The Early Days
In the early days there was little thought or intention of founding an organization. Those who came into contact with the movement's founder Frank Buchman and his colleagues were typically encouraged to form local “teams”. These met regularly to support each other in the new way of life they had embarked on. Often they were assisted by one or more full time workers, who felt a calling to devote themselves voluntarily to this work and who typically were housed and supported financially by members of the local team. This tradition of unsalaried full time workers still continues in some countries.
As World War II loomed, increasing attention was given to strategic activities aimed both at reaching individuals and at affecting the course of events. Through the late 1930s there were mass meetings in Europe and America. During and after the war, travelling groups, often with stage productions, campaigned in many parts of the world. Permanent centers were established for conferences and other purposes. These developments still relied on voluntary effort in an unstructured network, but also required a level of organisation, manning and finance unforeseeable in the early days. Large sums of money were raised, almost entirely by individual donation and often at great sacrifice on the part of the donors.
Beginning in 1939, various national groups incorporated MRA formally, usually as an ad hoc response to circumstances - the need for a legal entity which could own property, for example. A series of independent national bodies grew up, conforming to local laws and traditions. They were responsible for the work of MRA in their own country, but had no formal co-ordination or international accountability. These national bodies still bear the ultimate legal and financial responsibility for all that is done in the name of IofC in their countries.
In a world-wide network characterized by commitment to divine will and by strong friendships, this worked well, with a minimum of organizational structure – and the 1940s and 50s saw the great expansion of MRA in many parts of the world. But after the deaths of Frank Buchman and Peter Howard in the ‘60s, the sudden absence of an agreed world leader as a focus for decision-making and direction led to a painful split between several national bodies, some of which put their energies into a US-based youth programme, which evolved into Up With People. Following a period of adjustment and re-grouping, IofC leaders from a number of countries began to develop a system of global consultations, the first of which took place in Nemi, Italy, in 1980.