Oxford Group was a
Christian organization founded by the American
Christian missionary Frank Buchman. Buchman believed that the root of
all problems were the personal problems of fear and selfishness.
Further, Buchman believed that the solution to living with fear and
selfishness was to surrender one's life over to God's Plan.
Buchman was an American
Lutheran minister of Swiss descent who in 1908
had had a conversion experience in a chapel in Keswick, England when
he attended a decisive sermon by
Jessie Penn-Lewis in the course of
the 1908 Keswick Convention. As a result of that experience he
would in 1921 found a movement called A First Century Christian
Fellowship. By 1931 the Fellowship had become known as the Oxford
Group.:11–12, 52 The
Oxford Group enjoyed wide popularity and
success, particularly in the 1930s. In 1932 the Archbishop of
Canterbury, Cosmo Lang, in summing up a discussion of the Oxford
Groups with his Diocesan Bishops, said, "There is a gift here of which
the church is manifestly in need." Two years later William Temple,
Archbishop of York, paid tribute to the
Oxford Groups which "are being
used to demonstrate the power of
God to change lives and give to
personal witness its place in true discipleship."
In 1938, Buchman proclaimed a need for "moral re-armament" and that
phrase became the movement's new name. Buchman headed MRA for 23 years
until his death in 1961. In 2001 the movement was renamed Initiatives
The co-founders of
Alcoholics Anonymous met through the
and codified several of its tenets into AA, the first twelve-step
1.2 The name
2 Beliefs, not a religion
God Can Lead People
2.2 The Four Absolutes
2.3 Spiritual practices
2.6 Five Cs and five procedures
3.1 "House parties"
3.2 The use of slogans
Oxford Group literature
4.1 Campaigns through Europe
4.2 Presence in the United States
4.3 Attempt to reach Nazi leaders
4.4 Moral Re-Armament
5 Impact and legacy
Oxford Group's impact on industry
5.2 Relationship to Alcoholics Anonymous
7 Evaluation and critics
Carl Jung on the
7.2 Published literature critical of the
8 Confusion with
10 External links
Frank Buchman was originally a Lutheran, he was deeply
influenced by the
Higher Life movement whose strongest contribution to
evangelism in Britain was the Keswick Convention. He had come to the
Keswick convention in 1908 hoping to meet pastor F. B. Meyer, one the
leading lights of the Keswick convention and one of the main advocates
of silent meditation as a means to be inspired by God. Unfortunately
— or fortunately — Meyer was not present, and
Frank Buchman chose
to attend the sermon by
Jessie Penn-Lewis instead, which became a
life-changing experience for him:30
F. B. Meyer's influence on Buchman was a major one. Meyer had
published The Secret of Guidance in 1896. One of his mottos was:
"Let no day pass without its season of silent waiting before God."
Meyer personally coached Buchman into daily guidance.:36
The theology of the Keswick convention at the time was Christian
holiness with its idea, originally derived from Methodism, of the
second work of grace which would allow "entire sanctification":
Christians living in close union with
Christ could remain free from
sin through the Holy Spirit. That is where the frequent, and to many
Reformed ears, bizarre assertion by Buchman that "human
nature can change" originates. Absolute moral standards belong by
Holiness even though the formula used by Buchman had been formulated
by the American Presbyterian missionary Robert Elliott Speer. Frank
Buchman was also very infuenced by Prebyterian Yale professor Henry
Burt Wright (see The Four Absolutes infra).
The name "
Oxford Group" appeared 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 and in
South Africa to promote the movement. The
South African press picked up on the name and it stuck.:52–53 It
stuck because many of the campaigns of the
Oxford Group were
Oxford University students and staff. And every year
between 1930 and 1937 house-parties were held at the University. In
the summer of 1933, for instance, 5,000 guests turned up for some part
of an event which filled six colleges and lasted seventeen days.
Almost 1,000 were clergy, including twelve bishops. In June 1939,
Oxford Group was legally incorporated.
