A Follower Asks if there is Any Connection Between Dr. Bob’s Family and Oxford Group

Dear Tom: I make a point of answering all courteous communications, and yours is such.

Let me, however, point out a couple of facts that have nothing to do with Holbrook and Buchman

First, the Washingtonians did not believe in God—they simply signed pledges; and they were long gone by the time Frank Buchman was peeping over the horizon.
Second, the “Oxford Group” had this chronology. It did not exist until at least 1919—and even then was spawned by the joint efforts of Buchman’s mentor at Yale, the author of Soul Surgery in India, and Buchman himself. Shortly Buchman gathered about him a small—very small—group of Christian friends—Rev. Sam Shoemaker, Rev. Sherry Day, a Brit and one or two others. They called themselves “A First Century Christian Fellowship.” And this was the first name for Buchman’s followers. Next came the phrase “the Groups.” The name A First Century Christian Fellowship continued to be the predominant name until the late 1920’s; and then, because a group from Oxford were traveling as a team to Africa and they were all in the same train car, the press called the group “the Oxford Group.”
I saw that almost immediately thereafter, invitations to Houseparties and other such events went out as “The Oxford Group—A First Century Christian Fellowship” invites….. Thereafter, Rev. Sam Shoemaker frequently wrote of A First Century Christian Fellowship in the 1930’s. In fact, he authored a long pamphlet defending “Buchmanism” as “A First Century Christian Fellowship.” Later in the decade, war clouds were looming in Europe. Pacifists at Oxford University (nothing to do with Buchman or the “Groups”) began chanting that they would not die for King or for Country, Buchman decided upon a new name as the war came closer. The name was “Moral Re-Armament.” The other names were still used in various places; and Shoemaker completely detached his church from Buchman in 1941. Many years later, as Buchman had his stroke and “Moral Re-Armament” began disintegrating, the name was changed in America to “Initiatives for Change” and became much more concerned with “forgiveness” and “reconciliation” among races and businesses than anything Buchman himself had authored. You would never see significant mention of the Oxford Group’s 5 C’s, 4 Absolutes, Surrenders, Restitution, Jesus Christ, the Bible, and the old Buchman saw (Sin is the problem. Jesus Christ is the Cure. The result is a miracle).Today, the group is virtually non-existent; and I personally was able to meet, read the literature of, and interview most of the Oxford Group activists who were active from the 1920’s. forward—James Draper Newton, Eleanor Forde Newton, L. Parks Shipley, Sr., Garth Lean, Michael Hutchinson, Kenneth Belden, Harry Almond, Buchman’s chief lieutenant Morris Martin, T. Willard Hunter, George Vondermuhll, Jr. Most of these never heard of Dr. Bob because their focus was never on Akron after the 1933—34 events involving the Firestones.

Second, do I see any connection between Holbrook and the Oxford Group? I have no information that would answer the issue. Do you? My son Ken and I traveled throughout Vermont digging up all the many Vermont—Oxford Group—Wilson and Smith connections. And our comprehensive work is Dr. Bob of Alcoholics Anonymous: His Excellent Training in the Good Book as a Youngster in Vermont. And we are in the process of publishing Bill W. and Dr. Bob: The Green Mountain Men of Vermont. Both involve careful, documented scrutiny of the real source of early A.A. – the Bible, as well as the Christian organizations and individuals which contributed to the Christian upbringing of both Bob and Bill as youngsters: (1) Young Men’s Christian Association. (2) Evangelists like Moody, Sankey, Meyer, Clark, and Folger. (3) Gospel Rescue Missions. (4) The Great Awakening of 1875 in St. Johnsbury Vermont. (5) Congregationalism. (6) Salvation Army. (7) Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor. But these were concerned with helping drunks instead of condemning them. The Oxford Group and Buchman had no part in this period. Nor did the Washingtonians. Do you know any documented facts that would show otherwise?

Two of my authoritative books that hone in on the Oxford Group role in A.A. are The Oxford Group & Alcoholics Anonymous: A Design for Living That Works http://www.dickb.com/Oxford.shtml, and New Light on Alcoholism: God, Sam Shoemaker, and A.A. http://www.dickb.com/newlight.shtml. And I hope you will purchase these two books through Amazon.com and get up to speed on the difference between old school A.A.—which was founded on the Bible (and the Book of James, 1 Corinthians 13, and Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount)—and what Bill Wilson called his “new version” of the program—the “Twelve Steps” which were not even published until four years after A.A. was founded in 1935.

Thank you for writing, and don’t hesitate to give me a phone call .

God bless,


About mauihistorian

Uses pen name Dick B.: Writer, Historian, Retired attorney, Bible student, CDAAC, and active and recovered A.A. member with over 25 years of continuous sobriety. Published 42 titles and over 650 articles on the history of Alcoholics Anonymous and the Christian Recovery Movement. www.dickb.com
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