Frank ND Buchman was the initiator of Moral Re-Armament, now known as Initiatives of Change. Who was he? How did he emerge from small-town America to make such an impact that several governments decorated him for his contribution to peace?
The definitive biography of Buchman, 'FRANK BUCHMAN: A LIFE' by Garth Lean, is now available on this site ('Buchman Online'). It is fully searchable, and you can explore Buchman's life and thinking via distinctive topics.
Frank N.D. Buchman was born in Pennsylvania on 4 June 1878.
In 1908, while visiting England, he underwent a spiritual experience in a church in Keswick, Cumbria, which altered the course of his life. Describing it, he said:
`I began to see myself as God saw me, which was a very different picture than the one I had of myself.... I realized how my sin, my pride, my selfishness, had eclipsed me from God. I was the centre of my own life. That big 'I' had to be crossed out.... It produced a vibrant feeling, as though a strong current of life had suddenly been poured into me.'
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. 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 Switzerland (see next page) is renowned for its role in post-World War II reconciliation in Europe, particularly between France and Germany.
Back in the 1920s, Buchman was a frequent visitor to Oxford University. 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.
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.
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