the other half, each possessing a powerful arsenal of destruction... Not one cry of hatred, not one hour of work lost, one one drop of blood shed - that is the revolution to which MRA calls bosses and workers.'[99]

After the death of Buchman

Peter Howard

After Buchman's death in 1961 Peter Howard succeeded him. He was a political columnist who had been assigned to write some pieces about MRA and ended up joining it. The royalties from his writing - $1,120,000 - went to the cause. Under his leadership the group opened a center in Odawara, Japan. People at this time still attended MRA conferences at its headquarters at Caux, Switzerland, and Mackinac Island, Michigan. In 1962 Peter Howard warned Britain's Prime Minister Harold Wilson against "satirists and cynics" who "debase our ancient virtue and push pornography and godlessness down the national gullet." MRA crusaded in Holland featuring big newspaper ads, written by Howard, condemning the spread of homosexuality ("It can be cured").[100]

Garth Lean

Garth Lean was instrumental in Peter Howard's conversion to the Oxford Group.[101] Geoffrey Williamson reported in his book that twenty-four years later Garth Lean was still promoting Buchmanism to the newcomers, and that Lean had become a member of the Council of Management of Moral Re-Armament.[102]

In 1965, Up with People was founded by members of, and with the support of, Moral Re-Armament. In 2001 Moral Re-Armament became Initiatives of Change.

Alcoholism and Alcoholics Anonymous

In Akron, Ohio, Jim Newton, an Oxford Group member, knew that one of Harvey Firestone Senior's sons, Russell, was a serious alcoholic. He took him first to a drying-out clinic and then on to an Oxford Group conference in Denver. The young man gave his life to God, and thereafter enjoyed extended periods of sobriety. The family doctor called it a "medical miracle". The elder Firestone was so grateful that, in January 1933, he invited Buchman and a team of sixty to conduct a ten-day campaign in Akron. They left behind them a strong functioning group which met each week, first in the Mayflower Hotel, then later in the house of T. Henry Williams, amongst whom were an Akron surgeon, Bob Smith, and his wife Anne. Bob was a secret drinker.[103]

Rowland Hazard claimed that it was Carl Jung who caused him to seek a spiritual solution to his alcoholism, which led to Rowland joining the Oxford group. He was introduced by Shep Cornell to Cornell's friend Ebby Thacher, who had a serious drinking problem. Hazard introduced Ebby to Carl Jung's theory and then to the Oxford Group. For a time Ebby took up residence at Rev. Sam Shoemaker's Calvary Rescue Mission,[104] which catered mainly to saving down-and-outs and drunks. Shoemaker taught to the new inductees the concept of God being a higher power of one's own understanding, not necessarily the God of any particular scripture or religion.[105]

Thacher, in keeping with the Oxford teachings, needed to keep his own conversion experience real by carrying the Oxford message of salvation to others. Thacher had heard that his old drinking buddy Bill Wilson was again drinking heavily. Thacher and Cornell visited Wilson at his home and introduced him to the Oxford Group's religious conversion cure. Wilson, an agnostic, was "aghast" when Thacher told him he had "got religion".[106]

A few days later, in a drunken state, Wilson went to the Calvary Rescue Mission in search of Thacher. It was there that he attended his first Oxford Group meeting and would later describe the experience: "Penitents started marching forward to the rail. Unaccountably impelled, I started too.... Soon, I knelt among the sweating, stinking penitents... Afterward, Ebby... told me with relief that I had done all right and had given my life to God."[107] The call to the altar did little to curb Wilson's drinking. A couple of days later, he re-admitted himself to Charles B. Towns Hospital. Wilson had been admitted to Towns hospital three times earlier, between 1933 and 1934. This would be his fourth and last stay.[108]

