Buchman's funeral service took place in Allentown and he was buried in the quiet family plot beside his parents. The occasion brought people from many countries, as had his other visits home through the years. With exceptions like David Miller, the editor of the Morning Call, and his class-mates Arthur Keller and Nimson Eckhart, his fellow townsfolk had often not known what to make of the people he used to bring home - among them strange exotic creatures clothed in the national costumes of Switzerland, India or Japan for some public occasion. His college, Muhlenberg, had given him an honorary doctorate in his late forties, but he was 80 before he was thought worthy of the Muhlenberg 'Mule' which was reserved for those considered to have rendered really distinguished service to the community. Now, however, the people of Allentown packed the church and an adjacent hall for the service.
The messages to his funeral, no less than those who attended it, showed the volume and variety of his friendships. The boy who sat next to him at high school, the hall porter in Utrecht to whom he gave a book in 1936, the captain of the ship which took him to Australia in 1956, and the spokesmen of the Stoney Indians who cabled, 'The whole world is an orphan as we felt when we heard of his death', were among the thousands who sent cables and letters. There were messages from Carl Hambro, Adenauer, Schuman, U Nu, Kishi, the King of Morocco, the rival chiefs of the Lulua and Baluba tribes of the Congo, and the President and Vice-President of Cyprus. Saragat expressed 'the deep sorrow of the Italian Social Democrats and my family', and former President René Coty of France called Buchman 'the perfect apostle of moral revolution'. The hundreds of newspaper obituaries varied from generous appreciation through measured comment to Driberg's article which concluded that history would remember him, if at all, 'by his egregious statement, "I thank God for a man like Adolf Hiltler"'.1
Buchman’s will was as simple as his possessions. He only owned the title of his family home in Allentown and two bank accounts: a personal one containing a few hundred dollars which he had not had time to give away, and another holding some thousands given to him on his recent birthday to be used, at his discretion, for Moral Re-Armament. His will read: 'I wish I had silver and gold for each one, but since my resources are so strictly limited, I give, devise and bequeath all my estate, whatsoever and wheresoever it may be, unto "Moral Re-Armament" absolutely. There are many I should like to have included in a will like this, but I want all to feel they have a share as they partake of the priceless boon which has come to them and to me through the Oxford Group and Moral Re-Armament. They can best perpetuate this gift by carrying forward a philosophy that is adequate for a world crisis and that will, at last, bring the nations to the long-looked-for Golden Age ushered in by the greatest revolution of all time whereby the Cross of Christ shall transform the world.'
It was his final declaration: the Oxford Group and Moral Re-Armament were not his creations, but God's gift to him and everyone prepared to receive them; they were, and must remain, God's property, not organisations but instruments of the Holy Spirit; he relied on those he left behind to be sensitive enough to God's spirit to find His plan for each new situation. Behind it was the same vision - faith-filled, optimistic, at times over-optimistic - which had animated him all his life.
How is one to describe Frank Buchman two decades and more after his death? Many referred to him as a statesman, a complete misnomer if the Oxford Dictionary definition - 'a person skilled or taking a leading part in the management of state affairs' - is accurate. Yet Kishi, in his last message, called him 'one of Asia's great statesmen', an even more striking description in view of the very limited time he spent in Asia, but one which illustrates the sense in which the word could justly be used. For, while never managing state affairs, Buchman was undoubtedly a catalyst of reconciliation between the states of Asia as he was elsewhere.
Some of his closer colleagues - and some like Brother Roger of Taize who never met him - have spoken of him as a saint. Donald Attwater in his introduction to The Penguin Dictionary of Saints writes, 'A saint is not faultless: he does not always think or behave well or wisely: one who has occasion to oppose him is not always wrong or foolish...He, or she, is canonized because his personal daily life was lived, not merely well, but at an heroic level of Christian faithfulness and integrity ...'2 If such heroic living is a qualification, it is hard to deny Buchman some degree of sainthood - a notion, incidentally, which he would not only have denied but rejected, as it would tend to set him apart and contradict his contention that the way he tried to live was merely ‘normal living’, open to anyone. For a man trying to change the world the appellation would, as Dietmar Lamprecht points out in his biography of St Francis, carry a double disadvantage: 'Just as one can avoid the challenge of an exemplary life by belittling it, seeking weaknesses and finally consoling oneself by saying "it is really nothing special",' he writes, 'so too can one turn from the call of a saint by raising him to something extraordinary, up among the altars and the stained-glass windows, taunting the challenge of his life by declaring it to be unattainable.'3
Personally, I prefer to think of Buchman as a prophet set in an apocalyptic age, an era when God is being pushed into a private ghetto and where moral standards are slipping, a time when civilisations show signs of disintegration and the world itself feels in danger of extinction.
Like prophets through the ages he brought to his day a diagnosis which cut across contemporary fashion. Not all his prophecies of doom or of deliverance have been fulfilled, but his thought had an accuracy and a universality about it which pierced through to peopleof all kinds in every continent. He said little that was new, but he made old forgotten truths suddenly seem relevant to successive generations. For example, Dr Karl Wick, editor of the Swiss daily Vaterland, wrote that he had 'brought silence out of the monastery into the home, the marketplace and the board room.'4
In answering my startled enquiry whether he really thought, as he had said to me, that 'Buchman was a turning-point in the history of the modern world', Cardinal König* wrote: 'In the last century, there was a feeling among intellectuals that we could build a better world without God. Then came the First World War, and many felt that many things had gone wrong. Buchman was among them, and he began to think what could be done. His great idea was to show that the teaching of Jesus Christ is not just a private affair but has the great force to change the whole structure of the social orders of economics, of political ideas, if we combine the changing of structures with a change of heart. In that sense he opened a completely new approach to religion, to the teachings of Jesus Christ, and to the life of modern man.'5
(*Cardinal Franz König, Archbishop of Vienna, is a leading authority on Eastern Europe and on the relationship of Christianity to other faiths. According to Mary Craig (Man from a Far Country, Hodder and Stoughton, 1979, p.175), he was the general choice for Pope at one point during the Conclave of October 1978, but declined.)