Beliefs, not a religion
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." 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
God by those people who had fully "surrendered" to God's
will.:113 By working within all the churches, regardless of
denomination, they drew new members.:6 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".:141 In 1936,
Good Housekeeping described the group as
having neither membership, nor dues, nor paid leaders, nor new
theological creed, nor regular meetings; it was simply a fellowship of
people who desire to follow a way of life, a determination, and not a
God Can Lead People
Frank Buchman speeches include references about, "The
Oxford Group seeks to be living Christianity. It builds on the
accomplished work of Jesus
Christ as set forth in the New Testament.
Its aim is to bring to life and make real for each person the articles
of faith with which his own Church provides him.
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
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.
... 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.
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!"
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."
The Four Absolutes
Moral standards of absolute honesty, absolute purity, absolute
unselfishness, and absolute love, though recognised as impossible to
attain, were guidelines to help determine whether a course of action
was directed by God. The Four Absolutes seem to have first appeared in
a book by Robert E. Speer, titled The Principles of Jesus. In the
Chapter, Jesus and Standards, Speer laid down Four Principles
(honesty, purity, unselfishness, love) that he believed represented
the distilled, uncompromising, moral principles taught by Jesus. Speer
quoted Bible verses for each Principle. In 1909, Professor Henry B.
Wright of Yale, citing Speer's work, dug up many more Bible verses
that set forth these same Principles in the YMCA book: The Will of God
and a Man's Lifework. Wright dubbed them Absolutes rather than
Frank Buchman and the
Oxford Group/Moral Rearmament
adopted and popularized the phrase "The Four Absolutes".
Oxford terms, sin was "anything that kept one from
God or one
another" and is "as contagious as any bodily disease". The soul needs
cleansing: "We all know 'nice' sinless sinners who need that surgical
spiritual operation as keenly as the most miserable sinner of us
To be spiritually reborn, the
Oxford Group advocated four practices
set out below::9
The sharing of our sins and temptations with another Christian.
Surrender our life past, present and future, into God's keeping and
Restitution to all whom we have wronged directly or indirectly.
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. Others supported it. The
Oxford theologian, Dr B H Streeter, Provost of Queen's College, made
it the subject of the Warburton Lectures, given at
in 1933-5. These lectures were published under the title The
Speaks. Throughout the ages, he wrote, men and women have sought
God's will in quiet and listening. The
Oxford Group was following a
Sometimes groupers were banal in their descriptions of guidance.
However, innumerable examples can be given of groupers discovering
creative initiatives through times of quiet seeking God's direction,
as can be seen in books about the
Oxford Group such as A J Russell's
book, 'For Sinners Only', which went through 17 editions in two
years, or Garth Lean's '
Frank Buchman - a life'
Buchman would share the thoughts which he felt were guided by God, but
whether others pursued those thoughts was up to them.
Oxford Group, sharing was considered a necessity, it allowed
one to be healed, therefore it was also a blessing to
share.:19–21 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 message one brings to others by
speaking of one's own sins, one's own experiences, the power of
guiding one's life would bring hope to others that a spiritually
changed life gives strength to overcome life's difficulties. It must
be done with total conviction for "Half measures will be as fruitless
as no measures.":25
Some found public confession disturbing.
Beverley Nichols stated "And
all that business about telling one's sins in public... It is
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.':139 Buchman's biographer, Garth Lean, wrote
that he attended meetings from 1932 on 'and cannot recall hearing any
unwise public confessions.'
Five Cs and five procedures
The five Cs (confidence, confession, conviction, conversion, and
continuance) was the process of life changing undertaken by the life
changer. Confidence: the new person had to have confidence in you and
know you would keep his secrets. Confession: honesty about the real
state of a persons life. Conviction: the seriousness of his sin and
the need to free of it. Conversion: the process had to be the persons
own free will in the decision to surrender to God. Continuance: you
were responsible as a life changer to help the new person become all
God wanted him to be. Only
God could change a person, and the
work of the life changer had to be done under God's direction.:79
Oxford Group House Party was held in
China in 1918. In the
summer of 1930 the first International House Party was held at Oxford,
followed by another the next year attended by 700 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
There were also travelling teams; many house parties featured
out-of-town people who came to the party to relate their experiences
in the "Group Way of Life". Attendance was by printed invitation.
Invitations were also sent to "key people" in the community.
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
Oxford Group literature was on display.
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.