Wilson did not obtain his spiritual awakening by his attendance at the Oxford Group, but at Towns Hospital. This facility was set up and run by Dr. Towns and his associate Dr. Alexander Lambert, who together had concocted a drug cocktail for the treatment of alcoholism that bordered on quackery, known as "the Belladonna Cure". The formula cure consisted of the two deliriants Atropa belladonna and Hyoscyamus niger, which were known to cause hallucinations. Wilson had a "spiritual awakening", while being treated with these drugs. He claimed to have seen a white light and when he told his attending physician, Dr. William Silkworth about his experience, he was advised not to discount it. When Wilson left the hospital he never drank again.[109]

After his release from the Hospital, Wilson attended Oxford Group meetings and went on a mission to save other alcoholics. His prospects came through Towns Hospital and the Calvary Mission. Though he was not able to keep one alcoholic sober, he found that by engaging in the activity of trying to convert others he was able to keep himself sober. It was this realization, that he needed another alcoholic to work with, that brought him into contact with Dr. Bob Smith while on a business trip in Akron, Ohio. Earlier Wilson had been advised by Dr. Silkworth to change his approach and tell the alcoholics they suffered from a disease, one that could kill them, and afterward apply the Oxford practices. This is what he brought to Smith on their first meeting. Smith was the first alcoholic Wilson helped to sobriety. Dr. Smith and Bill W. (as he was later called) went on to found Alcoholics Anonymous.

Wilson later acknowledged: "The early AA got its ideas of self-examination, acknowledgment of character defects, restitution for harm done, and working with others straight from the Oxford Group and directly from Sam Shoemaker, their former leader in America, and from nowhere else."

AA was founded on June 10, 1935, the first day of Dr. Bob's sobriety. In 1939 James Houck joined the Oxford Group and became sober. He was the last surviving person to have attended Oxford Group meetings with Wilson, who died in 1971. In September 2004, at the age of 98, Houck was still active in the group, then renamed Moral Re-Armament, and it was his mission to restore the Oxford Group's spiritual methods through the Back to Basics program, a twelve-step program similar to AA. Houck believed the old Oxford spiritual methods were stronger and more effective than the ones currently practiced in AA. He tried to introduce the program into the prison systems.[110]

Houck's assessment of Wilson's time in the Oxford group: He was never interested in the things we were interested in; he only wanted to talk about alcoholism; he was not interested in giving up smoking; he was a ladies man and would brag to other members of his sexual exploits, and in Houck's opinion Wilson remained an agnostic.[111]

Sin as a disease

The Oxford Group was the first to address sin as a disease, hence a spiritual diagnosis was called for. Confession of sin to another was a prerequisite for the spiritual conversion process to take place. Groupers viewed sin as anything that stood between the individual and God. Sin frustrated God's plan for oneself, and selfishness and self-centeredness were considered the key problem. Therefore if one could surrender the ego to God sin would go with it. The Oxford Group believed the conversion process came in stages. Early AA gained the "disease" language and the concept of the need to surrender one's will to a higher power from the Oxford Group. However, AA expanded on alcoholism as a physical problem as well as a lack of spirituality. In early AA, Bill W. nevertheless addressed the issues of sin and conversion.[112]

The AA concept of powerlessness is different from that of the Oxford Group. In AA, the bondage of an addictive disease cannot be cured, only controlled, and is a departure from the Oxford Group belief, which stressed that a spiritual conversion would bring complete victory over sin.[113]

Recruitment practices

The Oxford Group grew massively from 1920 into the 1930s. A number of religious organizations adopted these strategies, now referred to as spiritual retreats, as well as the practice of individuals in open meetings sharing their conversion experiences.[114] The first House Party began in China in 1918; this was to become a recognized Oxford Group approach. By the summer of 1930 the first International House Party was held at Oxford, followed by another the next year attended by 700 hundred people. By 1934 the International House Party had grown and was attended by representatives from 40 nations, and by the 1935 meeting it had grown and was attended by 50 nations, to the total of 10,000 representatives. The 1936 meeting at Birmingham drew 15,000 people and The First National Assembly held in Massachusetts drew almost 10,000 people[115]

