C: A Brief History of OCF

Military men and women throughout the ages have often served in harm’s way, separated from loved ones. Many are like a British Army captain who served in the mid-1850s, who because of his longing for Christian fellowship, started a military fellowship that became the precursor to our modern-day OCF. That desire for community with those who share their military lifestyle and Christian values led to a Bible study in a Washington, D.C., home that continued for several years. In [December of] 1943, at the urging of the British Officers’ Christian Union (OCU), leaders incorporated OCU in the United States and was renamed Officers’ Christian Fellowship (OCF) in 1972. 

With the demobilization of the U.S. Armed Forces after World War II, OCU leaders prioritized ministry to cadets and midshipmen at pre-commissioning locations. By 1946, ministries were underway at the U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Military Academy and were later expanded to the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Air Force Academies. 

By the 1950s, OCU’s impact began to be felt in units, duty stations, and military installations across the nation and world as local Bible studies were established. Numerous conferences took place as well. The OCU BULLETIN was split into two periodicals—COMMAND magazine and the OCU Newsletter. The decade also saw establishment of the OCU governing council, approval of an OCU constitution, the adoption of the British OCU’s Pray and Plan (now Pray-Discover-Obey) model, and the council’s appointment of Captain Cleo Buxton, USAR, as the first general secretary (executive director). 

Buxton gathered a corps of Bible teachers as speakers for the growing conference ministry with the vision of summer conferences and training programs to offer both inspiring vacation time and intense training for young officers and officer candidates. In 1962, OCU held its first summer events in Buena Vista, Colo., at Spring Canyon (SC), and starting in 1978, at White Sulphur Springs in Manns Choice, Pa. Distinctive programs such as Rocky Mountain High (RMH) and Allegheny Outback (AO!) are now offered every summer. OCF has been involved in allied ministry outreach to Christians of foreign militaries, helping host guests in local fellowships and in military Christian conferences held in various parts of the world.

In the 1970s and ’80s, Executive Director Paul Pettijohn and the OCF Council began to place staff couples at service academies as well as at military training and education locations like Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and in later decades, Maxwell-Gunter AFB, Ala., and NAS Pensacola, Fla. By the 1990s-2000s, OCF’s ministry efforts included training conferences, staff visits of local OCF groups, and sustained outreach at service academies and military education centers. The result was that OCF members and spouses have led fruitful ministries both abroad and at home, including every theater where OCF members have been sent.

As countless military members, families, and friends attended OCF conference centers to be equipped, encouraged, and refreshed for Christ-like leadership and service, OCF recognized the need for new lodging facilities at both WSS and SC. The OCF Growing and Building capital campaign, which launched in 2006, culminated with WSS’s Heritage House and Spring Canyon’s Veterans Memorial Lodge and new Fort Shine.

Since its infant days in the 1940s, the ministry of OCF has expanded in both staffing priorities and in the way we serve the military-focused body of Christ through communications, conferences, and helping members connect with one another. OCF crossed the threshold of print communications into the digital world by offering online Bible studies, local leader resources, article archives, social media, and multiple podcast programs. The focus remains on personal relationship with OCF’s lay leaders, who are the hands and feet of Christ within the military community. There have been several books and articles written about the history, growth, and work of OCF and its members, so please ask the Home Office for recommendations for further reading.

1943 Certificate of Incorporation

First. The name or title by which the corporation shall be known in law shall be Officers’ Christian Union of the United States of America. (The ministry’s name changed in 1972 from “Union” to “Fellowship.”)

Second. The term for which it is organized shall be perpetual.

Third. The particular business and objects of said corporation shall be:

1. To bind together officers serving, or who have served, in the Armed Forces of the United States of America, who own allegiance to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

2. To utilize the Spiritual Force of the Union to help all ranks, grades and ratings to come to a knowledge of Jesus Christ, our Lord, Whom to know is life eternal, and to this end to stimulate and encourage members in definite and regular prayer, Bible study and Christian witness, for their mutual improvement and growth in grace.