The Religious Roots of Alcoholics Anonymous
and the Twelve Steps
The "First Century Christian Fellowship" Campus Crusade in the 1920s
From 1919 through the mid-nineteen-twenties, Frank Buchman pursued his campus crusade
at upscale American colleges like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Bryn Mawr.
There, Buchman established a pattern that he would continue for life,
targeting "key people" for conversion, and then, once he
got some of those "key people" as members, exploiting their
names for publicity purposes and for attracting more "key people."
"Key people" were people like football stars,
student body presidents, and famous rich men's sons.
Another handy feature of those upscale "key people" was that they
usually had fat wallets, which also helped.
From the beginning of his career, Frank Buchman always believed that
society could be transformed from the top down — convert the leaders,
and the common folk would follow.
Another habit that Frank Buchman developed early on was living well on
donors' money. When he was criticized for always traveling
first class and staying in the best hotels, Buchman answered with something
like this quote from TIME magazine in 1936,
"Why shouldn't we stay in 'posh' hotels? Isn't God a millionaire?"
In 1920 Frank Buchman was approached to create and lead a movement financed by
John D. Rockefeller and others, which would, in its initiators' phrase,
"use all the genius of American industry to carry Christ's message
to the laymen of the
In an unpublished manuscript, Ray Foote Purdy stated that the
movement was to be called "The Interchurch World
Garth Lean said that Frank Buchman turned the offer down, feeling that it would
cramp his work into an organizational framework.
Frank Buchman may not have accepted the leadership of Rockefeller's
organization, but Buchman always got plenty of money from somewhere.
Frank Buchman also established another pattern for life: He displayed an unhealthy
obsession with sex. One Harvard graduate is reported to have said,
"He started asking me intimate questions about sex before I'd been
alone with him for five minutes. I left in a
What was odd about Frank Buchman was his insistence on hearing all of
the details of other people's masturbatory habits, especially young men's
Buchman maintained that people needed to be "saved" from the
"sin" of masturbation, and he insisted on hearing their
confessions of their personal practices of it.
He was an embarrassment to colleges and organizations because of his
prodding to hear the details of this "secret vice" of
"solitary abuse", and there were complaints lodged against him.
One of the Oxford Group propaganda books tells this rather ridiculous
story of Frank Buchman converting an atheist:
Among those he [Buchman] met on this visit was one of Oxford's
outstanding scholars who was a militant atheist. He used to
organize meetings on Sunday afternoons, invite some theologian
to give a talk, and then lead the ensuing discussion so ably
that when it came to a vote there was always a majority in
favour of atheism. Someone told him that a man named Frank Buchman
was in Oxford and that this Buchman believed in the Holy Spirit.
The atheist thought this was nonsense. So he decided to ask Buchman
to his rooms for coffee and argue him out of his beliefs.
When Buchman arrived he put forth all his arguments for atheism.
Buchman sat there nodding his head, saying, 'Really?' and 'Very interesting'.
After an hour the atheist saw that he was getting nowhere.
He suddenly said to Buchman, 'I wish you would tell me what you think
Buchman answered, 'You don't want me to be rude, do you?'
The atheist persisted. So Buchman said, 'I feel three things about
you. First, you are unhappy.'
The other answered, 'Yes, I am.'
Buchman said, 'You have an unhappy home.'
The atheist answered, 'Yes, I have. I hate my father. I always have
since I was a boy.'
Buchman then said, 'You are in the grip of an impure habit which you
cannot bring yourself to talk about with anyone.'
The atheist answered, 'That is a lie.' There was silence.
Buchman said, 'I must go.'
The atheist said, 'Please stay.'
Buchman said, 'I must go.'
'No, don't go.'
Buchman then said, 'Well, I'll stay on one condition — that you and
I listen to God together.'
The atheist made a surprising reply. He said, 'I couldn't do that.
I told you a lie a few minutes ago. I am in the grip of that habit.'
Buchman said, 'I know.' They talked honestly together and ended the
evening on their knees. The atheist said, 'I want to give my life
to God.' And he did so. Dynamic Out of Silence: Frank Buchman's Relevance Today,
Theophil Spoerri, pages 66-67.
Frank Buchman's attitudes and teachings about sex grew even more extreme in
the following years. Eventually, Buchmanism would take on a Puritanical rigidity that
declared that even sex between married couples was less than Absolute Purity.
Two of Buchman's disciples, Peter Howard, who took over leadership of
the Oxford Groups and Moral Re-Armament after Frank Buchman's death, and Dr. Paul Campbell,
Buchman's personal physician, taught us in their book Remaking Men that:
Indulgence by the married, while having the cloak of legitimacy, may
nevertheless be the source of irritable tempers and of inability to answer
to the real needs of the children. Parents indulgent inside marriage
need not be surprised if their children are indulgent outside marriage.
A union which could otherwise be powerful for remaking the nation
thus remains a soft and uninspiring association. Remaking Men, Paul Campbell and Peter Howard, 1954, quoted in The Mystery of Moral Re-Armament; A Study of
Frank Buchman and His Movement, Tom Driberg, 1965, page 258.
"Parents indulgent inside marriage
need not be surprised if their children are indulgent outside marriage."(Oh really? Where is the evidence for that?)
By that logic, most all of the children in the world should be having
sex outside of marriage, because most married couples occasionally indulge in sex.
Also notice how Peter Howard and Paul Campbell were using fear mongering
and the propaganda trick of
"If you have sex with your spouse, then your children
will turn promiscuous outside of marriage, and you shouldn't be surprised
to see it — it will all be your own fault."
So where is the evidence for all of those sweeping statements?
What study, poll, or survey established that...
Married people who have sex will have irritable tempers? (Says who?
It seems like those who aren't getting any sexual satisfaction are more irritable.)
Will be unable to care for their young?
