The Oxford Group

And The practice of the

Crucified Life

   On a summer afternoon in early August of 1908, Frank Buchman sat in a little church  in the town in the Lake District of Northwestern England listening to a woman preacher named Jessie Penn– Lewis. As was required of Keswick speakers, she preached from a text that was more than head knowledge.  Having grown up sickly, and being a woman preacher besides,(unusual for that day ), she knew something of suffering, and the need for resurrecting power of Christ.

     Frank, an ordained Lutheran minister had come to England on a trip to assuage the hurt of a falling-out with the board of directors of home for boys he had been overseeing in a suburb Of Philadelphia.   The message he heard that day changed his life forever.  It compelled him to pass this change on to others who also became changed.

     This cascade of altered  lives came down to us in the form of AA. And continues to provide a well-spring of renewal and conversion for many.

   “I am gong to promise you one thing, I am not turning back. I am not turning back, no matter who does, no matter what it is going to cost. If you join this great Crusade, you’ll get the Way of the Cross.  I am not going to lure you by hopes of material success.  I am not going to lure you by saying you’re going to be heroes.  I’m not going to lure you, although I believe that these lands can give a pattern on how to live.  It is a personal experience of the Cross.  It is not I but Christ.  It is not I at the head, but Christ who leads.”

     This experience is what was passed on to the men and women Frank mentored in the   Oxford group and later through those “groupers” to Alcoholic Anonymous.  As much as Bill Wilson tried to distance himself from the Oxford Group, he said after Frank died, “I’m sorry that we never acknowledge the debt we owe to Frank.”  Frank did not need Bill’s acknowledgement. He was too great for that, but Bill would have been greatly helped if he had had the humility to receive all that the Oxford group and Frank could have provided him. 

Read Garth Lean’s account of Frank’s experience at Keswick on the Initiatives of Change Website, Click below on Frank Buchman's biography and go to Chapter 4  “Afternoon At Keswick.” pages 30 and 31

     The message that set his life on a totally different course was the message of the Crucified Life. Mrs. Penn Lewis, as was true of all Keswick Speakers, did not speak from an intellectual understanding but spoke from direct experience of the cross itself. She imparted to Frank her experience of the Cross.

    Frank saw the Cross as the center of a world revolution. While on a campaign in Finland in 1935, he said“ The Gospel means ‘Good News’, front-page news. But people object if it gets on the Front Page.” 1 He said this in response to some who complained of “the move-ment’s loud-mouthed propaganda methods’’ and “advertising about world revival.” He was speaking to those who wanted a movement which would reassure them about their souls while allowing them to continue living life as they had been living before their encounter with the groups.