The Lord’s Prayer: It has no place at the 2020 International Convention

Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength, and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is the desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for AA membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. AA is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization, or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and to help other alcoholics achieve sobriety.

By Kim and Chris

I was making a presentation for AA’s welcome wagon, Bridging the Gap, to a group in a treatment facility recently, when my partner, a long-time member, talked about the closing of the 2015 International Convention of AA in Atlanta, GA at a local stadium. He reflected: “the closing of this wonderful convention ended with 50,000 plus members, holding hands, and reciting the Lord’s Prayer. I could feel my spine tingling!”

The International Convention is supposed to be the voice of AA throughout the world. How does this speak to world-wide members who practice Judaism, Islam, Sikhism, Jainism, Shintoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, atheism, and secularism?

The Lord’s Prayer is part of every Christian Church’s liturgy. The purported author of the prayer is the founder of Christianity, Jesus Christ, who introduced it to his followers in the New Testament Gospels of Mathew and Luke. It is not found in any other religion’s holy books. Therefore, reciting this biblical prayer at an official AA International Convention is implicitly endorsing one religion and excluding all other religions, beliefs and non-beliefs.

AA is meant to function in ways that will not prevent any alcoholics from benefiting from the program.

However, there is a very strong element of AA that in fact does discourage many alcoholics who need help, and that is the strong emphasis on a belief in an interventionist God. That emphasis is reinforced by the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer at so many meetings. Because of this, our program is failing many people who desperately need us.

Take the case of LG. LG had a DUI as a young man and was told to attend AA meetings. He did so, but didn’t benefit from something that felt to him like church. He knew he had problems with alcohol and tried AA again several times when things were bad but his feelings that it wasn’t for him because he didn’t believe in God didn’t change. In his mid-thirties, with a good job at a college and a wife and two children, he got drunk, drove, and was involved in a multi-car crash in which several people were hurt and one person killed. He was convicted of murder, and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. He’s serving that time now.

Or the case of MR. She and her best friend decided to stop drinking together. They managed on their own for a few weeks, then MR suggested that they try AA. Her friend wasn’t interested because she believed it to be a religious organization. MR did go, and has maintained her sobriety. A secular meeting began in her area, and although she believed in God herself, she began attending to see if it might work for her friend. MR liked the meeting and continued to attend but was unable to convince her friend that it was possible for there to be an AA meeting without the God element. MR’s friend died of complications from alcoholic drinking, and MR has become an advocate for secular meetings.

Or the case of DW. DW has multiple issues including dual addiction, mental health and physical health problems. She knows that she can only hope to work through all of these problems if she is sober. For years, she has attended AA meetings, done service, worked the steps, and worked with sponsors, but has been unable to achieve lasting sobriety. Her sponsors have told her that if she didn’t come to believe in God she never will succeed in recovery. She heard the same message in meetings for years, along with the Lord’s Prayer. She had almost given up hope until she attended a secular meeting and heard that other people actually do get sober through AA without a belief in God. It’s a relief to her to attend meetings with no prayers and with no one telling her she is going to fail, and she is starting to feel hope again.

While it’s true that there are many statements in our literature that promote the use of a Higher Power (or God) of one’s understanding, there are many more references to the need for a supernatural God’s help. In Chapter Two of the AA big book it says, “The central fact of our lives today is the absolute certainty that our Creator has entered into our hearts and lives in a way that is indeed miraculous.” Also, “What seemed at first to be a flimsy reed, has proved to be the loving and powerful hand of God.” These sentiments, which run through our literature, make it difficult for a non-believer to trust that the words “Higher Power” are not just another way of saying God. This difficulty is much increased by the inclusion of prayers in AA meetings, especially the Lord’s Prayer, which comes straight from the Christian bible.

Every meeting is autonomous and decides on its own format. This isn’t something that should ever change. But the General Service Office of AAWS sets the tone for AA as a whole. If AA is truly trying to reach out to all alcoholics it needs to recognize and acknowledge the number of us for whom the barrier of religious belief is a true barrier, and not just one of “willfulness” on the part of those who don’t believe in God.