Their children will have sex outside of marriage?
The marriage will be a "soft and uninspiring association"?
What study, survey, or poll discovered any of that?
There isn't any.
Obviously, Peter Howard and Dr. Paul Campbell were just fabricating
crazy stuff out of thin air. That is, the crazy theology that they didn't copy from Frank Buchman.
Thus it was standard practice at Buchman's facilities to insist that married
couples sleep apart in sexually-segregated quarters, to prevent sex between
And their description of promiscuous people was very strange:
The heterosexual, promiscuous person ordinarily has an aggressive spirit,
and not infrequently is possessed by a short volatile temper. The man who is
unfaithful to his wife is apt to talk too much and maintains an unconvincing
false bouyancy. A most reliable sign of sexual defeat is piosity. Men who
are unctuous and unreal are licked by impurity. Remaking Men, Paul Campbell and
Peter Howard, 1954, quoted in The Mystery of Moral Re-Armament; A Study of
Frank Buchman and His Movement, Tom Driberg, 1965, page 259.
Again, where is the evidence for any of that? Where did they get that?
And remember how a fellow teacher at Penn State said that
"Buchman oozed the oil of unctuous piety from every
pore"...? Is that just a coincidence? Were Frank Buchman's
disciples blind to the implications of what they were saying?
"A most reliable sign of sexual defeat is piosity."
Is this an odd kind of
unconscious psychological projection, or a Freudian slip? "...licked by
Likewise, Frank Buchman also declared that prostate troubles were a sure sign
of previous sexual misconduct — until he had to have his own prostate removed,
The Buchmanite manual that taught Oxford Group recruiters
how to get people to confess their sins said:
A second service we may render at this stage is to help a man not only to
see himself as God sees him, but also to understand, if he is young and
inexperienced, the terrible consequences of the sin that is not checked,
perhaps through the medium of a painful surgical operation.
It was one who knew sin in its farthest reaches who used the uncompromising
language of Matthew 5:28, and the verse following:
'and if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee:
for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish and
that thy whole body should not be cast into hell.' Soul Surgery: Some Thoughts On Incisive Personal Work,
H. A. Walter, M.A., Oxford University Press, 1932, page 67.
So young men who are sinning sexually will need to get their genitals chopped off?
Ouch! That is really some intense fear-mongering.
At Princeton, in 1922,
As at Harvard and Yale, much opposition was aroused. Talk about
Buchmanite methods and sexual confessions went around the campus,
while discussions of masturbation and homosexuality in connection
with the movement grew frequent. Opposition swelled to the point
where certain students, under the leadership of Edward Steese and
Neilson Abeel, proposed to launch a new campus publication with the
aim of driving Buchmanism out of Princeton. The position of these
opponents was that Buchmanism surreptitiously practiced unwarranted
inquisition into personal lives, was dangerous in its handling of
sex, and was stimulating a most unhealthy interest in morbid sexual
matters among the student body. The Oxford Group; Its History and Significance,
Walter Houston Clark, pages 67-68.
Buchman's faithful follower Garth Lean wrote,
Buchman was deeply hurt by these insinuations, especially hating being
made to look like the leader of a new cult, the more so as his own name
was used to describe what he regarded as God's work and not his.
Garth Lean, On the Tail of a Comet: The Life of Frank Buchman, page 125.
The following year — in December 1923 —
Princeton University President John Hibben banned Frank Buchman and his
campus crusade from Princeton because of Buchman's sexual
obsession, his offensive and arrogant behavior, and the obtrusive zeal,
invasion of privacy, and inappropriate confessions of sexual matters of
some of his converts.
It didn't help any that one of Buchman's converts
had taken the innocent daughter of a Princeton Professor out on a date,
and then gave her a full confession of every intimate detail of his sex life.
And, undoubtedly, it also didn't help any that Buchman had told President Hibben
that 85% of the Princeton undergraduates were either "sexually perverted or
Dick B. wrote:
John Hibben, President of Princeton University, became involved
in a long-standing series of accusations against Buchman,
Buchmanism, and Buchman's alleged abnormal and morbid emphasis
on sex and conducting unwarranted inquisition into men's private
lives while Buchman was connected with Princeton. This prompted
Hibben at one point to announce to the press, "there is no
place for Buchmanism in Princeton." The Akron Genesis of Alcoholics Anonymous,
footnote on pages 160-161.
President Hibben would have felt that it was his moral duty to
protect his young students at that all-male university from homosexual
predators, so when he thought he saw a weirdo,
he would have sent him packing.
Frank Buchman was such a public figure that Hibben had to explain
his reasons to the newspaper reporters, who documented these events.
Even worse for Buchman, in an open forum meeting, the students
voted heavily against Buchman's
TIME magazine reported:
Noisy, dirty, impolite, Nobody loves a Buchmanite.
— Princeton Song.
Buchmanism, in its essentials, is easily seen as an adaptation of
Christianity which contains many features of traditional excellence.
Conversion, contemplation, confession — upon these it lays emphasis. One
peculiarity, however, has made it famous and has caused its founder,
Frank N. D. Buchman, Muhlenburg graduate and Lutheran minister, to be
called ugly names. At Buchman "houseparties" (gatherings devoted to
mutual confession and "washing out"), sex is the pièce de résistance.
Mr. Buchman and his assistants are accused of reducing their diagnoses
of spiritual sufferings to bad sex habits. The weak-chinned element in
schools and colleges, full of relief at finding so plain a focal point
for their self-betterment ambitions or so simple a seeming cause for
all their adolescent agonies, succumb readily to the "spiritual
surgery" which follows this easy diagnosis.
