A.A.’s Christian Predecessors

A.A.’s Christian Predecessors

Excerpted from:

A Guidebook to
“Bill W., Dr. Bob, and the Cure of Alcoholism: The Rest of the Story”

A Video Class by Dick B. and Ken B.
© 2015 Anonymous. All rights reserved

The Vermont of Dr. Bob and Bill W.’s Youth

T. D. Seymour Bassett’s book, The Gods of the Hills, is a scholarly, comprehensive study and report on Vermont Congregationalism as it existed when A.A. cofounders Bill W. and Dr. Bob were growing up in the Green Mountain State. We just acquired another important Vermont history resource: Michael Sherman, Gene Sessions, and P. Jeffrey Potash, Freedom and Unity: A History of Vermont (Barre: VT: Vermont Historical Society, 2004). And two more that are relevant to the Vermont picture. Of particular interest in the Freedom and Unity title are the materials on the origins, the state constitution, the Revolution, the admission to the union, and the strong foundation in religious orthodoxy redirected to bolster religious revival and personal reform with the framework of Congregationalism (pp. 73-143); the religious trends of Federalist and Calvinist Congregationalism; the non-Calvinist sects; the evangelical awakenings; the latter Congregationalist doctrine of election; the legislation enabling Towns and Parishes to tax residents to enable the erection of Houses for public Worship, and support of Ministers of the Gospel; the Standing Order abolition that made Vermont the first New England government to cut the tie of church and state; “popular evangelism,” revivals; temperance, and prohibition (pp. 145-211).

The principal historical points that the scholar T. D. Seymour Bassett covered were:

• The study of Congregationalism in Vermont [pp. 193-215].
• Camp meetings and revivals [p. 241].
• The Bible and church emphasis [pp. 153, 266].
• Emphasis on youth [p. 192].
• At the level of religious education, churches indoctrinated adults in catechism,
• Confirmation, and Sunday or study groups. Sunday schools thrived [p. 210].
• Domestic missions [p. 209].
• The Young Men’s Christian Association [pp. 163, 232-39].
• The pluralism which encompassed the work of the Salvation Army [pp. 215, 231-32].
• The immense impact of the work of evangelists Dwight L. Moody and Ira Sankey [p. 193]. , , ,
• The Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor [pp. 215, 240-42].
• Bassett also observes: “Vermont’s early nineteenth century revivalists shaped religion until the 1840’s. Although the technique became habitual in the camp meetings and urban revivals down through Billy Sunday and Billy Graham. . . .

In the unexpected trauma of the Civil War experience, comrades and chaplains tried to meet human needs regardless of religious persuasion. . . .

Revivalists in Vermont continued to recruit many converts to carry the gospel across the world, and in the state they worked against liquor and slavery, but focused on new, political means” [p. 141].

“[During the Moody and Sankey Vermont campaign in October 1877,] . . . inquirers and converts asked what to do after the excitement of Moody’s meetings. He told them: ‘Join a church; take communion; attend church meetings; repeat Bible verses; help others resist temptation; join the YMCA. . . .’ [H]ome visitors supplied Bibles, urged householders to go to church and Sunday school, and found some attending the YMCA who did not go to church” [p. 195].

Christian Recovery before A.A.

Congregationalism and Vermont

• The first church established in Vermont was a Congregational church. The First Congregational Church of Bennington, Vermont—also known as “the Old First Church”—was “gathered” on December 3, 1762. It was also the first Protestant congregation in the New Hampshire Grants. The current meeting house was built in 1805. [Bicentennial Discourse and Sermon, on August 13, 2006]. The church is located on Monument Avenue in Bennington, Vermont. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

• As illustrated with frequency in our new video series and accompanying guidebook here, the families (grandparents and parents) of both Bill W. and Dr. Bob were much involved with Congregational Churches. So were Bill and Bob themselves. Dr. Bob and his family attended the North Congregational Church of St. Johnsbury, Vermont. As Bob stated in A.A.’s Big Book, the Smiths frequently attended five times a week. And the Griffith and Wilson families were intimately involved in the Congregational church located next door to the houses of each family. All three buildings as restored are still present in East Dorset, Vermont—the Griffith Library on one side; the East Dorset Congregational Church in the middle; and the Wilson House on the other side.

• St. Johnsbury Academy, where Dr. Bob matriculated, was dominated by Congregationalists. The Fairbanks family, consisting of Thaddeus Fairbanks, Deacon Erastus Fairbanks, and Joseph Fairbanks were very wealthy, businessmen, state-wide Congregational leaders, much involved in North Congregational Church, much connected with the YMCA, and officiated at the Academy. The Congregational influence in the little St. Johnsbury village spilled over into the academy requirement that a Congregational Church be attended once a week. Daily chapel was required of St. Johnsbury Academy “scholars” (i.e., students)—with sermons, hymns, reading of Scripture, and prayers.