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:129
Pray: stands for Powerful Radiograms Always Yours
Every man a force, not a field
Interesting sinners make compelling saints
When a man listens
A spiritual radiophone in every home
Sin blinds sin binds
World changing through life-changing
Oxford Group literature
Some of the
Oxford Group literature is available online. See
references. For Sinners Only by Arthur James Russell was characterized
Oxford Group "bible." Soul Surgery by H. A. Walter,
What Is the
Oxford Group? by Layman with a Notebook, and Eight
Points of the
Oxford Group by C. Irving Benson.
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.:176
The books were The Big Bender, Life Began Yesterday, and I Was a Pagan
by V. C. Kitchen.
Campaigns through Europe
Oxford Group conducted campaigns in many European countries. In
1934 a team of 30 visited Norway at the invitation of Carl J. Hambro,
President of the Norwegian Parliament. 14,000 people crammed into
three meetings in one of Oslo's largest halls, and there were
countless other meetings across the country. At the end of that year
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." On 22 April 1945 Bishop 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.":232
Similar stories can be told of campaigns in Denmark, where the Primate
of Denmark, Bishop Fuglsang-Damgaard, Bishop of Copenhagen, said that
Oxford Group "has opened my eyes to that gift of
God which is
Christian fellowship, and which I have experienced in this
Group to which I now belong.":78 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.
Presence in the United States
By 1936, the organization had already come to national attention from
the media and Hollywood.
Attempt to reach Nazi leaders
In the 1930s the
Oxford Group had a substantial following in Germany.
They watched the rise of the
Nazi Party with alarm, as did those
elsewhere in Europe and America. Buchman kept in close touch with his
German colleagues, and felt compelled to attempt to reach the Nazi
leaders in Germany and win them to a new approach.
It was a time when
Winston Churchill and Karl Barth
were ready to give German
Nazism a chance to prove itself as a
democratic political movement, despite its obvious and repeated
denunciation of democracy. Hitler had, at first, presented himself as
a defender of Christianity, declaring in 1928: "We shall not tolerate
in our ranks anyone who hurts
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
Christian faith with a commitment to Christ's moral
He tried to meet Hitler but was unsuccessful. He met with Himmler
three times at the request of Moni von Crammon, an
adherent, the last time in 1936. To a Danish journalist and
friend he said a few hours after the final interview that the
doors were now closed. "Germany has come under the domination of a
terrible demonic power. A counter-action is absolutely necessary."
As study of Gestapo documents has revealed, the Nazis watched the
Oxford Group with suspicion from 1934 on. A first detailed secret
Gestapo report about The
Oxford – or Group Movement was published in
November 1936 warning that it had turned into a dangerous opponent of
National Socialism'. The Nazis also classified the Stalinist
version of Bolshevism and non-Nazi, right-wing groups such as Catholic
Action as dangerous to Nazism.
Upon his return to New York from Berlin, Buchman gave a number of
interviews. He was quoted as reportedly saying, "I thank heaven for a
man like Adolf Hitler, who built a front line of defence against the
Christ of Communism." The Rev. Garrett Stearly, one of
Buchman's colleagues from Princeton University who was present at the
interview, wrote, "I was amazed when the story came out. It was so out
of key with the interview." Buchman chose not to respond to the
article, feeling that to do so would endanger his friends among the
opposition in Germany.:240
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. Moni Von
Crammon's son-in-law was one of those executed along with Adam von
Trott zu Solz. They were executed under Hitler's orders after the
July 20 plot.
After World War II, further Gestapo documents came to light; one from
1939 states: "The Group preaches revolution against the national state
and has quite evidently become its
Christian opponent." Another, from
1942, states: "No other
Christian movement has underlined so strongly
the character of
Christianity as being supernational and independent
of all racial barriers.":242
Some from the
Oxford Group in Germany continued to oppose the Nazi
regime during the war. In Norway, Bishop
Arne Fjellbu of Trondheim
said in 1945: "I wish to state publicly that the foundations of the
united resistance of Norwegian Churchmen to
Nazism were laid by the
Oxford Group's work."
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. Moral recovery is essentially the forerunner of
economic recovery." The same year the British tennis star H. W.
Austin edited the book
Moral Rearmament (The Battle for Peace), which
sold half a million copies.:279 Gradually the former
developed into Moral Re-Armament.