  • The Oxford group employed teamwork. The people who were considered "changed" were considered part of the whole team. Team guidance led to the selection of smaller units to direct house parties, handle publicity, issue publications, manage bookstands, organize parades and to conduct witness.[116]
  • There were teams that traveled; many house parties featured out-of-town people who came to the party to relate their experiences in the "Group Way of Life". They tried to include celebrities on traveling teams. Attendance was by printed invitation and sent by people active in the group. In most cases the invitation would mention that prominent people would be present. Invitations were also sent to "key people” in the *community.[116]
  • House parties were held in a variety of locations: a wealthy home, at a fashionable hotel, inn, or summer resort, as well as outdoor camps, and at times held in less fashionable locations such as a college dorm. House parties were held from a weekend up to two weeks. A house party team would meet in advance for training and preparation. The teams would remain throughout the meetings and handle a number of details. Oxford Group literature was on display.[116]
  • Meetings followed no formal agenda and were not like church meetings, as singing and public prayer were absent. Time was devoted to talks by the team members on subjects such as sin, surrender, quiet time, the four absolutes, guidance, and intelligent witness. In most meetings personal sharing of experience was undertaken by a team of up to 12 or more people. The informal spirit was to set the guests at ease and allow for psychological barriers to fall. After a day or two many guests would feel uncomfortable and to release the discomfort would be encouraged by Group workers to undergo the "surrender experience".[116]

The use of slogans

Most were coined through Buchman's quiet time; he knew slogans would catch attention, be more easily remembered and more readily repeated. They provided simple answers to problems people face in themselves and others. A few are listed below[117]

  • Pray: stands for Powerful Radiograms Always Yours
  • Constipated Christians
  • Come clean
  • Every man a force, not a field
  • Interesting sinners make compelling saints
  • When a man listens God speaks
  • A spiritual radiophone in every home
  • Sin blinds sin binds
  • World changing through life-changing
  • The Crows are black the world wide round (Later changed to Grass is Green, due to racist connotations while traveling in Africa)


Some of the Oxford Group literature is available online (see "References" section). For Sinners Only by Arthur James Russell was characterized as the Oxford Group "bible." {[118] Soul Surgery By H. A. Walter,[119] What is the Oxford Group by Layman with a Notebook,[120] and Eight Points of the Oxford Group by C. Irving Benson.[121]

For alcoholics there were three autobiographies by Oxford members who were active alcoholics which were published in the 1930s. These books provided accounts of the alcoholics' failed attempts to make their lives meaningful until, as a result of their Oxford membership, they found a transformation in their lives and sobriety through surrendering to God. The stories contained in Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book, are very similar in style to these much earlier works.[122] The books were The Big Bender, Life Began Yesterday and I Was Pagan by V.C. Kitchen.[123]

Published literature critical of the Oxford Group

In 1934 Marjorie Harrison, an Episcopal Church member, published a book called Saints Run Mad that challenged the Group, its leader and their practices.[124][clarification needed]

Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr criticized Buchman's philosophy and pursuit of the wealthy and powerful:

"The idea is that if the man of power can be converted, God will be able to control a larger area of human life through his power than if a little man were converted. This is the logic which has filled the Buchmanites with touching solicitude for the souls of such men as Henry Ford or Harvey Firestone, and prompted them to whisper confidentially from time to time that these men were on the very threshold of the kingdom of God. It is this strategy which prompts or justifies the first class travel of all the Oxford teams. They hope to make contact with big men in the luxurious first-class quarters of ocean liners."[125] He called the Oxford Group "religiously vapid" and "socially vicious".

Walter Houston Clark, in his book, The Oxford Group: Its History and Significance, writes of the Buchmanites living off the wealthy:

"A small minority of the specially dedicated among the Group, led by the example of Buchman himself, 'live on faith' by which is meant that they rely on God to guide others to take care of their material needs. .... There are some evangelists who could not travel in the sumptuous fashion that characterizes the trips of Dr. Buchman without a twinge of conscience. There has been some criticism of the Group on account of this, and there is even occasionally heard the suggestion that it is a kind of money-making racket. However, that gentleman apparently never questions the propriety of lavish expenditures when the money is there and the cause is a good one. Living on faith has not always been an easy adventure, and he has known what it means not to know from whence his next meal was coming; but he has always been sure that 'where God guides, He provides.'"[126]

