Metro Vancouver’s atheist alcoholics seek recovery without God talk

Vancouver Skyline

By Douglas Todd
Vancouver Sun, Published on April 5, 2014

“We came to accept and to understand that we needed strengths beyond our awareness and resources to restore us to sanity.”

* * *

Six men who admit they are “powerless over alcohol” recited these words from Step 2 of a Canadian-created, secular Twelve Step program at the beginning of a recent meeting in West Vancouver.

Alcohol has devastated their lives; the impact extending to their partners and children. Yet over many years these men of various ages have got back on their feet — with the help of fellow members of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Not, they believe, with the help of God.

These particular warriors against alcohol are atheists and agnostics. Even though they are meeting in a quiet room of St. Monica’s Anglican Church in West Vancouver, they are tired of the emphasis that some members of Alcoholics Anonymous put on God.

They are not alone. Scores of atheist and agnostic groups like theirs are popping up across North America in the name of combating alcoholism without divinity.

But the emergence of atheist and agnostic Twelve Step groups has come with some sparks of conflict with the two-million-member original Alcoholics Anonymous movement, which was founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson, an ecumenical Christian.

(Bill Wilson is often known as Bill W., out of respect for AA’s tradition of anonymity. The people interviewed for this article are identified only by their first names and last initials.)

Since AA began, Step 3 of the traditional program has called on members to “make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understand him.” Several other steps also mention God or a higher power, leaving the definition open-ended.

Even though the men in the West Vancouver group expressed gratitude for the support they received over the years in AA’s Twelve Step program, they said they are increasingly weary of the “God talk.”

They said they cringe when some AA members enthusiastically insert mentions of God or a higher power into support meetings. Occasionally, they say, some evangelical Christian AA members have started talking like preachers.

“I just had to keep my mouth shut about being an atheist at those meetings. I felt dumped on when I mentioned it. Like I wasn’t really a member of their club,” said George S., as he sits on one of the church’s leather couches that surround a giant coffee table.

In the past, some of the thousands of AA meetings held across Canada each week have included recitation of the Christian Lord’s prayer, but the men acknowledge that practice is largely gone.

Still, many AA groups continue to use 20th-century American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr’s so-called Serenity Prayer, which goes, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”

To get away from the word, God, two atheist and agnostic alcoholics groups have formed in the past two years in Metro Vancouver. In addition to the West Vancouver group, there is a larger meeting of both sexes on Tuesday nights at Holy Trinity Anglican Church on Hemlock and 12th in Vancouver.

Both weekly groups follow the secular Twelve Steps as outlined in The Little Book: A Collection of Alternative 12 Steps, written by an Ontario man known as Roger C. Its title is a play on the classic AA guide, commonly known as The Big Book.

Metro is in a region of North America with among the lowest proportion of residents who attend religious institutions.

Many of the men attending West Vancouver’s agnostic group on this Monday evening are not happy their meetings have been “de-listed” from the Greater Vancouver AA directory.

Unlike AA bodies in cities such as San Francisco, New York, Halifax and elsewhere, the Greater Vancouver AA administrative body recently decided that an atheistic version of the Twelve Steps does not fit the guidelines of the original AA, in which “God as we understand him,” or a self-defined higher power, is believed to play a significant role in recovery.

Members of the West Vancouver group, which calls itself We Agnostics, feels shunned by the delisting, saying it will make it hard for other desperate alcoholics to discover where to find their non-religious recovery meeting.

“It’s like being shut out of the Yellow Pages,” said Steve B.

He maintains all AA organizations should live up to a key AA motto, which is “the only requirement for membership is the desire to stop drinking.”

The North American AA’s general response to organizations that take “God” out of the Twelve Steps, or make other significant changes to it, is that they can imitate the Twelve Step program, but they aren’t allowed to call themselves “Alcoholics Anonymous.”

There are hundreds of traditional Alcoholics Anonymous groups in Metro Vancouver.