Likewise, Marcus Bach reported that he discussed the matter with those Buchmanites Ned and Aylmer:
What about Frank's personal life? Would it endanger the admirable faith
of these believers if I retold the rumors that persistently drifted
in from Princeton and Oxford campuses? When I brought up the matter,
Aylmer dismissed it with a wave of his hand, but Ned demanded an
"It's an established fact," I supplied, "that Buchman was
ordered out of Princeton by President John Grier Hibben in 1924 for saying
that sex ruled the campus roosts."
"Well, maybe he was right!" Aylmer retorted.
"Maybe. But there were charges that the confessions prerequisite to change
turned out to be orgiastic demonstrations. Some say the washing-out is as
satisfying to the listeners as the original sin was to the confessors." They Have Found A Faith, by Marcus Bach, pages 147-148.
An astute reader might notice an apparent contradiction here. Earlier, you read
Beverly Nichols describing
how the Oxford Group members never confessed anything
about sexual matters, but here at Princeton we hear of much talk about sex.
And Nichols also wrote:
"I have known five marriages that were wrecked by the Oxford Group
— by this pernicious practice of 'absolute honesty'. In each case they
were wrecked by totally unnecessary confessions of a sexual nature."
Other contemporariries, like Rev. Richardson, described lurid confessions at Oxford Group meetings:
"Within my own hearing, further, it was said by one prominent among
Canadian Church leaders that at a meeting of the Groups in British Columbia
— at Vancouver, if I am not mistaken — that he and his wife were forced
to leave the hall in protest against the character of some of the sharings."
The answer to the apparent contradiction is:
Nichols was describing the Oxford Group as he saw it at Oxford in the
early nineteen-thirties, while here we have the Oxford Group as it was earlier,
in the mid-nineteen-twenties on campuses in the USA.
Apparently, Frank Buchman started off interpreting "Absolute Honesty"
quite literally, so confessors were encouraged to be frank about sex
— perhaps even graphic — in their confessions during the campus
crusades in the USA in the 'twenties.
But Frank Buchman got his fingers badly burned on that one.
Sensational and lurid sexual confession sessions caused such a furor, and roused so much anger,
and brought so much disrepute on Frank Buchman and his "movement",
that he finally barred talk about sex. (As Beverly Nichols pointed out, Buchman
had to censor such talk.)
But that then created the obvious problem that the public confessions were no longer
"absolutely honest" — they were just sanitized show-pieces.
At Princeton, when the opposition appeared, the President, Dr. Hibben,
allowed himself to be quoted as saying that so long as he was President
there was no place for Dr. Buchman's work in the University. It seems
that Dr. Hibben had spoken before he got the facts. Innocent Men, Peter Howard, page 89.
That is deceptive language.
"Opposition" did not just magically "appear" at Princeton.
Some good and sincere people strongly condemned what they saw as the perverted
practices of an evil organization. President Hibben did not passively
"allow himself to be quoted". He publicly made an emphatic declaration
to newspaper reporters who were asking about the matter:
"There is no place for Buchmanism in Princeton."
Likewise, the Oxford Groupers also told the following story:
Dr Hibben, who had followed Woodrow Wilson as President of the University,
a well-meaning but weak man, wanted to avoid any conflict and in
December 1923 invited Buchman and his friends to meet and discuss
matters with their opponents. Following that, there was a
friendly exchange of letters between Buchman and the President.
For Abeel and his friends, however, the meeting merely provided
material for renewed attacks. In February 1924 they put together
their attacks on Buchman in a pamphlet called The Cannonball.
They they showed Dr Hibben the galley-proofs. Unless he officially
declared himself against Buchman, they threatened, they would
publish it. Dr Hibben, fearing for the good name of the university,
allowed himself to be stampeded into saying: 'There is no place
for Buchman in Princeton.
Buchman's attackers did not rest on their laurels. Moreover they
were further irritated by the vigorous ways in which his friends
were continuing to gain ground. An editor of The Churchman,
Ernest Mandeville by name, took it upon himself to publish a
series of articles repeating the wholly unsubstantiated Princeton
attacks. The Princeton legend grew and in October 1926 TIME
seized on some of the accusations to blow them up sensationally.
In this form they were picked up by the New York papers. Dynamic Out Of Silence: Frank Buchman's Relevance Today,
Theophil Spoerri, pages 78-79.
The Buchmanites did not say what accusations were in that
Cannonball pamphlet, or why Dr. Hibben should fear its
publication, or how he could be blackmailed with accusations
that were aimed at the Oxford Group.
It would seem that the Oxford Group would have a
lot more to fear from the contents of The Cannonball
than Dr. Hibben. And Dr. Hibben did not seem to be such a
"weak man" when it came to kicking Frank Buchman out
of Princeton University...
"And of course," the Buchmanites implied, "everybody
else who criticized Frank Buchman was merely misinformed."
What TIME magazine actually said was,
Of ways of winning men to God there is no end. The Church Spiritual
has been content down through the ages to minister to
men's souls; but the Church Militant — and sometimes Rampant —
has dealt and deals by preference with corporeal man.
The great brass founding city of Waterbury, Conn., is at present
counting the spiritual cost or gain to its citizens of an
onslaught made upon them by 55 college men and 15 college women:
The Student Christian Mission: "An organization to produce
These young exponents of the Church Rampant were directed in
their activities at Waterbury by four undergraduates prominent
at Yale, Harvard, Princeton. Before commencing their campaign
the 70 student evangelists assembled at Camp Hazen, near Waterbury,
for a "wash out" or mutual confession of sin.
During this process "a condition bordering on emotional
frenzy" was generated, in the opinion of so experienced an
observer as Mr. Ernest W. Mandeville, who last week began a
series of articles on the Waterbury phenomenon in The
Churchman. Finally, having "received guidance,"
"washed out," the students entered Waterbury for a ten-day
A succession of students spoke in relays on nine prominent
street corners. Local ministers co-operated, and such powerful
speakers as Sherwood Eddy and Dean Charles R. Brown of the
Yale Divinity School addressed mass meetings every evening.