Geoffrey Williamson in his book Inside Buchmanism faulted the organization for its lack of charity:

"The whole movement is supported by charitable gifts. But when I asked at headquarters whether it dispensed any charity, the reply was a frank and emphatic: 'No.' No matter how sincere the followers of Buchmanism may be, no matter how zealously they may work for the cause; no matter how honest their beliefs, I cannot understand how they can possibly justify their actions simply by saying: 'Where God guides, He provides.' ... I dislike their forced heartiness and the way in which they fawn upon the wealthy and the titled. I dislike their flattery and the way they pander to snobbish instincts. They may possibly claim that they are only exploiting human failings in others to bring people to their meetings. It still revolts me." And: "During my stay at Caux I amassed a great collection of leaflets and pamphlets. They were filled with the same sort of stuff. Thousands of words about 'ideology'; but not one mention of 'the advancement of the Christian religion.'"[127]

Polish author Rom Landau in his appraisal of nine cultist credited Frank Buchman with being "the most successful and shrewdest revivalist of our time", but found the movement theologically frivolous. He criticized the Oxford Group's practice of suppressing or "sublimating" the sex impulse and stated with much sarcasm that "Five 'sublimated' Arabs, Italians or Frenchmen, would prove the efficacy of Buchman's sex methods more convincingly than 500 English undergraduates."[128][129]

John Haynes Holmes, pastor of the Community Church,[clarification needed] characterized the Oxford Group movement as "revivalism for the rich and respectable" in The New York Times, in a 1934 article:

"He praised its leader, Dr. Frank Buchman, for 'discovering that lost souls are quite as common among the upper as among the lower classes of society.' But in commenting on one of the Oxford group meetings 'in the glittering splendor of the ballroom of the Plaza Hotel,' in contrast with social misery elsewhere, he said: 'I count it blasphemy for Dr. Buchman, or anybody else, to pretend to testify to what God has done for him while humanity is at this moment perishing.'"[130]

Post-war years

In the post war years Moral Re-Armament (MRA) widened its activities to provide "an ideology for democracy".[131] In 2001, Moral Re-Armament became Initiatives of Change.

Decline of the Oxford Group

In November 1941, MRA/Oxford Group was ousted by Rev Sam Shoemaker from its New York headquarters in Manhattan's Calvary Episcopal Church. Shoemaker believed that Buchman had strayed from his principles. where "Buchmanism" was meant to make Baptists better Baptists, Catholics better Catholics. In the U.S. and Britain Buchman lost followers.[132] Shoemaker stated: "When the Oxford Group was, on its own definition, a movement of vital personal religion, working within the churches to make the principles of the New Testament practical as a working force today we fully identified ourselves with it," declared the Rev Shoemaker. "Certain policies and points of view, however, have arisen in the development of Moral Re-Armament about which we have had increasing misgivings."[133]

Walter H. Clark, a master at the Lenox School in Lenox, Massachusetts, in doing his thesis on Buchmanism produced some findings from a questionnaire he submitted to 92 men and women who had been involved with the Oxford group for 18 years previous.

The findings were that only 12% were still active in the group. Median income was $5000– $10000 with 28% earning over $10,000 Buchman aimed at the up and outs. 45% said the group did not benefit them intellectually 7% said it did. People who stayed and people who left said the main benefit was emotional release, but many felt it was an emotional spree which left them distrustful of all religions.[134]

Mrs. Henry Ford called Mr. Stuart Woodfill, manager of the Grand Hotel on the island of Mackinac, who arranged for the Michigan State Park Commission to give a dilapidated old hotel to Frank Buchman's organization[135]