A man who answered the phone at the regional head office for AA, which is called the Greater Vancouver Intergroup Society, said atheists and agnostics who are alcoholics have every right to start their own groups.

But he refused to comment on the delisting of the two atheist-agnostic groups, adding, “When it comes right down to it, we have no opinion on it whatsoever.”

Steve B., however, is not about to let go of the issue.

An alcoholic and “deep atheist” since his teenage years in East Vancouver, Steve, now 64, fell off the wagon in the mid-2000s after a solid career as a transportation specialist in the public service and academia.

He ended up on the streets of the Downtown Eastside for several years, succumbing also to crack cocaine. He lost everything, including family. It’s only in the past five years he’s been able to rebuild his life.

Most often attending the Hemlock Street group, which is known as Sober Agnostics, Steve B. knows how important support groups are for alcoholics. They saved his life.

In response to similar theological controversies, various atheist and agnostic associations for alcoholics have been cropping up around North America.

One organization, called SOS (for Secular Organizations for Sobriety), claims 100,000 members. Another agency is called the Buddhist Recovery Network.

In addition, many atheist and agnostic alcoholics, like those in the two groups in Metro Vancouver, are having their meetings listed online through an organization called AA Agnostica.

Some of the West Vancouver men acknowledge they still attend traditional Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Even though they are turned off by theistic beliefs, they have learned to be tolerant when some members of regular AA groups start speaking about God.

They say they understand that AA references to “God as we understand him” leave open the possibility that the higher power to which members surrender has an open-ended definition. For some AA members, “God” or “higher power” can refer to anything from human consciousness to the evolutionary process.

Still, the men appreciate they finally have their own group, where they can be themselves and don’t have to squirm when an over-enthusiastic AA member starts insisting that a divine supreme being is the sole key to their healing.

Now they have choices. And they know that whatever the result of the fight over the delisting by the Greater Vancouver Intergroup Society, atheist and agnostic alcoholics are becoming increasingly organized.

AA Agnostica, for instance, is organizing its first international convention. The conference, titled, Many Paths to Recovery, will be Nov. 6 to 8 in Santa Monica, Calif. Some of Metro Vancouver’s alcoholics plan to attend.

This article was published in the Vancouver Sun on Saturday, April 5, 2014. The photo is by Steve Bosch.

There were two minor errors in the article. First, AA Agnostica does not have its own list of agnostic meetings but rather links to one currently at And the agnostic AA convention slated for Santa Monica this November is being organized by a team based in Los Angeles, California.

46 Responses

  1. Peter R. says:

    It took me multiple attempts to do the 12 steps in traditional AA. The whole god thing really annoyed. When I discovered these alternate 12 step programs I was elated. The old AA people only will go with what is existing and that’s fine because our whole point is an alternative to the Oxford Group influence. For some reason AA gets all weird and paranoid about changes and groups become delisted. Not the end of the world; you just are not on their web and phone lists.
    The skirmishes that have occurred over the veracity and success rate of AA are items of debatable interest. What we all want is the ability to not use and recover into as normal as we are capable.

  2. Larry K says:

    I am sure that the web master will contact the author/reporter and correct him about agnostica organizing the conference. That is solely an AA event.

    • Roger says:

      Ah, geez, Larry, I was hoping we could take credit for the Convention! Just shows everybody makes mistakes, even journalists.

  3. bob k. says:

    The practice of including the “Lord’s Prayer” in the formats of AA meetings is alive and well, albeit not in Vancouver. Come to Southern Ontario. The most noted of Christian prayers, what Emmet Fox called the “greatest Christian document,” has disappeared from football huddles, boy scout troop gatherings, and most famously, public schools. But NOT from AA.

    NONETHELESS, the use of Christianity’s number one prayer, does NOT, I repeat, NOT, provide an affiliation with Christianity!


    Yeah! Me, too.