• Bill Wilson’s families (the Wilsons and the Griffiths) had homes immediately adjacent to East Dorset Congregational Church in East Dorset where Bill was born and raised. Bill’s parents Gilman Barrows Wilson and Emily Ella Griffith were married in that church and lived for a time in its parsonage. Both families regularly attended that church. The Wilsons owned Pew 15 in the church. Bill attended the Sunday school. And there are specific biographical records of Bill’s mention of and attendance at revivals, sermons, temperance, and conversion meetings.

• A reference in Stepping Stones materials: “Books_at_Stepping_Stones.pdf” makes it quite apparent that Bill Wilson was awarded a New Testament (with a copyright date of 1901—was it an American Standard Version of 1901?)]: That New Testament was inscribed: “Will Wilson, for perfect attendance at Sunday School, Fourth Quarter 1906 from his pastor D. Miner Rogers East Dorset Vt. Jan 1, 1907 II Tim.3/14.15.”

• As documented elsewhere: When he was enrolled in the Congregationalist dominated Burr and Burton Seminary, Bill Wilson took a four year Bible study course there; attended daily chapel with sermons, hymns, prayers, and reading of Scripture. The Castle in the Pasture book contains excellent photos of the officials, the Seminary Building with bell tower, the North Chapel in the 1890’s, the original First Congregational Church in Manchester Village, many YMCA and athletic activities, and two pages on Bill Wilson and his lady love, Bertha Bamford. And students frequently marched down to the First Congregational Church from the Seminary for services (page 67).

• The prominent St. Johnsbury leader Henry Fairbanks presented a paper before the annual Congregational state convention in 1895, titled “The Influence of Congregationalism upon Vermont.” And Fairbanks wrote:

o The Congregational way was primitive Christianity revived after centuries of departure from the congregational principles of St. Stephen and the Jerusalem elders.

The Young Men’s Christian Association.

• George Williams, a draper, founded the Young Men’s Christian Association in London on June 6, 1844. The first YMCA in the United States was founded in Boston, Massachusetts, on December 29, 1851.

• Beginning in 1871, YMCA lay brethren—with the YMCA’s non-denominational approach—conducted canvasses to bring the Gospel to non-Christians and “awakening” to Christians in the New England area.

• Young Men’s Christian Association laymen were largely responsible for organizing what became “The Great Awakening” of 1875 in St. Johnsbury. It was a widely-reported event which completely transformed the community of St. Johnsbury, resulted in construction of many churches, and produced conversion of a large portion of the population to God through His Son Jesus Christ.

The Great Evangelists

History records many well-known evangelists who held campaigns in Vermont—as well as in America and abroad—around the time Bill W. and Dr. Bob were growing up there. (It also records Christian evangelists who put on large public meetings after Bill had returned to New York following his service in the Army in World War I, and/or who had put on meetings in Akron after Dr. Bob had moved there to work as a medical doctor.) Moreover, many espoused the integrity of the Bible and the necessity for salvation; and they did this through “personal work;” revivals; books; and huge, widely reported meetings for half a century. Their efforts brought people to God through His Son Jesus Christ; and they often focused on healing even drunkards. For example, the following reported the healing of drunkards and addicts.

• Evangelist Allen Folger.
• Billy Sunday.
• Dwight Moody and A.J. Gordon.
• James Hickson and Evangelist Ethel Willitts. A.A. cofounder Dr. Bob owned a book on healing by each of these two authors.
• F. B. Meyer.

These protracted, effective efforts were the subject of extensive, scholarly, studious lectures at delivered at Yale in 1945, in which Bill Wilson himself was a participant.

Today, a disparate and thankfully-small crowd of writers and academics have opposed the idea of recovery from and cure of alcoholism and addiction in the faith-centered arena—whether that arena rests on:

• The power, promises, or instructions of God;
• The “Great Physician;”
• The Bible;
• “Divine healing” or “divine aid” (terms Bill Wilson and/or the Big Book used);
• Alcoholics Anonymous;
• “Conservative” Christians still talking about both Jesus Christ and the Bible, and about the cure and overcoming of booze, in the same breath; and
• Disputing that 12 Step programs could possibly have or admit, or be in the same rooms with Christians who “were” sinners and yet continued in walking after the flesh.

There is no need here to name these disruptive people and viewpoints. You can find them easily tooting their horns on the internet and in frequent articles. But it’s beneficial to Christians, believers, and active AAs to recognize the red flags of warning about the methods and verbiage of their messages of disruption and unbelief in the power of God to heal. And their banners seem often to be somehow sanctified by their claims as advocates or practitioners of: (1) “liberal” Protestantism; (2) “Modernists;” (3) a limited Roman Catholic distaste, even today, among several of those who dodge the fire by calling themselves of the Catholic “tradition” and therefore opposed to A First Century Christian Fellowship, of “Christians;” (4) “defenders” against “heretical” or hell-bound AAs; or (5) just plain humanists, agnostic, or atheists traveling on the broad highway while trying to reframe recovery today as secular, “scientific,” and “spiritual, but not religious.”