By day the students spent a portion of their time in
private converse with prospective converts. By "washing out"
themselves they endeavored to draw a reciprocal confession of
sin from the person interviewed. As one student evangelist
described his technique: "The people of Waterbury are interested
in us as rotters. They are not interested in us as saints."
Soon the effects of this technique were felt. Converts "washed out"
by scores. One student evangelist was removed to a hospital suffering
from epileptic fits.
The Rev. Herbert D. Gallaudet, minister of the Congregational
Church of Waterbury, testified that he had seen the Savior
while motoring near Bethany, Conn., had stopped his car,
and "walked in the woods with Jesus."
Finally, the student evangelists began a series of visits to
the clergy of Waterbury, urged them to abandon their present
technique and go personally among their flocks, confessing
their sins and drawing "wash outs" from penitents.
When the campaign ended, some $4,500 having been raised and
spent, the press of Waterbury was not unanimous in praising
the results attained. Buchmanism.
Educators recognized at once that the Waterbury Student Mission
was a manifestation of a sect that has rooted itself spasmodically
in U. S. colleges — Buchmanism. Mr. Frank N. D. Buchman was
not at Waterbury, but was represented by Samuel Shoemaker, zealous
disciple. Mr. Buchman is smooth, with a long intelligent nose,
a hungry eye. He is to be seen from time to time traveling
first class on the principal transatlantic liners.
When at New Haven, or Princeton, or Cambridge, Mass., or Cambridge, Eng.,
he is persona grata among a group of serious-minded
young men distinguished by their piety and their wealth.
Like young Buchmanites, Mr. Buchman is a bachelor, though past
40. In what does his influence over them reside?
Briefly, the Buchman cult is distinguished from other forms of
personal evangelism by its preoccupation with "washing out"
from its members, by mutual confession, the strain of auto-erotism.
The Buchman handbook, Soul Surgery, keynotes the slogan,
"Woo, Win, Warn." There, personal workers read:
"Take nothing for granted. No matter how respectable a man may
seem, be he clergyman or vestryman or Y. M. C. A. secretary,
may still stand in need of your moral surgery. . . .
"First, learn what is wrong with your prospective convert —
either from gossip or local suspicion. There is some sin which is
obstructing his free communion with God.
Accuse him of the sin of which
you suspect him. Then by confessing to him (man to man) your own
former weaknesses you will
elicit a full confession from him. . . .
this is often the kind of drastic, spiritual operation which alone
can prevent a superficial repentance and unreal conversion.
In New York City, last winter, a university student leader
came to talk with Mr. Buchman about entering the Christian
ministry. . . . Mr. Buchman answered his questions on the ministry
to the best of his ability, but still the man seemed unsatisfied.
They had finished dinner with little accomplished, and Mr. Buchman
then invited him to his room for further conversation.
In time the student opened up a little more, and said:
'I'll tell you why I couldn't enter the ministry. I want my
own way too much.' 'Isn't there anything else?' Mr. Buchman asked,
and the student said: 'No.'
Then Mr. Buchman was 'told what he should speak,'* as
suspicion became conviction; and leaning forward he said
earnestly to the man: 'Isn't your problem . . . ?'
The barrier of pride crumbled away, the man burst into tears,
and a new beginning was made on a sure foundation, which
transformed the young man into a genuine personal worker and
decided finally his problems concerning the ministry."
A further manifestation of Buchmanism is the "Buchman house
party," a week-end gathering of young people of both sexes in
the home of some wealthy convert at which strenuous efforts are
made to "wash out" all present. Significance.
A very large proportion of Buchmanites pass without great harm
through their "washing out" and forget the whole
movement when — as in most cases — marriage removes the
occasion for auto-eroticism. Buchmanism bursts in upon
adolescent imaginations with the revelation that auto-sexualism
is a deadly sin.
The adolescent has not read Oskar Berger's Vorlesungen:
"95% of young men and women occasionally practice auto-eroticism";
or Havelock Ellis's Auto-Erotism:
"There appears to be little reliable evidence to show that simple
auto-erotism in a well-born and healthy individual, can produce any
evil results beyond slight functional disturbances, and these only
when practiced in excess."
Naturally, the adolescent becomes pliant before the Buchmanite
evangelist — perhaps the first person with whom the prospective
convert has ever discussed his erotic life.
Of course, Buchmanites bring with them also the less corporeal
aspects of the Christian message.
In so far as they succeed — as often they do — in
starting men on a spiritual life, other Christian workers praise
Mr. Buchman and Buchmanites.
But they are severely criticized by fellow-Christians
in so far as they confuse Christianity with the treatment of one
"sin" which, it is remarked, The Founder never mentioned.
*Buchmanese for "received Divine inspiration." TIME Magazine, October 18, 1926, pages 26-27.
In spite of Dr. Hibben's banning Frank Buchman from Princeton,
the Buchmanite activities
continued on the Princeton campus for some time. Two years later, the Philadelphian
Society of Princeton, an on-campus religious organization, was charged
with Buchmanite activities by an open student forum.
The resentment and controversy over the Buchmanite's religious conversion
techniques was so great that Hibben appointed a nine-member board of
inquiry to investigate the matter. A questionnaire that asked
for the students' opinions of the matter yielded a 75% unfavorable
opinion of Buchman's
The investigation was muddled by the failure of many of the students who
complained about the Oxford Group to come forward and give official testimony.
The board of inquiry adjourned and issued an inconclusive report,
saying that the charges against the Oxford Group had not been proven.
Nevertheless, the final outcome of the controversy was the resignation of
several Buchmanite student leaders from the Philadelphian Society.