    • Andy Mc says:

      The double talk is what confused me from day one. Being told the importance of “self honesty” then the same breath “to fake it till I made it”. So much ambiguity in AA literature. Used to think that it was inclusiveness to accommodate everyone, but have come to understand that it’s more about exclusiveness of the faithful.
      I too am from SW Ont. where the lp is rampant at meeting closings….I make my point by noisily leaving then returning when finished. I don’t like to do this and neither should I have to. The prayer is offensive in its utterance as it reinforces those of faith that they are still in command….a red flag to this AA member.
      Having 30+ yrs of sobriety with the help of AA I’m given a wide berth. I do feel for those that are new, scared and confused being told the BS that AA “is a spiritual not a religious program”.
      I often think of our early AA “free thinker”, Jim Burwell, and what he must have had to put up with. Jim is my AA hero, and my mecca will be his grave site.
      Thanks for my sobriety,
      Andy Mc

      • Peter R says:

        It took me multiple attempts to do the 12 steps in traditional AA. The whole god thing really annoying. When I discovered these alternate 12 step programs I was elated. The old AA people only will go with what is existing and that’s fine because our whole point is an alternative to the Oxford Group influence. For some reason AA gets all weird and paranoid about changes and groups become delisted. Not the end of the world; you just are not on their web and phone lists.
        The skirmishes that have occurred over the veracity and success rate of AA are items of debatable interest. What we all want is the ability to not use and recover into as normal as we are capable.

    • Lech L. says:

      The LP is alive and well in Edmonton as well.

    • Thomas B. says:

      Bob et al,

      Even the Rev. Ward Ewing, Episcopalian Priest and past Chairperson of the AA Board, was “shocked” when the LP was used to close the 2010 International Conference of AA in San Antonio.

      The hypocrisy of many of our members is becoming more and more a challenge for me to extend “love and tolerance.” Through gritted teeth I do “tonglen” bathing them with compassion . . . 😉

  4. Pat N. says:

    Good article. Kudos to the group and to the reporter, who I presume isn’t in the fellowship. I’ve contacted my local paper and university paper suggesting they do similar stories, and think it would be good if we all did that. At the least, it might encourage folks to check out our local meetings, at the most, it will add to pressure within AA to recognize us individually and as groups.

  5. Jim L says:

    “Our leaders are but trusted servants, they do not govern.”
    It seems to me the Inter group has decided to govern. To pass judgement. Too bad. I think if we run into that in SW Florida we will run a big ad in the local paper appealing to AA’s who want a secular program of recovery without the constant religious or so called spiritual referencing. Let’s face it, spiritually and religion are just different sides of the same coin.

  6. bob k. says:

    And – Nice job Douglas Todd!

  7. John M. says:

    Thanks for getting this Vancouver Sun article to us, Roger.

    As a few of us have noted in the past, entities like Toronto and Vancouver Intergroups (and a bit earlier in Indianapolis) ironically do godless alcoholics a big favour by their unjust and narrow-minded measures of delisting WAFT groups.

    Word of this cannot be kept from public exposure given the inquisitive nature of the media – and everybody LOVES a good underdog story.

    More and more people are becoming aware of the need for WAFT groups in their own areas, and more and more alcoholics are discovering that they can find recovery in comfortable and compassionate AA settings without an implicit religious agenda lurking in the background.

    • John M. says:

      Let me add a few whimsical thoughts to what I wrote above.

      Perhaps the entities in AA that like to use the tactic of “excommunication” should take a page from the folks like the author of the Orange Papers, Stanton Peele, Lance Dodes, and others. They “deal” with atheists, agnostics and free thinkers in AA by ignoring us. Perhaps these folks are far more strategically astute than our protagonists in these AA entities.

      The Oranges, the Peeles, the Dodeses, etc. ignore us because they simply do not know what to do with us (assuming they are aware of our existence). We don’t fit into their stereotype of what constitutes AA. We are the square peg in the round hole of their model that can only throw the baby out with the bathwater. Our existence is an inconvenient truth – their world would lose its meaning if they would have to re-think any of their comfortable “truths” of AA.

