Our history at a glance

1908 – 1945 BEGINNINGS

Frank Buchman
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.

 

Oxford
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'.

 

 

 

Alcoholics Anonymous book cover
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.'

Early view of the Caux Palace Hotel
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

Germans in Caux in 1947

 

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

Reconciliation
Conferences in Caux and at Mackinac Island in the US, affected world events. These include playing a key part in the reconciliation of Japan with her South-East Asian neighbours, and in the achievement of independence without major bloodshed by several African countries.

 

 

 

The 1950s: increasing world-wide outreach

Japanese delegation to Caux in 1950
By the 1950s, casts of plays presenting MRA's ideas were travelling all over the world. Centres were established in Latin America, India, Japan and several countries in Africa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

1961 Buchman Dies

Peter Howard
When Buchman died in 1961, the former British political journalist Peter Howard assumed the leadership of MRA, but four years later he too died. There followed some difficult years during the course of which a new international structure gradually emerged.

 

 

 

 

 

 
1968 Asia Plateau

Asia Plateau
1968 saw the opening of Asia Plateau – an IofC centre for the training of people from industry, education, the armed forces and civil society in Panchgani, India.

 

 

 

The 1970s: Further peace-building initiatives

Children of multi ethnic backgrounds
With reconciliation a primary need in many parts of the world, much of MRA's work concentrated on supporting peace-making initiatives in Africa and Asia. For example, IofC  is credited with playing a key role in the peaceful transition to independence of Zimbabwe.

 

 

 

The 1960s and 70s: The Westminster Theatre

Westminster Theatre
Throughout this period, MRA owned the Westminster Theatre in London. Many of the plays, by Peter Howard and others, had a message of reconciliation, forgiveness and the importance of faith at both a personal and a national level.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1980s’ Britain

UK history 1950-1980
During this period in Britain much of the work of IofC was focused on improving human relationships in industry, particularly in some of the big car and steel manufacturing plants. There was also a focus on bridging some of the racial and cultural divides in several cities.

 

 

 

1990s: the collapse of Communism

Russian churches
The collapse of Communism triggered new needs and opportunities for building democracy in the post-Soviet world. This became one of the major focal points in the 1990s with the launching of the Foundations for Freedom training courses.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2001 A change of name

Logo of Initiatives of Change in English
In 2001 the name Initiatives of Change (IofC) was adopted – a recognition of the need to rebrand the message for a different era.