The New York Times reported:
QUITS SCHOOL POST
IN BUCHMANISM ROW Purdy of Evangelistic Cult at
Princeton Is Out as Secretary
FIVE ASSOCIATES RESIGN
Disciple Defends Practices of the
Order — Students Protested It
Overemphasizes Sex. Special to The New York Times.
PRINCETON, N. J., Feb. 19. — The issue of Buchmanism at Princeton
culminated today in the resignation of Ray Foote Purdy, General
Secretary of the religious organization here, and five
associated graduate secretaries. With the resignation of the
heads of the Philadelphian Society, which is Princeton's
undergraduate Y.M.C.A., a row which started last Fall with
a stormy open forum in which undergraduates charged the
religious organization with using objectionable evangelistic
methods which they linked with the name of Frank Buchman.
The resignation, effective March 1, is addressed to Dr. John
McDowell of New York City. President of the Board of Directors
of the Philadelphian Society. The letter is signed by Mr. Purdy,
Theodore Stevenson, Howard Blake, Frank Bancroft, John Bryant
and Scoville Wishard.
Purdy Defends Cult's Aims.
The resignations are the result of a letter published
in The Daily Princetonian two weeks ago from Mr. Purdy
in which he said that the aims and methods of the Philadelphian
Society were the same as those employed by Mr. Buchman.
Several years ago, President Hibben said that as long as he was
President of Princeton there would be no place for Buchmanism
on the campus. In 1924 he refused to permit Mr. Buchman to
talk with students on the campus.
Many undergraduates objected to the practice of Buchmanism on
the ground that it overemphasized sex and that they did not
approve of its basic principles of "emotional evangelism
for the individual rather than for the mass."
The letter by Mr. Purdy read in part:
"For whatever success there has been in Christian evangelism
in Princeton, I personally owe more to Frank Buchman than to
any other man at present in Christian work, and whatever
aims and methods have been used at the Philadelphian Society
have been similar, as far as I know them, to those of Mr. Buchman."
Following the open forum meeting Dr. Hibben appointed a
committee to investigate. This committee of three members of
the Board of Trustees, three of the Faculty and three from the
undergraduate body reported in January, exonerating the
society of the charges made by the undergraduates.
However, the committee found Mr. Purdy at fault in having
invited Mr. Buchman to Princeton a year ago in view of the
stand taken by Dr. Hibben.
The letter in which Mr. Purdy paid tribute to Mr. Buchman appeared
after the findings of the committee and while President Hibben was
touring the West. Although it is understood that the Secretaries
were not asked to resign, it is believed that they were made to
feel the the admission of Mr. Purdy definitely alienated the
support of the Administration and the undergraduate body.
It is not known whether or not the investigating committee
was planning to reconsider its former findings when the resignations
The graduate secretaries of the Philadelphian Society are
appointed by the general secretary, so that the resignations
of the five secretaries were perfunctory.
President Hibben declined to comment on the resignations today.
He said, however, that immediate steps would be taken toward the
reorganization of the Campus Religious Society.
The graduate secretaries were attending a ministerial conference
in Yonkers today.
Dr. John McDowell, President of the Board of Directors of the
Philadelphian Society, said last night that the resignations
of Mr. Purdy and the associate secretaries of the society
would come before a meeting of the board of directors in a
"The whole matter will be laid before the board,"
Dr. McDowell said.
"and the board will act on the resignations at once.
A statement will be forthcoming from the board at that time."
Finally, the faithful Buchmanite Professor Theophil Spoerri —
Rector of Zurich University —
declared that Life magazine had vindicated Frank Buchman in its
November 1926 issue. He has Life saying:
'It appears that Mr Buchman gives people new motives and a source
of power. The means he uses irritate those who feel challenged by
them. That is probably the reason why he has been criticized so
sharply in Princeton. ...
Rebirth is what the world needs desperately though it is just as
unwilling as Princeton to be brought face to face with the
necessity of just such a change as F.B. is effecting.' Dynamic Out Of Silence: Frank Buchman's Relevance Today,
Theophil Spoerri, 1971, page 79.
Notice how that Buchmanite apologist did not actually answer any
of the charges against Buchman or his followers; he just implied
that critics of Buchman felt "challenged" and were
unwilling to change.
(It's an old trick —
— The best defense is an attack.)
And Theophil Spoerri was actually grossly misquoting and distorting
a Life magazine editorial.
What Life magazine really printed was:
ONE reads in the papers of an inquisition at Princeton University
into the qualifications of Frank Buckman [sic.]
as a religious influence
for Princeton students. There seems to be doubt whether he is good
for them. Not many people know much about him, but any one
who is interested may find him and his proceedings described
by Harold Begbie in a book four
or five years old called "More Twice-Born Men."
Mr. Begbie's famous book, "Twice-Born Men,"
described the spiritual operations induced by the Salvation
Army and how they made men over.
This later book describes how "Frank Buckman" [sic.]
does it, but it does not give his name. It calls him "F. B."
What Mr. Buckman [sic.] seems to do is to give men new motives and
driving power. The means which he seems to have at his disposal
sometimes upset persons exposed to them, and none the less
because they are spiritual means. That may be why he is scrutinized
at Princeton. Or it may be the Princeton of Dr. West likes
its students as they are, and does not want new men made of them.
Or possibly it would be the parents who would object.
Anyhow these little scraps in the papers are interesting
evidences of a state of mind, and one that is very prevalent
in this world and always was. Men object to becoming different.
Parents whom they represent and express usually feel the same about
it. Yet now that the election is over it can be said without
prejudice that what this world needs the most of anything is that
a lot of people in it should be changed in many of their vital
Our world needs to be born again, needs it badly,
and is at least as reluctant to face that process as Princeton
seems to be to have "F. B." transmogrify any of her
children. Life, Vol. 88, No. 2298, November 18, 1926,
R. E. Sherwood, editor, page 18.
So much for the Buchmanite practice of Absolute Honesty.
