Reverend Sam Shoemaker, an Episcopal priest and early Buchmanite, had been crucial to the Oxford Group’s success in the United States. He was essentially the American leader of the movement, and had let the Oxford Group use part of his church, Calvary Episcopal in New York, as their US headquarters. But between their creeping takeover of his church and the erasure of Jesus from the message, Shoemaker reached his limit. In 1941, he informed MRA they would need to find new offices and publicly left the group.
In 1941, the You-Can-Defend-America Campaign, diffused into the School for Home Defense in Maine. In 1942 it became the Midwestern Industrial Morale-Building Campaign. These activities drew little attention from the press. The ranks of MRA had thinned; prominent names had disappeared; the beloved disciple, Samuel M. Shoemaker, had forsaken his master. The New York rector had been attracted to the movement because of its emphasis on vitalized personal religion. But after charging that the Buchmanites were listening to the voice of Frank rather than the voice of God, he requested that they vacate the parish house near Gramercy Park that had long served as national headquarters.
– They Have Found a Faith, Marcus Bachman
Shoemaker’s own words were recorded by Geoffrey Williamson in his exploratory book Inside Buchmanism.
“When the Oxford Group was, on its own definition, a movement of vital personal religion, working within the churches to make the principles of the New Testament practical as a working force today we fully identified ourselves with it,” declared the Rev Shoemaker. “Certain policies and points of view, however, have arisen in the development of Moral Re-Armament about which we have had increasing misgivings.”
Inside Buchmanism: an independent inquiry into the Oxford Group Movement and Moral Re-Armament, Geoffrey Williamson
The MRA and its leadership tried to minimize the importance of Shoemaker’s defection, and to portray it as a small matter of disagreement. Garth Lean, a lifelong Buchmanite, wrote in his book of effusive praise for his leader a standard MRA denial.
Logan Roots, the retired Primate of China, now working full-time with Buchman, gave his own explanation of this development. ‘The simple issue,’ he said, ‘is that Shoemaker has initiated a new parish policy whereby he felt the parish was the prime objective. Buchman, true to his twenty-year-old definition of the Oxford Group as a programme of life issuing in personal, social, racial, national and supernational change, felt the work could not be limited to the confines of a parish but must give itself and its work to every parish and every denomination, and that if the parish would rightly see it the Church could really be a focal centre to save the world.’
– On the Tail of a Comet: The Life of Frank Buchman, Garth Lean
The MRA never fully recovered from the loss of Shoemaker and other members with credibility and respect, nor from Buchman’s careless praise of Hitler as “a bulwark against communism”. Coming soon: Buchman on labor, industry, and ” materialism “.