Our history at a glance
1908 – 1945 BEGINNINGS
1908 Frank Buchman
Initiatives of Change owes its origins to an American called Frank Buchman (1878 – 1961). An American Lutheran minister of Swiss descent, he reached a crisis point at the age of 30 when he resigned his job as the warden of a hostel for homeless boys in Philadephia. He was bitter against the trustees who he felt were too stingy with money for food. He took a vacation to Europe but could not shake off the feeling of depression.
Then, in Keswick, he attended a church service in a Methodist chapel. 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, apologising for his ill-will. His newfound sense of freedom had a knock-on effect and others began to find similar experiences.
Over the following years, he worked mainly with students, and developed his ideas. 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 honest, purity, unselfishness and love. Many students’ lives were turned in more positive directions after their encounters with Buchman.
1927 The Oxford Group
Buchman became convinced that moral compromise limits human potential and harms relationships. The conviction grew that change in individuals is the only effective way to start 'remaking the world'. His ideas took root in Oxford and some American universities and his work became known as 'the Oxford Group'.
1935 Alcoholics Anonymous
Through the 1930s Buchman's ideas spread around the world. Alcoholics Anonymous was established in 1935 as a result of the liberating experiences of some who had come into contact with the Oxford Group.
1938 Moral Re-Armament
As European nations re-armed for war, Buchman called for 'moral and spiritual re-armament' as the way to build a 'hate-free, fear-free, greed-free world'. He rebranded this work as Moral Re-Armament. MRA was launched in East Ham Town Hall, London.
1946 – 1990 RECONSTRUCTION AND VALUES FOR DEMOCRACY
After World War II, Buchman launched a programme of moral and spiritual reconstruction. He emphasised the importance of faith, believing that God has a purpose for people's lives and for mankind as a whole. He encouraged people to seek God's wisdom in regular times of silence and reflection. Wishing to keep his approach to change open to all, he said: ‘Catholic, Jew and Protestant, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and Confucians - all find they can change, where needed and travel along this good road together.'
1946-50 Caux and the post war reconciliation
Through the generosity and hard work of hundreds of Swiss citizens, MRA purchased a run-down hotel and turned it into a high quality international conference centre where those who had suffered in the war could come together and build new relationships
1947 Germans to Caux
Almost immediately, when Germany was still deeply resented by many, Buchman and his colleagues invite Germans to Caux. Over the next four years growing numbers of Germans and French met there, and these encounters played a key part in reconciliation. Buchman was later decorated by both the German and French governments for his contribution to European reconciliation.
1949 onwards: Post-conflict healing
The 1950s: increasing world-wide outreach
1961 Buchman Dies
1968 Asia Plateau
The 1970s: Further peace-building initiatives
The 1960s and 70s: The Westminster Theatre
1990s: the collapse of Communism
Also in the ‘90s, Hope in the Cities, was created to bridge the racial divides in the US; and Clean Election Campaigns took place in Taiwan, Brazil and Kenya.