      They would lose the “fire” of their critique if they were to acknowledge our existence.

      Yes, they are much smarter to say nothing about us than to tell us, as our friends in AA do, that we are not AA and that we should form our own kind of recovery program.

      Perhaps they are much smarter, indeed – they may be acutely aware that to try to diminish us, may have the undesired effect of finding us “out there” in even greater abundance.

      • Jaye says:

        Perhaps we should all thank a certain W. B. from Toronto Intergroup who led the charge to de-list our three WAFT groups – he helped bring us all together here at AA Agnostica.

  8. Alexandra says:

    Great article. I am a completing my registered professional counsellor qualification in substance abuse counselling ahead of my psych nursing degree, and I shared this with a colleague (psych nurse) who is overjoyed to know she can refer her impious patients to an appealing recovery model!

    It is myopic to view recovery and dogma under a mutually exclusive lens, and flatly oppressive to non-religious people seeking recovery in an inclusive setting. Rather than delisting the agnostic groups and treating them like some Hezbollah-like splinter faction, it would be wise to visibly include all groups under the AA umbrella in order to avoid the often tragic consequences to placing barriers before people who are looking to dry out and lead meaningful and authentic lives.

    • angela says:

      Totally agree I live in Vermont and there are no AA athiest/agnostic groups. I think the closest I found were in NY, and Montreal. I’ve been happily sober for 18 months and am trying very hard to implement the program into daily life. The reference, came to believe in God as we understand him, can literally be anything that will work for you and history shows that AAA really works if you work it. Myself I’m agnostic, I struggle with the whole God concept, its personal
      because of the effect organized religions have had in my life. I believe it would be beneficial for many who struggle with addiction to have a none religious AA program.

  9. Christopher G says:

    Funny that Vancouver Intergroup had “no comment” or “no opinion on it”; although their actions speak louder than “no comment” or “no opinion”!

    • Denis K says:

      Precisley Chris,

      I know people who have been told that Agnostic Meetings are an outside issue, that they are not AA.
      So much for honesty, open mindedness and willingness let alone tradition three or our primary purpose “to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety.”
      I’m certain this article will disturb some of our self appointed AA purists and so it should; this subject requires fair discussion and Doug Todd’s piece has shed light on that.
      Whenever I encounter a wiff of close mindedness I remember the following, ” If you havent tried something new, if you havent entertained a new idea, if you are in contempt of others ideas without exploring them together, check your pulse, you may be dead!”

  10. Tim M. says:

    When I read accounts like this, I think about Charlie P., who had the wisdom to found “We Agnostics” meetings in Los Angeles without thinking that he also had to rewrite the 12 Steps of AA. Instead, he and Megan D. created meetings where the Steps simply aren’t read, nor are any prayers said. The prologue to these meetings states things in the most inclusive possible way:

    “This meeting has a tradition of free expression. Here you may feel free to express any doubts you may have and to share your own personal form of spiritual experience, your search for it, or even your rejection of it. As a group, we neither endorse nor oppose atheism, nor do we have any quarrel with any form of religion. Our only wish is to assure suffering alcoholics that they can find sobriety in AA without having to accept anyone else’s beliefs or deny their own.”

    Part of Charlie’s genius touch is that his inclusiveness extended even to recovering alcoholics who preferred to dispense with steps altogether, or who were not interested in alternative versions other than a version they would create for themselves.

    In addition, of course, the Los Angeles meetings were not set up for conflict with Central Office via the establishment of a new creed — i.e., rival steps fashioned so as to define the meeting and its “program.”

    I’ve always believed that, in part, this reflected the fact that Charlie, something of a political scientist, had enormous respect for the 12 Traditions and their thoroughly democratic character. I can’t help wondering whether he thought that any attempt to promulgate a new “official” version of the Steps without wide concurrence in AA would comport poorly with the spirit of the Traditions.

