The Role of the Secular AA Board

By Sam E
Secular AA Member and Secular AA Inc. Board Chair

Mandate and Purpose

The mandate (purpose(s) and goal(s)) of the Board is to carry out our mission and vision:

Mission Statement:  “Our mission is to assure suffering alcoholics that they can find sobriety in Alcoholics Anonymous without having to accept anyone else’s beliefs or deny their own. Secular AA does not endorse or oppose any form of religion or belief system and operates in accordance with the Third Tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous:  The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.”

Vision Statement: “Secular AA recognizes and honors the immeasurable contributions that Alcoholics Anonymous has made to assist individuals to recover from alcoholism. We seek to ensure that AA remains an effective, relevant and inclusive program of recovery in an increasingly secular society. The foundation of Secular AA is grounded in our experience that anyone – regardless of their spiritual beliefs or lack thereof – can recover in the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. Secular AA exists to serve the community of secularly-minded alcoholics by supporting worldwide access to secularly formatted AA meetings and fostering mutual support within a growing population of secularly-minded alcoholics.”

Composition

The composition of the Board (the members, how and when they were chosen):

2017-2020 Board Members (elected at Austin, Texas ICSAA 2016 business meeting by a vote of members attending*)

Carol M. – ICSAA 2018-Toronto, Host Committee Chair*
Geri B. – Secretary
Joy R. – Treasurer
Martin D. – Vice Chair of Board
Sam E. – Chair

2019-2022 Board Members (elected at Toronto, Ontario ICSAA 2018 business meeting by a vote of members attending*)

Angela B. – In-Reach Committee Chair
Faye P. – Fellowship Committee Chair
Gregg O. – ICSAA 2020-Washington DC, Host Committee Chair*
Joe C. – Outreach Committee Chair
John S. – Archives Committee Chair

*The ICSAA host committee chairperson is chosen by the host committee and then becomes a board member when the membership of Secular AA votes for the location to host the next ICSAA.

Courtney S. is the Technology Coordinator of the IT Committee (nominated by the board chair and voted on by the board).

The Purpose of the Board Committees

The purpose of the Outreach Committee is to assure that Secular AA is practicing the principle in AA’s responsibility pledge “When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of AA always to be there. And for that: I am responsible”. More specifically, to inform still suffering alcoholics that enduring recovery from alcoholism can be had in AA by agnostic, atheist, and non-religious people. The Outreach Committee is to undertake this goal by means of: Interacting and cooperating with established CPC (Cooperation with Professional Community), Institutions (Corrections and Treatment), PI (Public Information) committees and similar entities within AA.; Acting as the Secular AA CPC, Institutions and PI committees (see AA Guidelines for CPC, Institutions and PI committees).

The primary purpose of the In-Reach Committee is to assure that others in AA are aware of our secular AA experience, which is that “enduring recovery from alcoholism can be found by agnostic, atheist, and non-religious people, within AA”. The secondary purpose of the In-Reach Committee is to promote our ICSAA, regional secular AA events, and website resources to AA members at large. Liaising – The In-Reach Committee shall strive to achieve these goals by liaising within AA with: AA members, AA groups, AA Intergroups, AA General Service Districts and Areas, the AA General Service Office, AA World Services, AA international General Service Offices and AA events such as round-ups, conventions, forums, etc.

The Fellowship Committee is tasked with supporting a fellowship of Secular AA Members to facilitate “sharing our experience, strength and hope” which shall include but not be limited to the following: Maintaining a “help line” to respond to inquiries from still suffering alcoholics; Assist Secular AA members in establishing and promoting regional/local secular AA events, as well as maintaining a listing of such events available to the Members; Maintaining a meeting directory of both physical and online Secular AA meetings; Maintain a mechanism to host secularly formatted online AA meetings; Liaise with other secularly-minded AA entities including websites that service the secularly-minded AA community. Maintain communications between the Secular AA membership and the board.