A number of groups as well as individuals dissociated themselves from
Buchman as a result of his launching of Moral Re-Armament. Some Oxford
Group members disapproved Buchman's attention to matters not purely
personal, or his 'going into politics'. Buchman's view was that if
Moral Re-Armament was the car, the
Oxford Group was the engine, and
that individual change was the basis of both. He had said to his
students of Penn State and Hartford as early as 1921 that the Oxford
Group was "a programme of life issuing in personal, social, racial,
national and supernational change" or that it had "nothing to do with
politics, yet everything to do with politics, because it leads to
change in politicians." Nonetheless, while maintaining a lot of
Christian language, MRA became inclusive of all shades of religious
and philosophical convictions, Buchman comparing in a speech MRA to
"the good road of an ideology inspired by
God upon which all can
unite. Catholic, Jew and Protestant, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and
Confucianist - all find they can change, where needed and travel along
this good road together."
In Britain the
Moral Re-Armament was very active. The
Daphne du Maurier
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, whose initial vision made possible
the world of the living characters in these stories,' and added, 'What
they are doing up and down the country in helping men and women solve
their problems, and prepare them for whatever lies ahead, will prove
to be of national importance in the days to come.' The book sold
650,000 copies in Britain alone.
When war broke out, MRA workers joined the Allied forces in large
numbers, and were decorated for valour in many theatres of war. Others
worked to heighten morale and overcome bottlenecks, particularly in
war-related industries. About 30
Oxford Group workers were exempted
from military service to continue this work. However, when Ernest
Bevin became Minister of Labour in 1940, he decided to conscript them.
Over 2,500 clergy and ministers signed a petition opposing this, and
Members of Parliament put down a motion stating the same. Bevin
made it clear that he would resign from the Government if he was
defeated, and the Government put a three-line whip upon its
supporters. As a result, the
Oxford Group workers were excluded from
the Exemption from Military Service bill.
In the United States, where
Moral Re-Armament was doing similar work,
Senator (later President) Harry Truman, Chair of the Senate Committee
investigating war contracts, told a Washington press conference in
1943: 'Suspicions, rivalries, apathy, greed lie behind most of the
bottlenecks. This is where the
Moral Re-Armament group comes in. Where
others have stood back and criticized, they have rolled up their
sleeves and gone to work. They have already achieved remarkable
results in bringing teamwork into industry, on the principles not of
"who's right" but of "what's right".':324
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, Switzerland, and this became a centre for
reconciliation across Europe, bringing together thousands including
Konrad Adenauer and French Foreign Minister Robert
Schuman.:382 Its work was described by the 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."
In the following decades, MRA's work expanded across the globe,
particularly into the African and Asian countries moving towards
independence from colonial rule. Many leaders of these independence
struggles have paid tribute to MRA's contribution towards bringing
unity between groups in conflict, and helping ease the transition into
independence. In 1956 King
Mohammed V of Morocco
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.':454 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
Moral Re-Armament (MRA), became "Initiatives of Change", a
name expressing the emphasis of the organization in effecting social
change beginning with personal change.
Initiatives of Change
Initiatives of Change claims
spiritual roots but no religious affiliation, and invites "those with
a faith...both to explore the roots of their own tradition, and to
discover and respect the beliefs of others."
Impact and legacy
Oxford Group's impact on 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.
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. 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." 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, not one drop of
blood shed - that is the revolution to which MRA calls bosses and
Relationship to Alcoholics Anonymous
Alcoholics Anonymous and History of Alcoholics
In Akron, Ohio, Jim Newton, an
Oxford Group member knew that one of
Firestone'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
Harvey Firestone Senior 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 in the house of T. Henry Williams, amongst whom
were an Akron surgeon, Bob Smith, and his wife Anne. Bob was a secret
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. Ebby had a serious drinking problem. Hazard introduced
Ebby to Jung's theory and then to the
Oxford Group. For a time Ebby
took up residence at Sam Shoemaker's Calvary Rescue
Mission:381–386 that catered mainly to saving down-and-outs and
drunks. Shoemaker taught inductees the concept of
God being that of
Ebby Thacher, in keeping with the
Oxford Teachings, needed to keep his
own conversion experience real by carrying the
Oxford message of
salvation to others. Ebby 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".:131–139
A few days later, in a drunken state, Wilson went to the Calvary
Rescue Mission in search of Ebby 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."