The 2020 International Convention of AA will be held July 2-5 in Detroit, Michigan and will be celebrating 85 years of AA history. The theme of the Convention: “Love and Tolerance is Our Code.”

It is time to practice this Code. Not just say it, but actually do it. After all, our primary purpose is to stay sober and to help other alcoholics achieve sobriety. We therefore strongly suggest that the International Convention, and all other meetings sponsored by AAWS and its General Service Office, reject the use of the Lord’s Prayer and use the Responsibility Declaration instead.

That would be something we could all truly believe in.

In Gratitude and Service,
Christopher S and Kim L

Chris S lives in the Sonoma Valley of Northern California. A life-long Roman Catholic, he renounced his faith while studying the Bible on his path to ordained ministry. While already sober since 1998 in traditional AA, Chris searched and found secular meetings in Forestville and Petaluma which spoke to his newfound rejection of gods. With the fervor of the newly de-converted, he co-founded Santa Rosa’s first secular meeting Without a Prayer in 2016 and became its first GSR. In his first GS Assembly his group endorsed and his Area CNCA overwhelmingly recommended the US/Canada AAWS to publish the UK’s pamphlet “God Word”. Chris’s long term goal, besides staying sober, is to discourage the recitation of the Christian Biblical Lord’s Prayer throughout AAWS and continue to carry AA’s life-saving message of inclusivity in recovery.

Kim L. is from Sonoma County in Northern California. She’s been sober for seven years and happily serves as the designated driver for her friends. A lifelong agnostic turned atheist, Kim feels passionately that AA must be welcoming and open to everyone.


48 Responses

  1. Crescentdave says:

    Thanks for the article and thanks for the link to contacting regional representatives. Here’s what I wrote:

    While I’m happy that the theme of this year’s international convention is “Love & Tolerance,” I wonder how much love AA as an organization is extending to Jews, Muslims, agnostics, atheists and others as it continues to insist upon reciting the explicitly Christian, explicitly theist, “The (Christian) Lord’s Prayer?”

    It’s really beyond belief to think that this prayer is absolutely necessary for this International Convention. It’s a conscious choice to appeal to your majority “base.” It’s also beyond doubt that this prayer is not welcoming and does not demonstrate “love” or tolerance for any group other than Christians. We who take such pride in paying attention to the minority opinion continue to steam roll over non-theist or non-Christian objections to the “Lord’s Prayer.” Why? Because … tradition. Because all these groups are in the minority. So much for our sensitivities towards the minority.

    Take a look at the demographics and belief systems of those in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. This explicitly Christian prayer simply does not include everyone. Non-belief and non-affiliation are on the rise and have been for quite some time. The Scientific American reports a study that takes into account people not wishing to assert such an unpopular position like atheism. That study found: “somewhere between 17 and 35 percent of Americans are atheists, with a “most credible indirect estimate” of 26 percent.” (

    That makes atheists the largest “belief” system in the U.S., closely followed by Evangelical Protestants. If you throw out this study, “unaffiliated” to ANY religion is the second most numerous group according to Pew surveys ( It is also the fastest growing group, even as religions, across the board, are losing members.

    What will you do to help move AA to becoming more inclusive? Our young people, across the world and especially in the U.S., Europe, Eastern Europe and Japan are far less religious and far less willing to say religion is an important part of their lives. (

    The elephant in “the rooms” is the under-representation of young people in A.A.

    The Lord’s Prayer is religious, specifically Christian religious. No amount of verbiage will change this simple fact.

    Do you let the majority in America (again, in AA, in Europe, for example, the Lord’s Prayer is simply not nearly as entrenched as in the U.S.) press their love of tradition over the very real concerns of those not similarly affiliated?

    I’d love to hear back from you why this is such an institutional “sticking point” for an organization that professes to be inclusive and non-religious. Our International Conventions should especially mindful of the minority view. What’s more important: satisfying the base or making sure all alcoholics feel welcome and supported?

    I’m not holding my breath, but I am interested in whatever reply might come back to me.


    • Alex M. says:

      Excellent comments Dave. I politely suggested to the GSO they put the topic of how to close their meetings on their next annual GSO agenda (haha) and have heard nothing back.

    • Chris S. says:

      Author Chris S here. Loved your addition to the conversation. From your lips to AAWS ears!