    In any event, he founded meetings that remain today among the freest and most spirited to be found anywhere in AA. Some members talk about the Steps or their own versions, others don’t talk about steps at all. What defines the meetings is the emotional honesty Charlie personified, and the heart-felt compassion that characterizes participation in them.

    Maybe that’s all a good freethinkers’ meeting needs — honesty and compassion. There is no Nicene Creed, revised or not, just what members have in their own hearts.

  11. jim says:

    “Greater Vancouver Intergroup Society, said atheists and agnostics who are alcoholics have every right to start their own groups.

    But he refused to comment on the delisting of the two atheist-agnostic groups, adding, “When it comes right down to it, we have no opinion on it whatsoever.”

    if they don’t have an opinion on it, why’d they delist the group? sounds like they have an anti-atheist opinion.

  12. Dan L says:

    Thanks for putting that up for us to read. We have to be gentle and forgiving of journalists. In my experience they rarely get everything right. This
    is something to remember when you get your “facts”
    from the media! I believe that AA is the Traditions
    not the Steps. The Traditions with their one almost
    comically vague reference to “God” are what make us AA.
    The Steps are directly referred to as a “suggested
    program”. I remember when I first came into AA a short time ago and I was bombarded with idiocies like
    “You can’t interpret The Steps” and “You can’t do this
    your Own Way.” This was all from people who foisted
    their interpretation and way on others most aggressively… with a heavy dose of god as they understood and interpreted Her. They helped me whether they knew it or not. People can teach you how not to do things as well as how to do things “the right way”. As if there was one.

  13. debra s says:

    We are headed for major changes in our conversations about our disease and recovery. I just finished
    watching the documentary “Anonymous People”.
    Promotes a very encouraging message that more of us must move this conversation out of the dark and into the light of day. I applaud the people in Vancouver and everywhere for standing up for their rights to be heard where no one, for any reason, should be excluded.
    Keep up the good work.
    This is such a serious disease. It is dangerous and inhumane to shut anyone out who needs help because of a personal belief they have or don’t have. This has nothing to do with getting into and working recovery.
    Where is the love and understanding in exclusion, especially when we are already starting from a place of down and out?

  14. Cheryl says:

    This is great news. I have to be honest, I know I have an issue with alcohol and my challenge is I don’t believe in god so looking at the materials for AA, while I respect the direction and the bigger picture of health, I don’t resonate with all the god speak. To me we have the power or not within us to make a change and I need to be with others who realistically can see this. Unfortunately believing that someone else (ie. god) is going to be our saviour or lead us in a path is just not something I can get behind and has turned me off of even going to a first meeting. This addiction is so tough and the last thing I need is to be in a group that is preaching about god which I don’t believe in. I want the focus to me on the addiction not god – much prefer being with people who feel the same as me – that we are in control of our destiny – not some fake personality – it’s about taking accountability for ourselves and about being realistic? Looking for a group in false creek/downtown,kits area of Vancouver. CK

    • Pat N. says:

      Cheryl: thanks so much for writing in. I (and I’m sure others on this board) welcome you to our shared search for a better life, and urge you not to give up on AA just yet. There are meetings which are not as god-heavy as others, and the folks at the 12th Avenue meeting would welcome you in and help you find whatever compatible regular meetings there are. Most people in AA are not religious nuts. Also, there is a Lifering or SOS meeting close to False Creek, at a detox/treatment center-Google those 2 names for details. You don’t have to drink, and you’ve got friends you don’t know yet to back you up.

  15. Duncan says:

    I am wondering if it is a good idea for the agnostic Toronto Groups to open a 2nd Intergroup there. You only have to name a district and then you will have an equal body to the present intergroup.