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.:150
Wilson did not obtain his spiritual awakening by his attendance at the
Oxford Group.[according to whom?] He had his "hot flash"[vague]
conversion at Towns Hospital. The hospital was set up and run by
Charles B. Towns and his associate Alexander Lambert, who together had
concocted up a drug cocktail for the treatment of alcoholism that
bordered on quackery, known as "the belladonna cure". The formula
consisted of the two deliriants,
Atropa belladonna and Hyoscyamus
niger, which were known to cause hallucinations. Wilson claimed to
have seen a white light, and when he told his attending physician,
William Silkworth about his experience, he was advised not to discount
it. After Wilson left the hospital, he never drank again.:83–87,
After his release from the hospital, Wilson attended
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 Bob Smith while on a
business trip in Akron, Ohio. Earlier Wilson had been advised by
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. The idea that alcoholism was a disease not a moral
failing was different from the
Oxford concept that drinking was a sin.
This is what he brought to Bob Smith on their first meeting. Smith was
the first alcoholic Wilson helped to sobriety. Dr. Bob and Bill W., as
they were later called, went on to found Alcoholics Anonymous.
Wilson later acknowledged in
Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age:
"The early AA got its ideas of self-examination, acknowledgement 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."
In 1934 James Houck joined the
Oxford Group and became sober on Dec.
12, one day after Wilson did. AA was founded on June
10, 1935. Houck 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, now renamed Moral
Re-armament, and it was his mission to restore the
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
A.A. Houck was trying to introduce the program into the prison
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 of his sexual exploits with other members,
and in Houck's opinion he remained an agnostic.
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 and such prominent Americans as the Firestone family,
founders of the
Firestone Tire and Rubber Company
Firestone Tire and Rubber Company of Ohio. Though
sometimes controversial (the group attracted opposition from the Roman
Catholic Church), 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. He wrote For Sinners Only in 1932, which
inspired the writers of
Among those influenced by the
Oxford Group and Frank Buchman, one also
Paul Tournier, the Swiss physician and author whose Medicine of the
Person became a worldwide success
Emil Brunner, the Swiss
Protestant (Reformed) theologian
Theophil Spoerri, a Swiss writer and academic who was instrumental in
setting up the Gotthardbund, a civil society organisation which fought
against Nazi propaganada in
Switzerland from 1940 to 1945.
Gabriel Marcel, French philosopher, playwright and leading Christian
Evaluation and critics
Carl Jung on the
Carl Jung on the matter of an individual and his involvement in the
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.:272
Published literature critical of the
In 1934 Marjorie Harrison, an Episcopal Church member, published a
book, Saints Run Mad, that challenged the group, its leader and their
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." He
called its moral principles "a religious expression of a decadent
individualism... bourgeois optimism, individualism and moralism
expressing itself in the guise of religion," and added, "no wonder the
rather jittery plutocrats of our day open their spacious summer homes
to its message!"
Oxford Group is occasionally confused with the
Oxford Movement, an
effort that began in the 19th-century
Anglican Communion to encourage
high-church practice and demonstrate the church's apostolic heritage.
Though both had an association with members and students of the
Oxford at different times, the
Oxford Group and the
Oxford Movement are unrelated.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Lean, Garth (1985).
Frank Buchman - a life. Constable.
^ a b Driberg, Tom (1964). The Mystery of Moral Re-Armament: A Study
Frank Buchman and His Movement. Secker & Warburg.
^ Minutes of meeting of Diocesan Bishops, Church House, Westminster,
18 Jan 1932
^ F. B. Meyer, The Secret of Guidance; Fleming H. Revell Company,
1896, Online text
^ Daniel Sacks, Moral Re-Armament: The Reinventions of an American
Religious Movement, Springer, 2009, 230 pages,
ISBN 9780230101883, p. 128
^ Garth Lean,
Frank Buchman - a life, Constable 1985, 74-78.
^ Step Study.org
^ a b c d e Pittman, Bill (1988). AA the Way it Began. Glenn Abbey
^ a b c d e f The Layman With a Notebook (1933). What is the Oxford
Oxford University Press.