    • Roger says:

      I received the same message from the same person. Here is how I responded:

      I think it absolutely disgusting that you refuse to acknowledge that the Lord’s Prayer is a Christian Prayer and thus a religious prayer and should not be a part of any AA convention.

      Shame on you.

      I am not holding my breath at all because I am sure I will never hear from him again.

  2. Joy says:

    I got the exact same response from Julio.


  3. Alex M. says:

    I emailed the SRC at GSO & received the response below:

    Subject: Closing of 2020 International Convention
    Here is your copy of a message sent via an web form to the Southeast Regional Correspondent at G.S.O.
    Name: Alex
    Location: KY
    Subject: Closing of 2020 International Convention

    Myself & many of my AA members request that the closings of the International Conventions be made with the Responsibility Statement rather than the Lords Prayer. Using a Christian prayer to close the convention clearly violates Tradition Six because of the implied affiliation with the Christian church & faith. Please acknowledge that not all AA members are Christian, and using that prayer offends many of them.

    From: 2020IC
    To: ‘alex m’
    Sent: Tue, Oct 29, 2019 2:57 pm
    Subject: RE: Southeast Region: Closing of 2020 International Convention

    Dear Alex,
    Greetings from all of your friends at the General Service! Your recent email to the General Service Office came to me, as I am the coordinator for the International Convention in Detroit in 2020. My name is Julio, I am an alcoholic and I am glad for this opportunity to be in touch.

    Alex, in communities around the U.S. and Canada, and around the world, different customs have arisen about how to close meetings. In trying to provide the widest possible reflection of the A.A. Fellowship, past International Conventions have used a sampling of all closings.

    For several International Conventions the chairs of all 200+ meetings at the convention have been invited to close in the manner of their choice. Some close with the Lord’s Prayer, some close with the Serenity Prayer, some close with the Responsibility statement, while some close with a moment of silence. For the last four Conventions, one of the Big Meetings closed with the Lord’s Prayer, one closed with the Serenity Prayer and one closed with the Responsibility Statement.

    It may interest you to know that following each convention we always receive letters complaining about not closing with the Lord’s Prayer, and just as many letters for closing with the Lord’s Prayer.

    I will be sure to keep your thoughtful email on file for future reference. Once again, thank you for taking the time to write.

    We hope to see you in Detroit in 2020!
    In fellowship,
    Julio Espaillat
    2020 International Convention Coordinator
    (212) 870-2020

  4. Andrew says:

    Thanks for the article.

    The issue is similar to whether or not the United Sates is a ”Christian” nation or not. The “Lord’s Prayer” is an exclusivist prayer. The hp is the Christians deity and a powerful groupthink tool. Born and raised a Baptist (GARB) and active in various forms until I got sober, I was and am horrified at the complacency of so-called “spiritual” members in AA. Except for the rare New Ager expressions, the deity explicitly is the malodorous Yahweh of the OT. The so-called “spiritual” core of the BB is Christian tome through and through.

    For me, I stuck with traditional meetings because I was unaware that there were other “meetings” for Freethinkers like myself. Finding “secular” meetings was a red letter day! Even now, after or before a traditional meeting I get hassled for my atheism. Fortunately or no, I was trained in rhetoric and sophistry by the best and use that skill, not to defeat them but rather to get them to look closely at what they claim is true. Even so, ignorance is pervasive and the social impulse in humans is powerful. Happy today that sobriety does not need a deity to be realized, “This above all/to thine own self be true…”.

  5. Lisa M. says:

    I mentioned this to my sponsor who is an atheist but also 89 years old and in AA for 25 years so some history there. She said “everyone should just get over it and realize the Lord’s Prayer gives some people solace”. Well I was floored. I couldn’t get out the words “but what about the rest of us”.

    It is this complacency compounded and multiplied that made me stop going to all but my women’s meeting where we say the serenity prayer and where three people out of about 40 are people I talk to who are known atheists. Sigh.

    • Lisa M. says:

      Oh, PS – I really resonate with many other comments here, including those that say just do not attend if you don’t like it. It appears separate meetings, separate conventions is really the only way to deal with the divide – like the 90% believe in God commenter said, I am in the minority.