Because of its influence on the lives of several highly prominent individuals, the Group attracted highly visible members of society, including members of the British Parliament and other European leaders,[136] an anonymous English Duchess as well as royalty and Americans, Rowland Hazard III, the Firestone family, founders of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company of Ohio.[137] The Group attracted opposition from the Roman Catholic Church[138]), though this changed after Vatican II. In 1993 Cardinal Franz Koenig, Archbishop of Vienna, wrote that 'Buchman was a turning-point in the history of the modern world through his ideas.'.[139] The Group grew into a well-known, informal and international network of people by the 1930s. The London newspaper editor Arthur J. Russell joined the Group after attending a meeting in 1931.[citation needed] He wrote For Sinners Only in 1932, which went through 17 editions in Britain alone, and was translated into many languages. It inspired the writers of God Calling.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Tom Driberg, The Mystery of Moral Re-Armament: A Study of Frank Buchman and His Movement, p. 11-12 p.52, Secker & Warburg, 1964
  2. ^ Time Magazine Cover, 1936 http://www.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,19360420,00.html
  3. ^ Mercadante, Linda "Victims and Sinners" p. 55 Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press Date 1996-01-01 ISBN 978-0-664-25508-4 ISBN 0-664-25508-6
  4. ^ Time Magazine 1961 "The Moral Re-Armer http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,872696,00.html
  5. ^ Mercadante, Linda "Victims and Sinners" p. 51 Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press Date 1996-01-01 ISBN 978-0-664-25508-4 ISBN 0-664-25508-6
  6. ^ Mercadante, Linda "Victims and Sinners" p. 50-51 p.50. Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press Date 1996, ISBN 978-0-664-25508-4 ISBN 0-664-25508-6
  7. ^ Mercadante, Linda "Victims and Sinners" p. 54 Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press Date 1996, ISBN 978-0-664-25508-4 ISBN 0-664-25508-6
  8. ^ Pittman Bill "AA the Way it Began" Glen Abbey Books , 1988
  9. ^ a b Buchman F, Remaking the World London: Blandord Press, 1961
  10. ^ Time Magazine, October 14, 1935, "In Geneva Groupers"
  11. ^ Time Magazine, "Men, Masters and Messiahs"
  12. ^ A.J. Russell"For Sinners Only" - ISBN 1587361787
  13. ^ Tom Driberg, The Mystery of Moral Re-Armament, p. 52 & 53
  14. ^ Time Magazine "Oxford V. Group"
  15. ^ March 6, 1939; Lean, Garth; Frank Buchman – a life, Constable 1985, p282
  16. ^ Time Magazine Oxford Group Ltd.http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,761537,00.html
  17. ^ Tidens Tegn, 24 Dec 1934
  18. ^ Lean, Garth; Frank Buchman - a life; Constable 1985, p232
  19. ^ a b Lean, Garth: Frank Buchman - a life; Constable 1985
  20. ^ Remaking the World, p78
  21. ^ Message through Karen Petersen, written to Buchman by Irene Gates, 23 Oct 1943
  22. ^ The New York Times, December 10, 1957, page 21.
  23. ^ a b The New York Times, June 18, 1952, page 8
  24. ^ Time Magazine "Report on MRA February 14th,1955 http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,807024,00.html
  25. ^ a b Lean, Garth; Frank Buchman — a life; Constable 1985
  26. ^ Lean, Garth "Frank Buchman" P. 207 References
  27. ^ Driberg, Tom "The Mystery of Moral Re-Armament p.64-65
  28. ^ Driberg Tom, "The Mystery of Moral Re-Armament; A Study of Frank Buchman and His Tom Driberg, 1965, pages 64-65.
  29. ^ /Lean, Frank Buchman, p. 238
  30. ^ Himmler Forest Office Documents "1939 – Himmler’s character". C52/15/18 FO/371/22960 http://www.fpp.co.uk/Himmler/Himmler_FO_PRO.html
  31. ^ >/Lean, Garth " Frank Buchman" P 238
  32. ^ Driberg, Tom The Mystery of Moral Re-Armament; A Study of Frank Buchman and His Movement, , 1965, pages 68-69.
  33. ^ Time Magazine 1936, "God Controlled Dictatorship" http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,847819,00.html
  34. ^ Lean, Frank Buchman, p. 239