The Archives Committee is tasked with organizing and providing access to our shared secular AA experience. The Archives Committee must insure that the dissemination of such information is always coupled with a statement conveying the following or a similar alternative as may be outlined in the Guidelines for the Committee: “Please be aware that Secular AA does not attest to the accuracy, relevancy, timeliness, or completeness of information obtained from others, including Members of Secular AA, members of AA, organizations calling themselves AA entities, or any other entity or person. We may share information with our Members just as it is provided to us, for the purposes of an open flow of information and ideas, without a critique or review. Therefore the act of Secular AA making the information available does not constitute an approval or endorsement by Secular AA of the information provided.” The Archives Committee shall: Make available information, such as sample formats, for Members wishing to start a secular AA meeting; Maintain a listing of secularly-inclined AA literature as a resource for Members; Maintain a listing of secularly-inclined AA resources such as websites and blogs as a resource for Members and assuring that any listing or link to such a resource is coupled with a statement of group autonomy, and non-endorsement, consistent with the principles in the Traditions; Maintain a forum to archive Members’ personal and the secularly-minded group’s “experience, strength and hope”, and stories of “what it was like, what happened and what it is like now”; Maintain historical documents, as they become available, on the history of secularists in AA

The Nominating Committee shall present a slate of qualified nominees for board at the Membership Meeting prior to the election (paraphrased). The Site Selection Committee shall solicit and coordinate bids for next ICSAA with a goal of having at least three viable bids. The IT Committee sees to it that these websites are functioning well: The Secular Board, the Conference website, Secular AA Information and Service, the Facebook Coffee Shop and a list of and access to Online Meetings.

Decisions and Contact Information

How decisions are made and how they are shared publicly: The Board meets quarterly via video conference and typically the items on the agenda are reports from each committee and officer, old business and new business. The board discusses and sometimes debates motions and then votes in accordance with our bylaws. The minutes are also made available on the Secular AA website.

How best to contact the Board: Here are two email addresses: for the Chair and the Fellowship committee member.


The following is primarily from an email I sent the board recently, which I think puts our current focus and goals in context:

Dear Secular AA Board,

We did not have a quorum at our last board meeting which is disappointing. On an individual basis I totally understand being busy and not being able to make a meeting. However for us not to achieve a quorum that is an indication of a bigger problem which has caused me to take a step back and think about my part in it. After some reflection on the past few years, contemplation, and review of the bylaws, I finally got to rule 62 which I certainly did not apply during my involvement in drafting our new bylaws.

I believe that each of us agree that our mission of carrying the message that sustainable sobriety can be found/had in AA by secularly minded alcoholics is extremely important, in fact, life and death for many alcoholics. For us personally carrying that message is important enough that we are willing to sacrifice our time. I would like to suggest that we do two things as a board:

  1. Remember how important our message is; and

  2. Let’s put aside all the noise. Both in the bylaws, which I had a big part in creating but has proven to be overwhelming and distracting from our mission. And from a few angry members who expect things to be done their way, in their time frame, and are not shy about stating their demands. Let’s get back to the basics.

Once we do these two things well we can concentrate our efforts on carrying our message. Here is what I think our short list should be:

  1. Put on a great gathering of Secular AA in DC 2020

  2. Participate in the AA International in Detroit including a Secular AA hospitality suite to:

    • Carry our message in our mission statement to conference attendees

    • Build our fellowship within AA, most specifically being visible for other secularly minded AA members who are feeling unique and apart from AA because of their secular perspective. Let’s carry the message that they are not alone.

  3. Continue the great work we are doing (thanks Courtney) with our meeting lists and online meetings.

  4. Assure the sustainability of our work by:

    • Garnering bids for ICSAA 2022

    • Garnering qualified and willing candidates to be nominated to the board for terms beginning 2023

    • Continuing to be fiscally prudent and accountable to our membership

Here are some the things I think we should set aside, or deprioritize for the time being, not forever but for now:

  1. Spending all the time trying to satisfy everyone who wants something from us. Remember we can’t help others if we are still drunk, our above priorities must come first or we will not be around to expand our work. I think we should respond to all additional requests, no matter how reasonable or important, by making a statement like this: “We are a relatively new organization served by a small number of volunteers, we are committed to our mission ‘to assure suffering alcoholics that they can find sobriety in Alcoholics Anonymous without having to accept anyone else’s beliefs or deny their own.’ We have great ambitions with regards all the things we would do to realize our goals but, alas, our time is limited and it’s probably best that we take our steps in order. As of now we don’t have the capacity to take on additional tasks but we are most definitely open to the help of others.”