      Glad you all are here and I love reading the debate. Less stressful than in person. Hugs to all who go right into the fray personally!

  6. Bob K says:

    Thanks for this. It addresses my major pet peeve, or at least one of them ;-).

    The Lord’s Prayer in an AA meeting quite simply runs counter to AA’s policy of non-affiliation and non-alliance. It nullifies all the “We’re spiritual, not religious” talk, and makes Christian Protestantism our “official” religion. Folks trot out the “group conscience argument” to legitimize violating AA policies. Of course, if agnostic groups read something other that the official 12 Steps, group autonomy is not mentioned.

    There is one happy tale coming from Toronto. After battling Larry K. at the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Toronto Intergroup caved in. I expected lingering resentment, and surely there is some of that around. BUT, in 2017, 2018 and 2019, the chairpeople were given options to close the meetings. The Lord’s Prayer was not on the list of options. By the third year, most seemed quite used to an LP-free Ontario Regional Conference.

    • Dean W says:

      It’s one of my pet peeves too, Bob, and a main reason I seldom attend traditional AA meetings anymore. As for the “spiritual not religious” refrain, I used to buy it but I now see it as semantic BS. As a fellowship, AA needs to decide if it is going to remain a religious organization or move on to a more open framework.

  7. Dick S. says:

    If it floats their boat let them pray. I simply stand and walk away from the group as the others say their prayer.

    Worry about staying sober, not who wants to hold hands and say a prayer.

    • Bob K says:

      I worry about a lot of things. Our outreach to younger people is one of my concerns, and the Lord’s Prayer doesn’t contribute to that.

  8. David W says:

    This past Saturday I had the opportunity to attend the Area 83 Assembly in Kingston Ontario and came away very gratified and uplifted over the candid passionate words of many fellow members expressing the need for AA to continue to work towards a fellowship of inclusion and tolerance for diversity. Unfortunately bigotry and intolerance rears it’s ugly head in meetings. Several expressed valid criticisms of the narrowness of AA. Perhaps the most heart breaking story was related by an individual who stood up and told of an implied homophobic death threat because he had the nerve to wear a rainbow tee shirt to a meeting in Peterborough.

    I’m deeply offended by the intent to recite the lord’s prayer at the conference. A challenge many recovering addicts have is to heal from the damage that misuse of religion has done to them. We’re supposed to be creating an environment in our gatherings of support and healing rather than the tyranny of insisting everyone be on the page regarding their beliefs and path to sobriety. Sorry folks but a one size fits everyone approach to recovery doesn’t exist. It’s sad and pathetic so many AA traditionalists don’t understand that.

  9. Steve V. says:

    I was a long term member of traditional AA and CA and am now a member of Secular AA. I too don’t believe the Lord’s Prayer has any place in any 12 Step meetings, however I recognize I’m in a small minority.

    About 90% of people in our world believe in a God and an interventionist God (primarily through Socialization and Classical Conditioning) and a small numbers of us don’t and that’s our reality. Most AA people are used to the Lord’s prayer and see nothing wrong with it. I have debated with those types and most of them will not change their viewpoint no matter how rational and logical the arguements are. I accept that.

    All groups are autonomous and choose to have the Lord’s Prayer or not. The 2 Secular meetings I attend do not and I prefer that. As for having the Lord’s Prayer at a Convention, again I don’t believe it belongs there but I doubt the minority of us will convince the majority to leave it out. Others can debate with these folks if they want – I won’t because I believe it’s pointless. If I were to go to any convention or meeting with the Lord’s Prayer I just won’t participate.