  35. ^ Time Magazine "Groupers in Stockbridge" http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,756304,00.html
  36. ^ The National Archives: (Record Group 242)The National Archives: "National Archives Collection of Foreign Records Seized"
  37. ^ Lean, Garth Frank Buchman, p. 242
  38. ^ David Pryce-Jones, Unity Mitford: A Quest, London 1976, page 167.
  39. ^ Byron Robert, Specator 22.8 1987, Robert Byrons Diary, 1938 p.22-3
  40. ^ Lean, Frank Buchman, 242
  41. ^ Edward Luttwak, "Franco-German Reconciliation: The Overlooked Role of the Moral Re-Armament Movement" in Religion, the Missing Dimension of Statecraft, edited by Douglas Johnston and Cynthia Sampson, OUP, page 38
  42. ^ Eberhard Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 282-284
  43. ^ Time Magazine " Report on M.R.A http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,807024,00.html
  44. ^ What is Oxford Group, Layman with a Notebook p.19 1933
  45. ^ Pittman, Bill, AA the Way it Began, p. 113 Glenn Abbey Books, 1988
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  47. ^ Pass it On p. 141
  48. ^ Pass It On, p. 170, Alcoholics World Service Inc. 1984
  49. ^ What is the Oxford Group p. 11-16
  50. ^ What is the Oxford Group, p. 9
  51. ^ Tom Driberg, The Mystery of Moral Re-armament: A Study of Frank Buchman and His Movement, p. 192-201 Martin Secker and Warburg Limited, 1964
  52. ^ Time Magazine, "To End a Scandal", http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,872486-7,00.html
  53. ^ American Magazine, Smith Jr. , B.W. "Buchman — Surgeon of Souls" November 1936, page 151.
  54. ^ Streeter, DR. B. H, " The God Who Speaks" , Macmillan, 1936
  55. ^ Tom Driberg, The Mystery of Moral Re-Armament, p. 59
  56. ^ Russell, A. J, "For Sinners Only" Hodder and Stoughton, 1932
  57. ^ Lean Garth, Constable, 1985
  58. ^ What is Oxford p.19- 21
  59. ^ Layman with a Notebook, What is Oxford p.25
  60. ^ Time Magazine 1947, "Confessions at Caux January 7 , http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,778923,00.html
  61. ^ Nichols, Beverely , All I Could Never Be, pages 255-256.
  62. ^ Driberg, Tom, The Mystery of Moral Re-Armament; A Study of Frank Buchman and His Movement, 1965, page 55.
  63. ^ Time Magazine, "To Change The World".
  64. ^ Nichols, Beverely "All I Could Never Be" pages 255-256 Publisher Dutton 1952
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  66. ^ King, S A; The Challenge of the Oxford Groups; Allenson and Co Ltd, 1933, p74
  67. ^ Russell, A. J. "For Sinners Only" Publisher: Hats Off Books Date Published: 2003 ISBN 978-1-58736-178-4 ISBN 1-58736-178-7
  68. ^ Harrison, Marjorie (1934), Saints Run Mad; A Criticism of the "Oxford" Group Movementpages 103-105. http://www.morerevealed.com/library/saints/saints.jsp
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  70. ^ C.G. Jung Letters, selected and edited by Gerhard Adler in collaboration with Aniela Jaffe, trans. R.F.C. Hull,Volume 1. 
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  74. ^ a b Time Magazine Oct 20 1941, "Frank & Ernest" http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,851312,00.html
  75. ^ Time Magazine "Less Buchmanism" http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,801317,00.html
  76. ^ Time Magazine March 13, 1946 Return of the Prophet http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,776769,00.html
  77. ^ Tom Driberg, 'Ruling Passions' (Quintet 1978), and Simon Ball, The Guardsmen, Harold Macmillan, Three Friends and the World They Made, (London: Harper Collins, 2004)
  78. ^ BBC News, 13 Sept 1999
  79. ^ The New York World Telegram January 4th, 1943 "Board cites Draft Act Tampering-Says Buchmanites used political influence to avoid military service"
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  81. ^ a b Miscamble, Wilson D, "From Roosevelt to Truman: Potsdam, Hiroshima, and the Cold War", Cambridge University Press, 2006 , P. 14, ISBN 978-0-521-86244-8
  82. ^ Time Magazine August 14th , 1944 "The Candidates and their Churches" http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,775168,00.html