In the above-quoted editorial by TIME magazine, they stated that
"A very large proportion of Buchmanites pass without great harm
through their 'washing out' and forget the whole movement..."
Several of the contemporary clergy who had first-hand experience with
the Groups were of a very different opinion. Remember how Dr.
Herbert Hensley Henson, the Bishop of Durham, wrote that, for some people,
"complete nervous and mental collapse
followed in the wake of the vehement excitements of Groupism". Likewise,
"Many in Oxford like myself," writes the Rev. C. M. Chavasse,
Master of St. Peter's Hall, and a recognized leader of the Evangelical
School of Thought in England, "who count disciples of Dr. Buchman
amongst our friends, and admire their zeal and sincerity, are filled with
grave misgivings about this cult; and our misgivings are shared by
practically all religious leaders and responsible persons in the University.
Very many touched by the Groups are touched only. They crash when the
influence of the Group is removed (as, for example, during vacation) and
they join the ranks of what has been described as the new Oxford problem
of the 'castaways.'" ...
With even more emphasis the Rev. Dr. Graham Brown, Bishop in Jerusalem, is
reported to have asked,
"Is it any wonder that the clergy of Oxford
have to act as an ambulance corps to look after the wrecks of Buchmanism?"
while the Bishop of Durham speaks of
"the trail of moral and intellectual
wrecks which the progress of the Movement leaves behind."
The statement of Miss B. E. Gwyer, Principal of St. Hugh's College,
is no less significant in this connection. "The activities undertaken with
such eager docility by the immature in years and mind are, none the less
open to criticism," Miss Gwyer says, "because their own leaders
seem blind to the immediate and ultimate results. Those of us who have seen
simplicity replaced by glib and complacent assurance; who have watched
the undergraduate of reserved or reflective disposition being alienated,
perhaps permanently, from all forms of evangelical religion;
who have heard indifference to every claim, every grade, of human
fellowship, and every appeal of human need, except in one category,
not condoned as a lapse but defended as a sacred principle, cannot accept
the view that the house young people are being so confidently urged to
build possesses foundations laid exclusively upon the rock"
(Oxford and the Groups, pp. 69-70).
[In] Henry P. Van Dusen's discriminating article on the subject of
the Groups in the August, 1934, number of The Atlantic Monthly
"An Oxford don ... who has observed the work there sympathetically
over ten years gives it as his judgement that the first impact of the
Groups upon any life is almost always helpful and desirable; but that
long association almost always induces highly regrettable qualities of
spiritual pride, narrowness, hypersensitiveness, self-concern. His is,
I think, an acute observation. ("The Oxford Group Movement — An
Appraisal," p. 251). The Groups Movement, The Most Rev. John A. Richardson, pages 28-31.
Morehouse Publishing Co., Milwaukee, Wis., 1935.
Also see: Oxford and the Groups; The Influence of the Groups
considered by Rev. G. F. Allen, John Maud, Miss B. E. Gwyer,
C. R. Morris, W. H. Auden, R. H. S. Crossman, Dr. L. P. Jacks, Rev. E. R. Micklem,
Rev. J. W. C. Wand, Rev. M. C. D'Arcy, S.J., Professor L. W. Grensted,
Edited by R. H. S. Crossman
Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1934.
The Miss B. E. Gwyer, Principal of St. Hugh's College at Oxford, who was
quoted above, went on to say:
In the earlier period of the Movement it was widely stated
that the field of Dr. Buchman's work and aspirations lay in
the Universities. At the present date a calm observer cannot
but ask whether
of University men and women,
adolescent as well as adult,
has not in fact
been utilized as
a lever for the fulfilment of far more sweeping ambitions.
I have no quarrel with these, which are not my concern, except in so
far as they are pursued at the expense of what is of equally vital
Movements are made for men, not men for Movements;
and though exploitation is a hard word — hardest of all perhaps
on the lips of one of the writer's calling —
the activities undertaken with such eager docility by the
immature in years and mind are, none the less,
open to criticism because their own leaders seem blind both
to the immediate and to the ultimate results. Those of us who
simplicity replaced by glib and complacent assurance;
who have watched the undergraduate of reserved or reflective
disposition being alienated, perhaps permanently, from all forms
of evangelical religion; who have heard indifference to every claim,
every grade, of human fellowship, and every appeal of human need,
except in the one category, not condoned as a lapse but defended
as a sacred principle, cannot accept the view that the house young
people are being so confidently urged to build possesses foundations
laid exclusively upon the rock.
And — surely — all for want of a little poverty!
For it is money which makes possible the placing in quasi-official
positions, undefined as to functions and scope, but in close touch
with undergraduates, of
persons totally unqualified by years, training
or experience for the responsibilities they assume; to whose
influence, as convinced exponents of 'team guidance,' must
supposedly be attributed the strange travesties of Christian
teaching that from time to time reach our ears.
It is money which maintains, or subsidizes, those members of the
corps of travelling evangelists and platform speakers not aware
of any call to earn a livelihood otherwise: a situation in which,
so far as young and undeveloped characters are concerned, progressive
advance in depth, objectivity of mind, or independence of judgement
would be miraculous indeed. It is money which beats the
resounding drum, and pens the insinuating card, or paragraph, of
advertisement; to such confounding effect that, to the ear of inexperience,
propaganda and the uncontrollable movement of the 'wind' do seem at last
to become one and the same thing, and the volume and velocity of
the spiritual current measurable in terms very much of this world.