    No need to mention agnostics/ atheist or anything else. Maybe some of the current members of Toronto will shift. Duncan

  16. Brie D. says:

    You are not members of Alcoholics Anonymous. Why do you want to associate with our name, if you are so against our foundation? Why can you not create your own 12 step program, and call it something else. Why? I do not understand why you must try to push your beliefs on us. You do not want us to push our beliefs on you… Please go start your own movement.

    • Dan L says:

      Tradition 3.

    • Stephanie says:

      From what I know about AA, the right of a individual to determine their own membership is foundational, as is the idea that membership does not depend on conformity. It’s so strange that folks like Brie, who claim to be defending AA, understand its history and principles so poorly.

    • Denis K says:

      Your post is in my opinion ill informed bordering on offensive.
      Suggest you peruse this site to learn more of what we are about.
      I am a sober AA member with 39 years recovery without god and every bit a valid AA member as yourself.

    • Thomas B. says:

      Brie, I suggest you might very well be demonstrating “contempt prior to investigation” here. Jim Burwell was one of the initial members of the original New York AA group who was instrumental in founding AA in both Baltimore and Philadelphia in the pioneer days of AA.

      In my post here on AA Agnostica “1st AA Meetings” I relate how I am most grateful I was introduced to AA in October of 1972 in New York City and not in an area where there is so much emphasis on the first 164 pages of the Big Book the way they originally did it in Akron.

      Please continue to read and share here, but please inform yourself about how we agnostics, atheists and free thinkers utilize the AA program and fellowship to fulfill our primary purpose, “to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.”

    • Pat N. says:

      Brie, which step were you working when you wrote your ignorant and sobby little memo?

    • Lech L. says:

      I have a question for Brie. Please explain what you think “the only requirement for membership…” means.

    • James L. says:

      We are members of AA because we say we are.

    • Alexandra says:

      Brie, on the Traditions tape by Bill W, he said, “people used to say ‘well, the drunk, he’s the important person! Surely, he is. But how is he going to get well in any number, if there is no fellowship? Therefore the common welfare has to come first, and our individual welfare second.”

      The agnostic/atheist groups are following that tenet to the letter, which you would see if you weren’t so emotional about this matter. There are plenty of homogenized groups that welcome the rationally illiterate with open arms. You don’t have to play in this sandbox, but you’re woefully ignorant to say that it’s not a sandbox!

      • Brie says:

        I am not disputing love and tolerance, helping the next drunk, or working principles in your life to stay sober. All I am saying, is why do you have to have your groups, change the traditions and start your own movement, under the name of AA. Are you not strong enough in your steps and beliefs, to adopt the same principles, but start your own movement. The steps clearly indicate that we are to find a power greater than ourselves. From what I understand, you make yourself the power. How can you be powerless, and have the power in you at the same time. Nonetheless, that is not even what the issue is. I still do not understand why you do not form your own group with your own name. In fact, I would think you would have a better chance at reaching more atheists and agnostics, if you started you own movement.

        • Roger says:

          We already have a movement, Brie. It’s called AA.
          As for a power greater than ourselves, how about “the collective wisdom and resources of those who have searched before us”? Or does it have to be a God of your understanding?
          In 1961, Bill Wilson wrote “In AA’s first years I all but ruined the whole undertaking… God as I understood Him had to be for everybody. Sometimes my aggression was subtle and sometimes it was crude. But either way it was damaging – perhaps fatally so – to numbers of non-believers.”
          Bill chose not to ruin his undertaking, AA. Sometimes I wonder if you and your cohorts at Vancouver Intergroup are just trying to ruin it for him.

    • Duncan says:

      Brie, For many many years AA has lived a lie. Now by the actions of Vancouver Intergroup it will have to face that lie.

      Since AA began there has always been Atheists / Agnostics within. There has always been Groups who did not take God to the limits and more recently even Atheists / Agnostic Groups.

      However thanks to the attitude of Vancouver Intergroup, AA will either own up to its Christian only approach or make changes in line with the Traditions of AA. This will not go away Brie.

