Communication is a Reciprocal Responsibility
At the Pacific Region Forum in Sal Like City UT on September 17, 2022, I facilitated a workshop entitled “Building the Informed Group Conscience.” What Is a Group Conscience? Concept Twelve explains that the World Service Conference determine the group conscience “by discussion, vote, and, whenever possible, by substantial unanimity.” For practical purposes, “substantial unanimity” means that 2/3 of the delegates vote in favor the motion. From the 2021-2023 Service Manual, “Bill came up with a bold solution. The early leadership of A.A. would be succeeded not by new people, but by the collective conscience of the groups in A.A. Bill proposed a plan to create a “service structure” to facilitate Twelfth Step work across the country and around the world. This structure would bring to bear the collective conscience of the groups on matters affecting “A.A. as a whole.” At the heart of this structure would be the A.A. groups themselves, providing both the conscience and financial support for A.A. services throughout the Fellowship. It would be a structure to take the place of government in A.A., ensuring that the full voice of A.A. would be heard.” The workshop looked at communication and participation as means to build awareness in A.A. members and help to understand how to reach an informed group conscience. The session had two main questions. First, ” How do we share the information?” There was great discussion on how the different districts in the Areas prepare and share information that comes from GSO, the Delegate, and the Area. How to inform members on Conference Agenda Items was the example discussed. A.A. members have shared that they do not get the agenda background material soon enough. District officers may not receive the material and groups do not have enough time to arrive at an informed Group Conscience on items. There were some great solutions by have members ready and willing to prepare summaries and get the information out as soon as it comes in. A member suggested presenting Area sharing sessions or workshops to speed up the process for Area sharing. The second workshop question “How can we make changes in the future?” dealt with “Unity”. The was great discussion on how the different Districts within Areas would come together and develop different plans to prepare the information from GSO. Having the ideas in place, if there is a gap in communication between groups and the Area, the Districts can help in gather the information to share with groups. Another great point from the discussion was if you do not seek or investigate the information when it becomes available then you are not only doing a disservice to yourself, but also to the group you represent. Having a willingness is key to extending the thoughts of the group conscience. Also, staying excited and motivated were helpful points that are key and essential in all Service work done by the members. Ultimate responsibility for being informed remains with the A.A. members
Kathy R., Area 03 Delegate, gave a presentation at the Pacific Region Forum entitled “Reciprocal Responsibility”. Kathy said “tools like the Delegates Report, the Conference Report, and the service sponsor are some of the tools available to help inform me. My reciprocal responsibility is to utilize these tools. If I’m reluctant, then, the negative consequences apply, like being unpleasantly surprised. If I don’t want that negative consequence, then I must take responsibility to use the tools – that’s my reciprocal responsibility. The consequence of that action, taking that responsibility, is freedom, for me.”
A Second Flying Blind Period. Southwest Region Trustee Jimmy D. spoke at the 24th national A.A. Archives Workshop in Little Rock AR last week, Friday Afternoon. The phrase “flying blind” is a term Bill W. used to describe the period between Bill meeting Bob in 1935 and writing the Big Book, published in 1939. “That was the end of the flying blind period, next we needed to discover whether we could hold together as groups. We had learned that we might survive as individuals, but could this movement hold together and grow. On a thousand anvils and after a million heartbreaks the Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous was also forged out of our experience and what had been a tiny chip, launched in the flying blind time on a sea of alcoholism now became a mighty armada spreading over the world, touching foreign beach heads.” Bill W. speaks at a memorial service for Dr. Bob, on Nov.15, 1952.
The second flying blind period Jimmy spoke about was the period following Bill W.’s death in 1971. As a conference how does A.A. continue without the co-founder? Will there be direction for A.A. based on informed conscience of groups in their role at the top of the inverted A.A. triangle of service? Here is where Concept 4 comes in – “Throughout our Conference structure, we ought to maintain at all responsible levels a traditional “Right of Participation,” taking care that each classification or group of our world servants shall be allowed a voting representation in reasonable proportion to the responsibility that each must discharge. “The ‘right of participation’ is the responsibility of all A.A. members when they raise questions but there is also a reciprocal responsibility of A.A. members to be involved with awareness of agenda topics, concerns of groups, districts, and areas, and concerns for A.A. members.
We may be in a ‘flying blind” period for the COiv-19 period 2020 to present, a period when we may not understand where we are heading and what the future may hold. But A.A. has encountered these periods of disillusion in our past. In periods of direction Bill W. used the word” providence” to describe the unique result of relieve and grace that comes with spiritual growth. But this spiritual change is not without difficulties. Bill wrote in a 1961 conference talk “A True and High and Constant Purpose”, one of the very great aspects of spiritual growth had to do with dealing with disillusionment about yourself and about other people. It’s one of the most ungodly, painful experiences that humankind can go through, and one of the most beneficial. And it is surely ordained by God, because the only cure for disillusion is forgiveness – first of oneself, knowing that God’s forgiveness is with us always. It is also forgiveness of others; and, little by little, by very slow progress… you come to look upon the weaknesses of other people. Those you like most to look at are those you fancy you don’t have yourself. And you come never to fear these weaknesses. You look at them and say, “Were I in their place, could I have done even so well as that?” I remember what the Good Book says: “judge not, lest ye be judged.” And then, maybe, little by little, falteringly, stumbling, you will say, by God’s grace and lots of pain and exertion, “I ain’t disillusioned anymore, I can love the best in all men and never fear their worst.” P. 120. The answer to “Disillusion is forgiveness”. Bill said in the same 1961 talk, speaking about the conference members at the 1955 GSC “You will remember that in St. Louis, a huge transference took place. We old-timers, realizing that we couldn’t last forever, also realized that a linkage had to be made between you and this vital beacon of service right here. We realized that this Conference had to be established firmly and that you had to be given the opportunity to look after your own affairs worldwide. We had to apply Tradition Two to ourselves, formally passing the ultimate authority and responsibility over to you and to the generations that will follow you. This powerful experiment had to be tried.” P.121. What service has shown me is that despite my weakness, and the weakness of others, we were going to pass A.A. to the members who will come next and A.A. continues to succeed.
