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Oxford Group

Later called “Moral Re-Armament,” the movement was instituted by Frank Buchman* as a moral and spiritual force to transform men and societies. The founder promoted spiritual conversion through the techniques of confession, surrender, guidance, and sharing. These techniques lead to the four absolute standards of life: absolute purity, absolute unselfishness, absolute honesty, and absolute love. The application of these principles through the Moral Re-Armament movement has brought Buchman decorations from France, Germany, Greece, Japan, the Republic of China, the Philippines, Thailand, and Iran for outstanding services rendered. Prime Minister Holyoake of New Zealand said, “He has done as much as any man of our time to unite the peoples of the world by cutting through the prejudices of color, class, and creed.”

After a period of working out experimentally basic principles in the art of remaking men, Buchman became convinced that the backbone of Christianity was a set of absolute moral standards and that men needed the courage to pursue these. In 1921 he embarked on the task of raising an army of men and women to overcome the worldwide breakdown of morals. Using the method of spiritual house parties where discussions, meditations, testimonies, recreation, quiet hours, and public confessions were the order of the day, Buchman began to appeal to students at many of the great universities-Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Oxford, and Cambridge. In 1928 he took a team of Rhodes scholars to South Africa, and while they were there the South African press referred to them as “the Oxford Group.” The label became the name of Buchman's movement for the next ten years. Late in 1938 a new worldwide program was launched under a new label of Moral Re- Armament.

The Moral Re-Armament movement has produced hundreds of thousands of supporters around the world. Greatest success has come in England, Switzerland, Germany, Africa, and the USA. Greatest appeal has been to the very wealthy, but many people with more modest incomes have participated. Buchman's success can be attributed in part to his ability to train others and his use of drama, musicals, and films to present his message. The “Up With People” program has been especially popular in the United States and Germany. The corporate headquarters and finance office are located in New York, but various centers are located throughout the USA and the world. Two international training centers are located in Caux, Switzerland, and Odawara, Japan. Although the movement has its devoted crusaders, there is no claim of denominational status; rather, the movement claims to be “an expeditionary force from all faiths and races. . . .”

Peter Howard* assumed the leadership of the worldwide operations upon the death of Buchman in 1961. Howard died in 1965. The organization is now administered by a group of directors.

See W.H. Clark, The Oxford Group: Its History and Significance (1951); B. Entwistle and J.M. Roots, Moral Re-Armament: What Is It? (1967).