What is Initiatives of Change?
How did it start?
Is Initiatives of Change a religious organization?
What are the main ideas?
Why does IofC put so much emphasis on silence?
Isn’t there a danger that people will hear evil thoughts?
Why does Initiatives of Change advocate absolute moral values?
Where did the absolute values come from?
What does ‘absolute purity’ mean?
What are the legal objects of the charity?
What is the link between IofC and AA (Alcoholics Anonymous)?
What was Moral Re-Armament?
Where does Initiatives of Change get its funding?
How do I get involved with Initiatives of Change?
Initiatives of Change is a worldwide movement of people of many cultures and backgrounds, who are committed to creating a better world. We do this through seeking to change human motives and behaviour, starting in our own lives. IofC runs conferences and training programmes which encourage and equip people to find their own path to tackling challenges within themselves and in the world around them. IofC encourages everyone to find an inner sense of what their life’s purpose is meant to be in the context of global needs; and to work with others to bring about moral and structural changes that will increase the quality of life for all. In the UK many events are held at our headquarters building [link] in London and, to a lesser extent, around the country.
Initiatives of Change grew out of the work of Frank Buchman (1878 – 1961), an American church minister. Before the First World War, in a church in the Lake District, he had a life-changing experience of finding freedom from resentment towards people he felt had wronged him. He wrote a letter to each of them, apologising for ‘nursing ill will’ against them.
This experience, which for Buchman was a personal encounter with Christ, set his life in a new direction. By sharing what had happened to him, he began to help other find inner change in their lives, often with far-reaching effects.
His insight that deep personal transformation is key to social change is what inspired students in America and Europe in the 1920s and 1930s – a period of global depression and the rise of the communist and fascist dictatorships – to join him in his work. This spread to many sectors of society and became a worldwide movement for moral and spiritual renewal. At that time it was known as The Oxford Group.
Buchman embraced the world and won the trust and friendship of many political and spiritual leaders. He was credited with playing a significant role in ending the hostility between France and Germany after World War II – and similar work was done in Asia by his co-workers.
Initiatives of Change is faith-based in its work and lifestyle and is open to all.
Frank Buchman’s aim from the beginning was to help each person find their calling in life. He invited everyone to face the wrong in their lives in the light of absolute moral standards, to ask for forgiveness, to make appropriate restitution, and to surrender their self-will to God or the highest they knew.
For many, the result of this spiritual cleansing has been to trigger a life-long sense of what it means to live with a clear conscience.
Daily morning quiet times refresh this experience and give direction. From this come the renewal of relationships, new energy, and clarity about purpose in life.
This approach has become an effective basis for people of different cultures, religious beliefs or none, to work together to respond to urgent world needs.
IofC is a challenge to everyone to live this out and to express their experiences sensitively as an enrichment to others.
Initiatives of Change emphasises that there is a profound connection between the personal and global: when people and relationships change, situations change. Of course, personal change is not enough – legal and economic structures need to change, too. But IofC’s main contribution has always been in human dimension.
For Frank Buchman, who founded IofC, the aim from the beginning was to help each person unlock their potential and find their calling in life, which could then affect the world in unexpected ways.
‘There is a common meeting ground in the fact that we all need to change – nations as well as people… if leaders change they can change their people. If people change, they can change their leaders.’ Frank Buchman
With this in mind, IofC emphasises:
- Inner reflection – listening to, and tapping, the deep inner wisdom which many call the Spirit of God or conscience;
- Commitment to the highest moral and spiritual values – a ‘reality check’ revealing the truth about ourselves and inspiring a humble search for deeper integrity, and a greater unselfish purpose;
- Forgiveness – letting go of hate, resentment, or self-loathing.
- Purity of motive - finding freedom from indulgent habits and judgement of people (including ourselves); a process that can un-cloud our minds and open us to the potential in ourselves and others;
- A transformed world – daring to imagine a world where the needs of humanity are met, and to discover our unique role in bringing about this vision.
Frank Buchman was a Christian but his work included people of many religious, spiritual and secular traditions. Buchman’s approach – of valuing the contributions of people from diverse cultures and beliefs – was far ahead of its time.
Today, with so many inter-community tensions, IofC reaffirms its commitment to building relationships of trust across the world’s social, ethnic and religious divides – not by compromising our own values and beliefs but by working together for the good of all.