  2. Working on the bylaws. I’m currently thinking we should set aside plenty of time in DC 2020, in a side room, to discuss the bylaws and anything related to the organization of secular AA with all interested prior to the business meeting and the chair would welcome motions for amendment from that group or others at the business meeting.

  3. The Board committee chairs should consider prioritizing the three items in Point 4 (Assure the sustainability of our work…) in the list above, and table the rest.

I look forward to your thoughts.

In love, service and gratitude,

Sam


Sam E is 53 years old and has been sober since a nudge from a judge in 1984 in Minnesota introduced him to AA. He has been married 22 years to an AA sweetheart, Stefanie, who has been sober since 1992. They have three rescue dogs, no kids, and have lived in Vegas since 1993.

Sam never did find God but found Good Orderly Direction from AA. His AA service experience includes every position at the group level, intergroup, local convention and, prior to moving to Vegas, stints in the Hawaii Area: Public Information Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, and Chair. He has religiously participated in PRAASA’s and AA regional forums for more than a decade.

In AA service and secular AA he feels at home and with his people, and he has had a service sponsor since the 80s.

Born an entrepreneurial, Sam’s career includes 8 years in residential real estate in Hawaii followed by moving to Las Vegas in 1993 where he founded a franchise company selling and operating a family entertainment concept across the USA. After that he worked for a consulting firm as a business analyst for small businesses across the US. He currently heads an entrepreneurial global film distribution company and travels extensively worldwide.


 

5 Responses

  1. Jerry F says:

    First, I wrote two papers over a year ago and sent them to the BOD. They concerned vital points that we should be cognizant of in drafting the Bylaws and in conducting our Secular AA business. Though addressed to all Board members, they were not answered by any of them. When I told a Board member of my disappointment at the non-responsive Board, she said she would answer them. She did not. So if I sent them in, again, would I get a response? Would it be the sentence that Sam wrote in his article?.

    I like the Business Plan that Sam is proposing. Actually, the Bylaws are a Business Plan for us and they tell us what we should do and when it should be done. As we know, quite a few of the requirements in the Bylaws have not been met and they are months delayed. I doubt we’ll ever get them.

    I like the side room for Bylaws discussion in DC. If the Bylaws, as they now exist, are presented to the Board, it will be a fractious meeting and it makes sense to isolate it from the majority of our members. A point of order that shouldn’t need to be mentioned but it probably does. Our discussion and voting that take place in the side are not the Membership Meeting. That takes place with all of us in one room.

    What happened in Toronto? Why don’t we have a letter from the Board about what happened, or didn’t, and why?

    I have been highly critical of the moribund nature of this Board. It is only in the past few months that we are hearing from some of them. The Board has been more than quiet; it has been secretive. And when challenged, if there is an answer, the response is that the Board members need to operate in with a free exchange of ideas that wouldn’t exist if Board members thought they would be held accountable for their opinions. The Board thinks that it should operate in a secret (I would say furtive) nature. It should not. The Membership should be privy to almost every action taken or being considered by the Board. COMMUNICATION.

    We could do a lot if the Board communicated with its Membership.

  2. Sam E says:

    Thank you all for your supportive responses.

  3. Pat N. says:

    Thank you Sam, for what sounds like comprehensive and well-thought out suggestions to the Board. And many, many thanks to the Board as a whole for committing to what must be an exasperating role in helping the secularly-minded alcoholic. I suspect your work is like herding grasshoppers.

  4. life-j says:

    Sam, thank you for this article, and thank you for all your hard work, and thank you to all the other board and committee members. It looks like a structure has been settled on that is going to work well.

    I especially think the Fellowship Committee is a creative item for internal needs.

    I am sorry my health is failing and I cannot put any energy into it myself.

  5. Marty N. says:

    Sam, Thanks for all you do.

    Marty N.
    Conn.

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