^ a b c d e Anonymous (1984). Pass It On: The Story of Bill Wilson and
how the A.A. message reached the world.
Alcoholics Anonymous World
Services, Inc. New York, NY. ISBN 0-916856-12-7.
^ a b Buchman, F (1961). Remaking the World. Blandord Press,
^ Time Magazine, October 14, 1935, "In Geneva Groupers"
^ Time, "Men, Masters and Messiahs"
^ Jesus and Standards P.35 The Principles of Jesus -
^ Will of
God and a Man's lifework - archive.org
^ Macmillan, 1936
^ Russell, A.J. (1932). For Sinners Only. Hodder and Stoughton.
^ Nichols, Beverley, All I Could Never Be, pages 255-256.
^ Pittman, Bill, AA the Way it Began, p. 117–121
^ Amazon.com site on "For Sinners Only"
^ Soul Surgery
^ Eight Points of the
^ Kitchen, V. C. I Was a Pagan http://stepstudy.org/downloads-2/
^ Tidens Tegn; December 24, 1934
^ Message through Karen Petersen, written to Buchman by Irene Gates;
October 23, 1943
^ Time, "Orders from G.H.O." July 29, 1936
^ a b Sharlet, Jeff (2008). The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at
the Heart of American Power.
^ Jacob Kronika, Berlin correspondent for Nationaltidende, Copenhagen
and Svenska Dagbladet, Stockholm, and Chairman of the Association of
Foreign Journalists in Berlin
^ Article by Kronika in Flensborg Avis, Denmark, January 2, 1962
^ Leitheft Die Oxford- oder Gruppenbewegung, herausgegeben vom
Sicherheitshauptamt, November 1936. Geheim, Numeriertes Exemplar No. 1
^ New York World-Telegram, August 26, 1936
^ Lean, Frank Buchman, 242
^ Edward Luttwak, "Franco-German Reconciliation: The Overlooked Role
Moral Re-Armament Movement" in Religion, the Missing Dimension
of Statecraft, edited by Douglas Johnston and Cynthia Sampson, OUP,
^ "Sermon in St Martin-in-the-Fields," London, 22 April 1945
^ Buchman, Frank N.D., Remaking the World (London, 1955), p. 46.
^ History page of
Initiatives of Change
Initiatives of Change Internrational's site
^ Johnston and Sampson, Religion, the Missing Dimension of Statecraft,
Oxford University Press, 1994
Initiatives of Change
Initiatives of Change - Frequently Asked Questions
^ Grogan, William; John Riffe of the Steelworkers, Coward, McCann
^ Foreword to 'World Labour and Caux', Caux 1950
^ Piguet and Sentis, 'Ce Monde que Dieu nous confie, Centurion 1979,
^ Hartigan, Francis "Bill W."
Alcoholics Anonymous World Services (June 1957) Alcoholics Anonymous
Comes of Age: A Brief History of A. A.; p 39
^ Towson, Melissa, Time Magazine, "Living Recovery"
^ Hartigan, Francis "Bill W"
^ Moral Rearmament. Time, September 19, 1938.
^ Hartigan, Francis (2000). Bill W.: A Biography of Alcoholics
Anonymous Cofounder Bill Wilson. New York: St. Martin's Press, pp.
^ Kurtz, Ernest (1988). AA: The Story. New York: Harper & Row, p.
47. (This is a revised edition of Not God: A History of Alcoholics
^ Two Listeners (2012). Russell, A.J., ed.
God Calling (American
usage/inclusive language ed.). Pasadena, Calif.: Hope Pub. House.
p. Preface-The Voice Divine. ISBN 978-1932717266. Retrieved
17 May 2014.
^ "Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 18: The Symbolic Life".
Princeton University Press.
^ Harrison, Marjorie (1934). Saints Run Mad: A Criticism Of The
"Oxford" Group Movement. London: John Lane The Bodley Head / Bowering
Press. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
^ a b Niebuhr, Reinhold,
Christianity and Power Politics, New York:
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1940, "Hitler and Buchman".
Frank N.D. Buchman at "An Illustrated Alcoholics Anonymous