IofC places the search for inner wisdom at the heart of its approach.
The regular practice of silence, also called ‘quiet time,’ is an opportunity for reflection to listen to the deepest voice in one’s heart, whom many call God. For others it is the conscience or inner voice. Quiet time allows a person to consider what changes may be needed in one’s own life and to find the inspiration to make those changes. Often unexpected, creative thoughts will come about how to care for others or to change things for the better. Many find that there is great value in devoting a regular time (perhaps half-an-hour) each day to this practice.
Of course there is – we all have selfish and impure thoughts a lot of the time. This is why ‘silence’ by itself is not enough. We need safety checks before we act on our thoughts. These include:
- making sure that the thought does not go against any of the four absolute moral standards;
- sharing our thoughts with someone who shares our values;
- asking ourselves whether it is in line with the teaching of our religion or belief-system.
Buchman had a gift for expressing spiritual truth in non-religious language. His experience of meeting and speaking with people of all faiths and cultural backgrounds showed him that the principles of honesty, purity, unselfishness and love are recognised by all of the main monotheistic faiths as well as being at the heart of the Christian Gospel.
Given the human capacity for self-deception, Buchman emphasised the need to consider these standards as ‘absolute’. Consider the difference between the questions, ‘Am I honest?’ and ‘Am I absolutely honest?’ These principles form the bed-rock of the changes in individuals upon which initiatives of change are built.
The word ‘absolute’ is intended to provide a beacon by which to measure our motives and actions, rather than a set of unachievable rules. Of course no one can achieve perfection but we can all travel a road towards our highest aspirations. Learning to seek forgiveness when we fall short is an important part of the journey. And many discover that, through prayer, they can gain help in living as they are meant to – the gift that Christians call grace.
Frank Buchman adopted the ‘four standards’ from a book called The principles of Jesus by Robert E Speer (1867 – 1947) which he seems to have learned about from Henry Wright (1877 - 1925), a Yale University professor
Purity often seems to be the most controversial of the four standards – perhaps because it touches our deepest instincts and desires. Someone once said: ‘It means what you are afraid it means.’ Yet purity is an important quality. Christ said that the pure would see God. In practice it embraces purity of heart and motive, sexual purity, the freedom to care for others without wanting anything in return. It is challenging but can also be extremely liberating bringing lustre and clarity to life.
IofC is a registered charity in England and Wales (No 226334), under the name, The Oxford Group. The legal objects are: ‘the advancement of the Christian religion, and in particular by the means and in accordance with the principles of the Oxford Group movement, founded in or about the year 1921 by Frank Nathan Daniel Buchman’.
Dr Buchman was a pioneer who reached out to people of different faiths as well as many who were agnostic or even militantly atheist. He expressed truths in ways that were unconventional and sometimes did not sound religious – although they all sprang from his personal Christian faith. The Trustees follow in that tradition and seek to support activities which are practical expressions of Christ’s commands and thereby advance the Christian religion in accordance with the charity’s Objects.
The two co-founders of AA, Dr Bob and Bill W, were both deeply influenced by their contacts with The Oxford Group, the fore-runner of Initiatives of Change, in the 1930s.
In the 1930s, Frank Buchman became increasingly worried about the danger of war breaking out. He concentrated much of his efforts on trying to bring about change in Germany and strengthening the moral basis of democracy in the free world. In Germany, in 1938, he had a strong conviction that ‘the next great move in the world will be a movement of moral re-armament for all nations’. He officially launched Moral Re-Armament in East Ham town hall later that year. During the 1980s and 1990s people increasingly felt that the name had become out-dated – it had right-wing and militaristic connotations. In 2001 the new name, Initiatives of Change, was adopted.
Initiatives of Change has four main sources of funding:
- individual donations,
- interest on our endowment fund and
- rental income from surplus office space in our headquarters building.
The endowment fund has been built up over many years – either from legacies or from selling properties. It currently covers the administrative costs of the charity.
Click here for more information about renting rooms and conference facilities at our headquarters building – a peaceful location in the heart of Westminster.
If you would like to contribute financially click here.
For further information about our finances and organisation, please click here to see our entry on the Charity Commission website.
Please visit the Get Involved section on our wesbite, where you will find details of our philosophy, events, details of our programmes, fundraising, volunteering and internship opportunities and jobs.