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  84. ^ Lean, Garth: Frank Buchman - a life, p329
  85. ^ MI5 Security Page, September 4, 2007, Right Wing Extremists and Groups
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  91. ^ Glen Yeadon and John Hawkins The Nazi Hydra in America: Suppressed History of a Century P 141
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  93. ^ The New York Times , "DR. BUCHMAN'S GROUPSCORED IN COMMONS" July 6, 1946,
  94. ^ a b Time Magazine October, 1953 Word and Work http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,858355,00.html
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  97. ^ Grogan, William; John Riffe of the Steelworkers, Coward, McCann 1959, p140
  98. ^ Foreword to 'World Labour and Caux', Caux 1950
  99. ^ Piguet and Sentis, 'Ce Monde que Dieu nous confie, Centurion 1979, p64
  100. ^ Time Magazine, "New Man at MRA", October 30, 1964 http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,876332,00.html
  101. ^ Howard , Peter, "Innocent Men" 1941, P. 27, 29 to 31, 33, 34, 43 to 46, 49, 97.
  102. ^ Geoffrey Williamson, Geoffrey " Inside Buchmanism: an independent inquiry into the Oxford Group Movement and Moral Re-Armament" , Philosophical Library, New York, c1954, page 5.
  103. ^ Lean Garth, Frank Buchman: A Life. p. 151-152 London: Constable, 1985 p.
  104. ^ 1984) Pass It On: The Story of Bill Wilson and how the A.A. message reached the world. New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. ISBN 0-916856-12-7, pp. 381-386
  105. ^ Hartigan, Francis "Bill W."
  106. ^ Pass It On (New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc, 1984), pp. 131-139.
  107. ^ AlPass It On (New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc, 1984), p. 118.
  108. ^ Pittman, Bill, AA the Way It Began, p. 150.
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  110. ^ Towson, Melissa, Time Magazine, "Living Recovery"
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  115. ^ Pittman, Bill, AA the Way it Began, p. 117-121
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  117. ^ Pittman, Bill, AA the Way it Began, p. 129
  118. ^ Amazon.com site on "For Sinners Only"
  119. ^ Soul Surgery
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  137. ^ Hartigan, Francis (2000). Bill W.: A Biography of Alcoholics Anonymous Cofounder Bill Wilson. New York: St. Martin's Press, pp. 78-79.
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  • oxford group movement — noun Usage: usually capitalized O&G : a life changing movement stressing personal and social regeneration founded in 1921 at Oxford, England, by Frank Buchman and replaced by Moral Re Armament in 1938 called also Buchmanism * * * Oxford Group or… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Oxford Group — an organization founded at Oxford University in 1921 by Frank Buchman, advocating absolute morality in public and private life. Cf. Moral Re Armament. * * * …   Universalium

  • Oxford Group — n. a religious movement founded at Oxford in 1921, with discussion of personal problems by groups …   Useful english dictionary

  • Oxford Group —  Оксфордская группа …   Вестминстерский словарь теологических терминов

  • Oxford Group — /ˈɒksfəd grup/ (say oksfuhd groohp) noun → Moral Rearmament …  

  • (the) Oxford Group — the Oxford Group [the Oxford Group] ; » ↑Moral Re Armament …   Useful english dictionary

  • Oxford (disambiguation) — Oxford, Oxfordshire, is a city in England, famous for its university, the University of Oxford, which is commonly referred to simply as Oxford as well. Other meanings of Oxford include: Contents 1 Places 1.1 Australia …   Wikipedia

  • Oxford groups — plural noun Informal circles of followers of Dr Frank Buchman, who exchanged religious experiences, and sought divine guidance individually (the Oxford group the name for his followers as a body from 1921 to 1938; see also ↑Moral Rearmament under …   Useful english dictionary

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