König, who never met Buchman, based his assessment on his own observations in recent years: 'Wherever Moral Re-Armament is active there emerges a new world - in small circles first, but the activity shows how great the force is ... If I consider the information which comes to me from all over the world, I see changes which are visible and social effects which are tangible. This must come from the faith of the man who was at the beginning, otherwise I could not explain what has happened since in so many places. "By their fruits you shall know them." From the fruit you go back to the root.'6
It is too early to come to any final conclusion about Buchman's place in history, but König's observations illustrate what was, perhaps, his greatest achievement - the creation of a world-wide network of people committed to carry on the same work, 'a group of people', in the words of the former Archbishop of York, Lord Blanch, 'who will go anywhere and do anything if they are called by God to do it'.7
Of the multitudes whom Buchman reached in one way or another during his life, many reacted hostilely or were indifferent. A very large number, however, were influenced for good in at least some particular, and often the effect was permanent. A Dutch academic whom I recently met by chance is typical. When he heard Buchman's name, he exclaimed, 'He completely changed my life when I was nineteen. I have not kept up listening to God each day, but a foundation was laid and it has always remained.' Thousands went further and pledged themselves to work together to alter the moral and spiritual climate of the world. It is this dedicated fellowship which men like König and Blanch have observed in action.
At various times through his life many of those helped by Buchman gave up working closely with him, sometimes abandoning some of the principles he advocated but more often going on to apply what they had learnt in their individual careers, lay or ecclesiastical, and in some cases creating such 'spin-offs' as Alcoholics Anonymous, Shoemaker's Faith-at-Work Movement and dozens of others which could be cited. This was also to happen after his death, and more particularly after the death of his successor, Peter Howard - when, incidentally, a number of premature obituaries of Moral Re-Armament appeared in the press.
Buchman would say at different times that he wanted 'all my fine horses to run all out together, neck and neck'. At breakfast one morning in 1960 he added, 'When I am gone, the Work will be run by a cabinet of like-minded friends around the world. But you are not ready for that yet. First there will be one man.' So it turned out. In the years since Howard's untimely death in 1965, after considerable travail, that collective leadership has come into being. Under its informal direction all are thrown back onto their independent relationship with God, as Buchman had always intended, since there is no single human authority to whom to refer. Whether or not Buchman's aims are carried actively through into the next century will depend on whether all who benefited from his life - a far wider cross-section of humanity than those who ever acknowledged their debt - run their lives and institutions in the spirit of which, in the last year of his life, he spoke to Jean Rey, the President of the European Commission.
Rey, a frequent visitor to Caux, was congratulating Buchman on various achievements which he had observed and attributed to his influence. 'You must feel very proud of all this,' he said.8
'I don't feel that way at all,' Buchman replied. 'I have had nothing to do with it. God does everything. I only obey and do what He says.'
It was a reassertion of his earlier estimate of his life, 'I have been wonderfully led to those who were ready.'
I am grateful to three authors who have allowed me to quote from their books at length.
Irving Harris permitted me to quote his account of the first meeting between Buchman and Sam Shoemaker from his biography of Shoemaker, The Breeze of the Spirit (Seabury, 1978).
Katherine Makower in Follow My Leader (Kingsway, 1984) enlightened me further about the visit of two Cambridge men, Murray Webb-Peploe and Godfrey Buston, to America with Buchman in 1921.
In the chapters devoted to Japan and her people, I have relied greatly on unpublished memoirs and the recent book Japan’s Decisive Decade by Basil Entwistle. Professor Ezra F. Vogel, Chairman of the Council on East Asian Studies at Harvard University, writes: ‘Basil Entwistle was in an unusual position in the early post World War II period to come into contact with the people in Japan who were to emerge as the leaders in the economy and in the government directing the Japanese miracle … He has written an extremely careful, precise, informative and inspirational account of his experiences. For those of us who have read about these great leaders at a distance, it is a fascinating history.’
I would like also to thank the many other authors whom I have quoted more briefly, all of whom are acknowledged in the Source References.
I am also grateful to the staffs of the libraries mentioned in the Preface, to whom I would add the libraries of Oslo and Uppsala Universities.
1 Daily Herald, 9 August 1961.
2 The Penguin Dictionary of Saints (1966), pp. 10-11.
3 Dietmar Lamprecht: Die Stadt auf dem Berge (Vandenhoeck Ruprecht, 1976), Introduction.
4 Article in Silva, 25 March 1962.
5 Statement sent by Cardinal Franz König to author, 15 November 1984.
6 ibid., 18 November 1984.
7 Lord Blanch to Gordon Wise. Speaking at Tirley Garth, Cheshire, on 10 June 1984, Lord Blanch commented, 'MRA manages to mobilise its experience...expertly and quickly and is able to call upon a group of people who will go anywhere and do anything if they are called by God to do it.'
8 See Howard, Frank Buchman's Secret, p. 13.