  10. Linda K. says:

    If we have to say the Lord’s Prayer, what about all the other religions of the world who have a prayer, and have folks that go to AA, shouldn’t we be saying all the prayers for all the religions! I would just as soon not use the words Lord, God, etc… I’m pagan, not christian, however I still have some Christian values, can we say a pagan prayer instead… Dear Gaia we love you or something… lol

  11. Mike says:

    I still find it sad that the old timers who rule the meetings will not even accept the fact that change is needed to help people. Are they so arrogant that they will sacrifice lives so THEY can have it their way? Change will not happen in FORT ERIE ONT: the groups are so close minded. AA groups need to be watched or they will run amuck… as they have in this town. This town has a huge booze and drug problem and the groups will not help. The blood is on their hands…

  12. Dan H. says:

    Here’s what I sent to GSO:

    As a long-time member of the fellowship, I’m putting in my 2 cents’ worth on the issue of the Lord’s Prayer. Please note the date for the next convention: 2020. We are well into the 21st Century. The Lord’s Prayer – a perfectly fine expression of faith in the proper context – is exclusive and offputting to many people. To dismiss them as not having been “beaten into a state of reasonableness” or as harboring “contempt prior to investigation” is arrogant and dangerous.

    Please consider using the Serenity Prayer, or – better – the Responsibility Statement.

    Thank You
    Dan H., Oceanside, CA

  13. Glenna R. says:

    A few days ago a friend who could probably qualify, but doesn’t attend Adult Children of Alcoholics, mailed me this quotation from Angela Davis: “I no longer accept the things I cannot change; I change the things I cannot accept”.

    I’m happy to be a part of this website and to share in the work of others who try to change what they cannot accept. Thank you.

    • Rob T says:

      No kidding. I qualify for adult children of alcoholics, but I wouldn’t go to an ACA meeting under any circumstances. Thanks for the Angela Davis quote.

  14. John L. says:

    It seems that my suggestion was too radical – that secularists at the convention chant while others are reciting the “Lord’s Prayer”. But reciting the LP at AA meetings is and was always WRONG — in violation of AA principles. I protested against this practice 43 years ago, and AA Agnostica published it:

    A Proposal to Eliminate the Lord’s Prayer from AA Meetings

    Reciting the LP is offensive to non-Christians. Reciting the Responsibility Statement should not offend anyone.

  15. Jeanine says:

    I agree with you. Is there somewhere we can write or email to AA to express our opinion?

  16. Herb Y. says:

    I have stopped attending meetings which are disrespectful, at their core, to non-theists. There are many more ways to be dismissive of non believers than simply closing meetings with the Lord’s Prayer. Being disrespectful of others was a trait I carried into recovery, and it has taken many years and a great deal of effort to shift my focus from being selfish, self seeking, dishonest and in fear. Although, as a group, we may achieve success in bringing awareness to the greater fellowship about why we bristle at the use of the Lord’s Prayer, that is just the outer manifestation (or the tip of the iceberg) of a much larger problem. Respect. I have shifted my home group to secular, yet I still attend a nooner as much as 3X per week. I have become the secular place holder. We close with the Responsibility Declaration and I do my best, when I am not totally aggravated by the god banter, to share my experience strength and hope from a secular perspective. MOST of the consistent attendees have become quite respectful, but of course there remain a few bible and big book thumpimg hardliners.

    My point is that the shift needs to take place at the meeting level by 1st acknowledging our own shortcomings and attitudes about religion and discrimination (of all types) and then sharing ourselves honestly. This work is not for the feint of heart… but necessary. Once there is a shift in attitude and respect for secularists, it will become easier to get more traction on the Lord’s Prayer issue.

    I like the suggestion of one of the respondents to break the circle and drop hands.

  17. Gord A says:

    I’ve just now sent GSO this message. I hope they hear us.

  18. Bill G. says:

    I hoping to break the circle at the convention. I do in my home group in Michigan. The herd is powerful. Standing for your convictions can be uncomfortable for many people. Clean and Sober 40 plus years and Religion free .

  19. Joy R. says:

    Everyone who reads this and agrees, PLEASE go to, scroll all the way to the bottom where it says CONTACT US.

    Send your comments along with the URL:

    Telling each other is OK but goes nowhere. Let GSO know that the use of the Lord’s Prayer anywhere in AA offends you.

    Thanks for the great article.

    • CathyM says:

      Joy – I love the call to action – you are totally right…
      I followed those steps and went in circles after Contact Us: any suggestions? The options didn’t seem direct – no “contact us” for the International Conference itself & even the link for the GSO office for general replies went nowhere… Is it just me or ????‍♀️

      [just saying’ I know you aren’t responsible for Internet links being updated….]