      So Brie I thank you and your type as I have always hated the solely religious approach.

      Duncan (almost 36 continuous sobriety without the help of God but with the help of members of AA.)

    • Peter R. says:

      Judging by the rabid undertones I detect in your reply no amount of reasoning will change your mind.
      That is fine because AA accepts everyone as the Big Book and the Traditions say.
      Our feeling on AA is not that there are rules but there is too much GOD involved. Even one of the original three, Jimmy Burwell, said so himself. Bill W admitted that there was too much GOD bandied about. Look through the revisions of the BIG Book and tell me a higher power more and more became GOD.
      To finish up there is no quarrel with 12 steps except the GOD idea. Not all of us are Christians.

  17. Denis K says:

    Great phone call tonight from a fellow who read the Vancouver Sun Article and took the time to visit and find my contact number.
    This man gave up on AA meetings years ago as he put it due to the creeping religiosity, the praying, the rituals, the handholding and the annoying quasi-religous types touting god as the only way to stay sober.
    We chatted awhile; we had met some years back and recalled some now long passed members names from a group we both used to attend. We both agreed that in those years one seldom heard anything about god other than in passing. The stories we heard and told were framed in “what it used to be like, what happened and what it’s like now.” There was no hand holding and no chanting and NO preaching. There was no singular right way to stay sober. It was pure and simple fellowship without any qualification other than a desire to stay sober. Many long lasting friendships were formed; we enjoyed one anothers company and respected each other in spite of our sometime differences.
    This fellow will be a welcome addition to our group “We Agnostics” where we will share his 50 years of sobriety and quality living without god.
    I hope this Sun article encourages others to contact us and rejoin our AA fellowship.
    Thanks again to Doug Todd and the Vancouver Sun for a fair and open minded article.

  18. Thomas B. says:

    Another wonderful press report regarding how significant portions of North American AA don’t follow our code of “love and tolerance.”

    I know that Intergroup Associations, notably Toronto and Vancouver of late, are making the “rule” that if groups take “god” out of the steps than their group conscience demands that they not be listed as an AA Meeting. In a couple of conversations with Gary B., the “Manager” of the Portland Intergroup Office he has informed me that if our nascent “Beyond Belief” group in Portland uses an alternative version of the 12 Steps, which we do, then we can’t be listed as an AA Group. He made the same suggestion that the White Paper does that like “Alcoholics Victorious” for ardent Christians, we form a separate organization since we aren’t, in his opinion, an AA group. He indicated that this was the “group conscience” of the voting members of the Intergroup Association. How can this be in accordance with AA traditions and most of the history of AA since Jim Burwell and Hank Parkhurst widened the door of AA for non-believers?

    My question is has GSO and/or the General Service Conference Board made this official group policy determined by the “group conscience of AA” as a whole?

    I shall be querying GSO regarding this matter in a couple of weeks after I return from a visit with my clean & sober son and his wife in Tucson . . .

  19. boyd says:

    Particular thanks to Charlie P. in LA for the inclusive agnostic meeting prologue. Do we need to lock horns with Intergroups? Perhaps, but not reflexively. We agnostics are in AA. Many of us are doing well, pursuing sobriety transparently. In a closing circle yesterday I held the hand of a newly sober sister who I discovered was not saying the LP. Our solidarity was electric.

  20. Dan L says:

    It has long seemed to me that the very same people who are crying that “AA is dying” are the ones who are
    doing the killing with their bare hands. And revelling in it.

  21. Pat N. says:

    I’ve lived in two different AA districts in sobriety, neither of which had an intergroup The districts themselves took care of that kind of business.

    Got to wondering: how are intergroups funded? Do individual meetings decide to support them, or do the districts, or what?

    Those intergroups which are screwing up might be open to financial sanctions. I would not contribute to any funds that went to them. Instead of putting dough in the basket, I’d donate it to Oxford Houses or such.

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