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Frank Buchman_Founder of IofC_1
Frank Buchman_Founder of IofC_1

Frank Buchman


Initiatives of Change owes its origins to an American called Frank Buchman (1878 – 1961)

Frank Buchman_Large Portrait

Frank N.D. Buchman was born in Pennsylvania on 4 June 1878.

An American Lutheran minister of Swiss descent, Frank reached a crisis point aged just 30 when he resigned his job as the warden of a hostel for homeless boys in Philadelphia.

He was bitter towards the six trustees who he felt were too stingy with money for food.

In 1908, he took a vacation to Europe but could not shake off his feelings of depression. He attended a service in a Methodist chapel in Keswick, in the Lake District area of the UK and he underwent a spiritual experience, which altered the course of his life.

As he looked at a statue of the crucified Christ, he had a strong conviction that he was the ‘seventh wrong man’.

He wrote to the trustees, apologizing for his ill-will.

The strength of this experience convinced Buchman that moral compromise was destructive of human character and relationships, and that moral strength was a prerequisite for building a just society. His experience led him to give the rest of his life to helping others, through personal encounters and the sharing of personal experience.

In the 1920s, Buchman was a frequent visitor to Oxford University. He adopted the practice of taking time every morning in silence to search for any thoughts that God might give him. And he tested his thoughts against absolute standards of honesty, purity, unselfishness and love. Many students’ lives were turned in more positive directions after their encounters with Buchman. In 1928, a group of university students, inspired by Buchman, took their own message of personal change to South Africa. The press labelled them the 'Oxford Group', and the name stuck to the work which Buchman had started.

In 1938, with the world on the brink of war, Buchman spoke to a public audience, including many labor leaders, in the east end of London.

'Hostility piles up between nation and nation... The cost of bitterness and fear mounts daily,' he said. `The remedy may lie in a return to those simple truths which many of us have forgotten - honesty, purity, unselfishness and love. The crisis is fundamentally a moral one. The nations must rearm morally...'

Buchman sensed that people who had enriched their personal experience of faith through the Oxford Group could make a contribution to the problems of the wider world. Thus a movement for 'Moral Re-Armament' was launched.

The essential philosophy of MRA was that personal change could lead to social change. With its emphasis on experience rather than doctrine, MRA provided a focus where people of different religious and political persuations could meet together without compromising their own beliefs.

Among those whom he influenced were the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. AA is perhaps the most famous outgrowth from his work and approach, while MRA's international center in Caux, Switzerland is renowned for its role in post-World War II reconciliation in Europe, particularly between France and Germany.

Frank Buchman was decorated by seven countries, including France, Germany, Greece, Japan and the Philippines, for his effect on their relations with other countries.

He died in 1961.