Bill W. urged that archives are needed “so that myth doesn’t prevail over fact.” A.A. Guidelines – Archives MG-17 6/2022
Billy N., former Class B Trustee and Chair of NAAAWS spoke at a workshop on Online Archives Anonymity at the National A.A. Archives Workshop, September 24, 2022. In his presentation on anonymity and personal responsibility, he said “I’m a person who believes the steps are our message, we don’t have any other message. It’s just the steps. And I’m a person who believes that the traditions protect our message. And there’s nothing wrong with protecting it. And I’m a person who believes the concepts perpetuate our message. And one of the things that I’m so grateful for what sponsorship and I think A.A. is going to have a lot of tough choices. The next however long it is 10 or 20 years is to just to decide who we are… A.A. Comes of Age, Language of the Heart, and the Traditions Illustrated, will always give you the answer you’re looking for. Always, even if it’s about a technology that didn’t exist in 1948, the same problem existed somewhere.” Questions about how we proceed with hybrid versus in-person meetings, online only events, and the participation of online groups in service are all topics that have been addressed in broad terms in our literature and the history of A.A. But the key remains the responsibility of the A.A. member to be informed and share their experience with their groups, districts, and areas in order to reach an informed group conscience.
Speaking about learning from challenges in our past, Bill W. gave a conference talk to the 1958 General Service Conference, entitle “Constructive Use of Trouble.” Bill described the opportunity for growth, and progress, to be found in time of trouble. Bill said “I think that this particular conference of ours bespeaks more promise and more progress for A.A. than any that have gone before. It holds promise and has been filled with progress because it has the trouble.” p. 125. The challenges of the 1958 GSC produced heated discussion on topics “including vigorous debates over the wisdom of increasing the number of area delegates, as well as lengthening their terms from two to three years; whether or not there should be a paperback version of the Big Book; the pros and cons of the use of chips and emblems. (A fifth California delegate (Area 09) would be seated at future Conferences, but otherwise delegate terms were not increased; no paperback reprint was authorized, since it was felt that a cheap edition would cannibalize hardcover Big Book sales; and. As usual with chips, tokens, and emblems: some people loved them, others did not. In any event, it was considered a matter for focal groups to decide. “ p.131.
At the National A.A. Archives workshop were A.A. members from across the U.S. and Canada who were there to support the mission of A.A. Archivists to save facts to make sure the message is not diluted or wrong. “We owe it to future A.A. members, as well as to historians, scholars and researchers, to maintain as complete a record as we can of this society at all times, so its message, meaning, and contributions, not only to alcoholics but in other problem areas, can be recalled and assessed for whatever future purpose, fully and accurately.”
— NELL WING (NONALCOHOLIC), G.S.O.’S FIRST ARCHIVIST
My sobriety is based on continued work with a sponsor and working the steps, in order to carry the message that changing my life Is possible. Maybe there is hope for you? The Traditions protect that message, and the Concepts preserve and protect that message. I cannot break A.A.; the Warranties in Concept 12 are a protection against that. What I can do is accept my role in Reciprocal Responsibility to acknowledge the process of the Conference and support the work of our fellowship when a decision has been made. The tyranny of a minority is not the history of A.A. Concept Five provides for the minority opinion to be heard and “that petitions for the redress of personal grievances will be carefully considered.” But Tradition One also calls for unity within the fellowship – “This we owe to A.A.’s future: To place our common welfare first; To keep our Fellowship united. For on A.A. unity depend on our lives, And the lives of those to come.” It is my responsibility to acknowledge that if I am disillusioned, I need to turn to forgiveness. Otherwise, I will become consumed with fear and that is harmful to unity of the fellowship and a threat to my own sobriety.
October Trustees Meeting. Trustees will meet October 29 – 31, 2022 in the General Service Board Weekend, NYC, to discuss preliminary Agenda Items and the progress of A.A.W.S. and Grapevine/La Vina projects. The final Conference Agenda will be discussed to proceed with preparing background material for the 73 GSC Conference. As Agenda Committee Chairs, I will be attending the January 27-30 General Service Board Weekend where Trustees and Conference Committee Chairs meet to the conference agenda. An updated Preliminary Agenda Items (90.28.2022) in English and Spanish are posted to the MSA 09 website under “General Service Conference (GSO) – Conference Materials.”
Updates for MSCA09!
- 2025 International Convention member engagement survey. As many of you may know, planning is already underway for the 2025 International Convention that will be held July 3-6, 2025, in Vancouver, B.C., Canada. (All responses are anonymous.) Please respond by October 31, 2022, https://survey.zohopublic.com/zs/UhCs6p
- The 72nd GSC Final Report 2022 (English and Spanish) is available on the MSCA 09 website. Print copies may be available to mail/ship the three print versions of “2022 Final Conference Report” the end of October.
- A.W.S. is looking for your stories for the 4th Spanish and 5th English Big Book editions and you can submit them online through aagrapevine.org and emails. Details are on flyers linked from the area website under GSO Announcements (04/08/2022).
Honored to be of Service!
Mitchell B., MSCA 09 Panel 72 delegate
Cell: (949) 278-8263