      • Joy says:

        Under Contact Us, I scrolled around & found a General Correspondence. It was a challenge, for sure. I kept clicking on Click Here links until one of them opened up an email format much like this one. Good luck & persevere!

  20. Steve says:

    I’m Steve, an alkie from England, I am also a non believer in God’s of the religious type.

    To me the god is Group of Drunks & Druggies. In England, We use the Serenity Prayer at the end of the meetings (I just start it off with “Grant Me”).

  21. Brendan says:

    “AA is not allied with any sect, denomination…” and yet the LP is still recited at the end of meetings in various parts of the world. The circle of love along with unity, service and recovery is heavily undermined when we say we are one thing and practise another. The use of the LP is denying all of us and those to come the idea that AA is strictly non denominational.

  22. George says:

    I like “think, think, don’t drink”.

  23. Teresa J. says:

    Being a long time member of AA & a GSR District01, Monterey CA…CNCA06…”we” know the process…bring a motion forth to be considered. Yes, it takes time and it can happen much quicker when action is taken. Our 2 “mostly agnostic, freethinker” meetings in Monterey and many other meetings will support a motion to change from Lord’s Prayer to Responsibly Statement at International Conventions.

    My attendance at International Convention 2010 was a great loving and learning experience AND when the many of approximately 60,000 people were saying the Lords Prayer I became sick to my stomach, feeling like I was at a religious revival. I was able to pause & breathe & consider the flags of the opening ceremony from all over the world & knew I was not alone. Truth be told… one reason I did not go to Atlanta and am not going to Detroit is that sick feeling. I hope to be in Bethesda MD in 2020 for secular the AA convention.

    I hope someone will bring forth a motion, it could be me… may have to consider this. Teresa J

    • Christopher S. says:

      Thanks Teresa. Kim and I are working on a motion for a new “Inclusivity” pamphlet and an edit to the “AA Group” pamphlet. At the urging of a sympathetic Trustee, we submitted this article to the Trustee’s Committee who is in charge of setting the International Convention’s agenda. Cross your fingers!

  24. Alex M. says:

    Good luck with the GSO Kim, and thanks for your article.

    After they closed the AA International in Atlanta with the Lord’s Prayer I was stunned, and both wrote and emailed New York with my objections and suggestion of the use of the Responsibility Statement. I never received a response. I then called the NYC office and was rudely brushed off with my suggestion, despite pointing out that the International was attended by AA members of many different religions and those with no religion. The GSO simply doesn’t care, despite a Grapevine poll that suggests otherwise: “Which is your preferred ending to a meeting?”


    Years ago I made a motion to close our local Intergroup monthly meetings with the Responsibility Statement rather than the Lord’s Prayer. Only 15 of 90 attendees voted to do so and the motion was soundly defeated. I’ve also suggested my home group stop using the Lord’s Prayer at closing and got nowhere.

    After 13 years in the Fellowship I’ve learned AA remains all about God & always will. I’ve never seen any love or tolerance from the members for any other opinion or suggestion.

    • Teresa says:

      GSO is not home of our leaders. Individual members and groups active in General Service are the ones who lead the way for changes. More secular members are becoming involved in that service which can lead to change such as was mentioned publication of “God Word” pamphlet.

      Also Grapevine issue re: Agnostic, Atheists in AA, recent LaVina issue…Sober without God…”Under One Tent”. I believe the surge of desire for AA to maintain unity w/diversity can rise to the needs. We simply have to be willing to embrace the process which is sometimes painfully slow. Let’s not give up and continue to be responsible as we share our thoughts. Much gratitude to all involved in the secular websites, publications and efforts, sometimes struggles to get more secular meetings going across the country and the world. Teresa J

      • Alex M. says:

        None of us should give up trying to bring a more secular attitude and practice into AA, but the problem in my large AA community which has about 70 different AA meetings daily is the members use “conference approved” or “GSO recommended” as reasons to avoid change. Individual members and their group conscious always look to the GSO for guidance.

  25. John L. says:

    The LP certainly should have no place in the convention. The time has come to protest. If the convention organizers persist in having the LP recited, then secularists (if enough of them) should chant something like THINK! THINK! DON’T DRINK! THINK! THINK! DON’T DRINK! ….

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