"COMMENTS OF AN EDUCATIONALIST",
Miss B. E. Gwyer, pages 69-70, writing in Oxford and the Groups; The Influence of the Groups
considered by Rev. G. F. Allen, John Maud, Miss B. E. Gwyer,
C. R. Morris, W. H. Auden, R. H. S. Crossman, Dr. L. P. Jacks, Rev. E. R. Micklem,
Rev. J. W. C. Wand, Rev. M. C. D'Arcy, S.J., Professor L. W. Grensted,
Edited by R. H. S. Crossman
Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1934.
And Maisie Ward observed:
And if we admit the good done in many cases we must also note the harm
done in others. The Anglican Bishop of Calcutta, Dr. Kiddle, after
following the Groups for six years and accompanying Dr. Buchman's
own team through America and Canada, wrote of the harm done by reaction
among those whose conversions were more swift than solid.
His comment is quoted in Dossiers de l'Action Populaire
(Oct. 25th, 1936). I translate it back into English as I have been
unable to lay hands on the original.
'Two years ago,' he writes, 'an immense group campaign in Louisville,
registered hundreds of conversions. The team returned this year
in the spring to consolidate its work and
we did not find eleven people who had persevered....
'This raises a grave question. Is not the state of these disappointed
converts worse than it was before? It is only honest to set against the
victories of the Oxford Group the equally undeniable disappointments and
disillusionment.' The Oxford Groups, Maisie Ward, pages 27-28.
Indeed. Other critics noted that some people reacted to
their disillusionment with the Buchmanites
by becoming cynical about, and hostile to, all evangelical religions
And A.A. has many of the same problems:
"...if we admit the good done in
cases we must also note the harm done in
A.A. never admits that it harms or kills alcoholics, even though
a member of the Board of Trustees
of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. discovered that with his
In addition, many alcoholics are so disillusioned
by the A.A. cult religion routine that they reject all recovery programs
in general, and just give up on "recovery".
A.A. also plays fast and loose with the numbers, and claims far more members (converts)
than sober members, even while they simultaneously chant:
"RARELY HAVE we seen a person fail, who has thoroughly followed our path."
And A.A. sponsors have no experience or training to qualify them as doctors or
recovery counselors — they are also
"persons totally unqualified by years, training or experience for
the responsibilities they assume"
— yet they arrogate those roles anyway, and dispense totally goofy advice, like
telling newcomers to stop taking the medications that their doctor prescribed.
NOTE: A brochure published by the A.A. headquarters has finally admitted that A.A. sponsors have
driven sponsees to suicide by telling them not to take their psychiatric medications. Look here:
Dr. Frank Nathan Daniel Buchman
Buchman attempted to pursue his "good work" at
other campuses, but Buchmanism quickly
faded into obscurity at virtually every institution where it had
taken root. Following the collapse
of his campus crusade in the U.S., Buchman moved his base of
operations to England, and
conducted evangelical campaigns at Oxford and Cambridge. It was
through recruits garnered at
Oxford that his group was to get its new name: "The Oxford
What happened was, a group of Buchmanite students from Oxford
went to South Africa to do missionary work. A Black porter who
was handling their luggage at a railway station wrote, in chalk,
"the Oxford group" on their luggage and on the door to
their railway carriage compartment.
The young student missionaries liked the sound of the name, and
started using it to describe themselves.
Frank Buchman apparently liked the prestigious sound
of the name, too, and pretty soon, all of the Buchmanites,
everywhere in the world, were claiming to be part of "The
A contemporary minister, Rev. H.A. Ironside, who was critical of Buchman's theology,
described the naming of Buchman's organization this way:
One young minister whom I met on a recent visit to Philadelphia was for three years a very active participant in the movement until suddenly awakened to realize how far it was drifting from First Century Christianity. That is one of the names given to the movement. It is frequently known as Buchmanism, because of the fact that Dr. Frank N. D. Buchman, a Lutheran minister, was largely the originator of the movement. It is also known as the Oxford Group Movement. That name, however, would seem to be almost a misnomer, for it had been quite well started before ever the leaders of it went to Oxford. It began here in America on the eastern coast in 1908 and it has been carried on chiefly in college circles ever since. It was not until 1920 that Dr. Frank Buchman crossed over to the old country and went to Cambridge and Oxford, and there sought to awaken an interest among the students and some English Church clergymen in his movement. Shortly after that a group of these people left England and went to South Africa to propagate the movement, and it was there that they were first advertised as the Oxford Group Movement. There is something, of course, about the name that rather challenges attention. It has been said by some of the members of the inner circle that three of the greatest movements of the last two centuries began at Oxford, and they linked together the Wesleyan movement which, of course, began in the Holy Club at Oxford, the Puseyite, or High Church, movement of a century ago, and now the Buchman movement, or First Century Christianity. I cannot help but feel it is rather a fleshly pride that leads people to link the name of the university city with the movement, when it did not begin there but had gained considerable momentum before its advocates went there at all. Even at the present time, I am told by reliable persons, comparatively few indeed at Oxford have any further interest in this movement. The Oxford Group Movement; Is It Scriptural?
by H. A. Ironside, Litt. D.;
A Sermon Preached in Moody Memorial Church
In truth, Frank Buchman's
group never attracted more than a very tiny minority of the
students at Oxford. Marjorie Harrison reported in Saints
Run Mad that
"In the whole University there are only about 200 members."
Certain unsympathetic Oxford men objected to Buchman's appropriation
of their name, claiming that Buchman's
organization might just as well be called the Kuling China Group,
or the Penn State Group, but Buchman ignored their
It may have been more than a coincidence that Frank Buchman started using the
"Oxford Group" name just a few months after the Centenary Celebrations
of the Oxford Movement — the 100th anniversary of the real Oxford Group
Movement, which in 1833 sought to clarify the position of the Anglican Church.
Buchman's appropriation of the "Oxford Group" name was bound to cause
confusion in some people's minds.
As Marjorie Harrison commented, "...apart from the social
and intellectual cachet of the place name, it has undoubtedly
brought the reflected glory and the reflected publicity of the
Nomenclature is never accidental, and terms like 'Oxford,' 'House Party,' and
'spiritual bath' indicate the kind of social world in which most of its
members would prefer to dwell.
"THE GROUP MOVEMENT AND THE MIDDLE CLASSES",
W. H. Auden, page 89, writing in Oxford and the Groups; The Influence of the Groups considered by
Rev. Geoffrey F. Allen, John Maud, Miss B. E. Gwyer,
C. R. Morris, W. H. Auden, R. H. S. Crossman, Dr. L. P. Jacks, Rev. E. R. Micklem,
Rev. J. W. C. Wand, Rev. M. C. D'Arcy, S.J., Professor L. W. Grensted.
Edited by R. H. S. Crossman.
Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1934.
In 1939, Buchman got into trouble over his use of the Oxford name.
A believer died and left a legacy of 500 British pounds to
"The Oxford Group", but a British judge ruled that there was
in fact no such legal entity entitled to receive the money.
The Oxford Group was not incorporated, or legally organized
in any way. The judge said, "For such a body to exist
there must be some association, some rules binding on members,
some constitution, some real membership."
Frank Buchman had submitted the book
"What Is the Oxford Group?"
as evidence, but the judge quoted from the opening lines of the book,
"You cannot belong to the Oxford Group.
It has no membership list, subscriptions, badges, rules
or definite location."
(Bill Wilson, Dr. Bob, and Clarence Snyder also copied that feature of the Oxford Groups when they
set up Alcoholics Anonymous — it also has no
official membership list, subscriptions, badges or definite location.)
The judge ruled, "No doubt the group seeks to bind people
together by religious bonds. But that is not what is meant
by the promotion of religion as it is understood in law.
I cannot find anywhere the evidence that the group exists purely
for the purpose of the promotion of
Buchman decided that he should register the name
"The Oxford Group" and legally incorporate it.
But he ran into trouble there — the Member of Parliament from
Oxford strongly objected to Buchman's appropriation of the Oxford
name, and sought to legally block Buchman's attempt to register the name.
His request was rejected:
A. P. HERBERT HITS
AT OXFORD GROUP
Rebuked in Commons After He
Terms Movement Members
HIS REQUEST IS REJECTED
He Sought Hearing on Plan to
Permit Incorporation of Body
Under Companies Act
Wireless to THE NEW YORK TIMES.
LONDON, June 13. — Exchanging
sharp passages in the House of Commons
today with Oliver Stanley, president
of the Board of Trade, over his decision to grant the
application of Dr. Frank Buchman's movement to be
registered as the Oxford Group under the Companies Act,
A. P. Herbert, Member of Parliament for Oxford University,
lashed at members of the movement as "canting cheats"
and accused them of "obtaining money by false pretenses."
Mr. Herbert was reproved for both statements by the Speaker of
the House and the president of the Board of Trade, who refused
to reconsider his decision or to receive a deputation of members
of Parliament, as Mr. Herbert suggested. The Minister denied
that his permission for registration was, as Mr. Herbert put it,
"condoning a course of conduct which is likely to mislead
Mr. Herbert went on to ask:
"Isn't it clear that Dr. Buchman and his followers
have for ten years past been obtaining money by false
Mr. Stanley replied that a statement of that kind should not go
out of the House of Commons. He said that he had been informed
that the promoter's application proposed to include in the articles
of association a statement that the group was not connected with
Oxford University or the Oxford Society.
"Isn't that the final exhibition of the entire dishonesty of
these canting cheats?" interjected Mr. Herbert, who in
earlier bouts charged that Dr. Buchman was fostering and
trading on the belief that he was connected with the university.
That remark drew from the Speaker the admonition that
Mr. Herbert must not talk of people that way.
Dr. Buchman's organization tonight issued an official rejoinder
it had never made a private or
public appeal for funds. The New York Times, June 14, 1939, page 32.
When Frank Buchman incorporated the Oxford Group in Great Britain,
he established an organization which had a Council of Management
which was all-powerful.
Fifteen men had total control over the organization.
The Council of Management is all-powerful.
Membership of the Association was given as 100 for purposes of registration,
but the Council can register an increase of members should it wish to do so at
It can also impose whatever conditions it chooses on applicants for membership,
such as the payment of entrance fees, annual subscriptions, or periodical
subscriptions. It can decide the terms on which a member shall undertake
work for the Group or order resignation or cessation of membership. It also has powers to divide members into different classes with different
conditions of membership.
In conducting the business of the Association, the Council has, in fact,
a free hand. ...
So far as Buchmanism in Britain is concerned, then, its destinies are in
the hands of the fifteen men named
These men are the subscribing
members of the Association, and no one else can be admitted as a member
without their sanction. And anyone who may be admitted can be made to
comply with whatever terms the fifteen choose to devise.
Thus, we have another anomaly. From the fluid constitution of Buchmanism,
which is said to have no actual membership, being merely an "organism,"
we pass to a rigid dictatorship at the head. Inside Buchmanism; an independent inquiry into the
Oxford Group Movement and Moral Re-Armament,
Geoffrey Williamson, Philosophical Library, New York, c1954, pages 161-162.
Likewise, the MRA propaganda book Moral Re-Armament: What Is It? declared:
There is no dictatorship in MRA. Moral Re-Armament: What Is It?, Basil Entwistle and John McCook Roots, pub. 1967,
But futher down the very same page, they bragged about...
...the truth about MRA which Frank Buchman often expressed — "leadership goes to the morally
and spiritually fit."
But who decided who was "morally and spiritually fit"? Well, Frank Buchman, of course.
He and his lieutenants doled out the Brownie Points and decided who rated.
And wouldn't you know it? They doled out the most points to themselves.