But the early A.A. Christians—and those today who (in the words of Billy Sunday, follow Paul’s promise in Romans 10:9-10, that those shall be saved confessing with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and believing in their heart that God raised Jesus from the dead)—saw a different picture of First Century Christianity at work in the century from 1850 to 1950. One example of what these believers saw was that of the Rev. Joseph H. Odell, D.D., formerly pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church of Scranton, who reversed his position and said this of Billy Sunday’s huge successes:

“Produced results!” Everyone understood the phrase. . . . As the result of the “Billy” Sunday campaigns—anywhere and everywhere—drunkards became sober, thieves became honest, multitudes of people engaged themselves in the study of the Bible, thousands confessed their faith in Jesus Christ as the Saviour of the world. . . .

Those who voiced additional compelling lectures about religious success in overcoming alcoholism were the voices of Rev. Francis W. McPeek, pp. 277-85; Rev. Roland H. Bainton, pp. 287-98; Edward G. Baird, p. 219; Dwight Anderson, pp. 362-72; Rev. Francis W. McPeek, “The Role of Religious Bodies in the Treatment of Inebriety in the United States,” pp. 404-14; Rev. Otis R. Rice, “Pastoral Counseling of Inebriates,” pp. 437-69; W.W. [Bill Wilson], “The Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous,” pp. 461-73. Thus Rev. McPeek stated in his lecture on religious bodies:

This has been a brief and highly selective survey of a century’s efforts among religious people to bring the healing power of God into the lives of those who suffer from inebriety. Certain things may be held as conclusive. Towering above them all is this indisputable fact: It is faith in the living God which has accounted for more recoveries from the disease than all other therapeutic agencies put together. . . . Highbrows and bums, rich men and poor, judges and carpenters, prisoners and clergymen—they have all . . .

Henry Moorhouse and Ira Sankey conducted a week-long campaign in St. Johnsbury at the end of October 1877, just before Dr. Bob was born on August 8, 1879. Many of the other well-known evangelists were not only linked together in friendship, but also in a chain of evangelism and revival involving the rescue missions, the Young Men’s Christian Association, and other evangelists including Moody, Sankey, Clark, Williams, Booth, Folger, Sunday, Willitts, Meyer, Drummond, and others..

Roger Bruns pointed out in his book, Preacher:

From the earliest days of American Protestantism, revivalists held fast to the belief that the universe was neatly divided between God and Satan, the elect and the damned, the pure and the despoiled.

From Jonathan Edwards to Charles Finney to Lyman Beecher to Dwight Moody, Bible-clutching evangelists preached the complete authority of the Scriptures, the necessity of personal conversion, and a life free of vice.

Personal and evangelical Protestantism taught a close relationship between men and women and their God, challenging the sinner to renounce the ways of the devil and to repent.

Personal salvation and moral responsibility—these were the demands on the faithful.

Elmer Towns and Douglas Porter wrote in The Ten Greatest Revivals Ever:

The Layman’s Prayer revival which began in 1857 deeply influenced America. . . . Across the ocean, the 1859 awakening in Britain raised a host of evangelists, missionaries, and social reformers. . . .

Existing mission, Bible, Sunday school, and tract societies in both Britain and America flourished, with new workers revived or converted during the awakening.

New societies were formed to promote home missions, establishing Sunday schools and churches throughout both nations. The YMCA, the Salvation Army, the China Inland Mission, the Christian Brethren, and the Christian and Missionary Alliance were just a few of the many ministries and denominations born early in this awakening.

William T. Ellis’s book on Billy Sunday stated:

Professor William James, the philosopher, contended that there was “scientific value to the stories of Christian conversions; that these properly belonged among the data of religion, to be weighed by the man of science.”

Valued and needing to be weighed, said Professor William James. This while a few recovery revisionists jest about the “cure” of alcoholism, faith-centered treatment, and the role of God, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Bible in recovery. And those few today might do well to take note of the respect shown of Professor James of Harvard long before there was an A.A. and well after the many Christian organizations and evangelists had helped thousands and thousands of drunks recover. Even today, a few history buffs appear to laugh away the moribund significance of what they derisively call those “golden days,” (as they like to characterize them) , and then simply shove all the forgoing records aside as the investigative efforts of amateurs, hobbyists, naive zealots bent on “Christianizing” an A.A. that is hardly headed toward Christian dogma, creeds, or rituals today.

Then there is the dramatic account of the Healing Movement:

[A. J.] Gordon began including healing in his ministry after he observed an opium addict delivered and a missionary’s cancerous jaw healed instantaneously through the prayers of concerned believers during Dwight L. Moody’s revival meetings in Boston in 1877.

These meetings revitalized the life of Clarendon Church, which Gordon pastored, and brought reformed drunkards and all kinds of commoners into the ranks of this affluent church.

Once again, a few secularly-oriented writers today fail to mention or evaluate the recovery efforts and successes of specific people and entities such as Jerry McAuley, the Water Street Mission, S. H. Hadley, Calvary Mission in New York (operated by Rev. Sam Shoemaker’s Calvary Church), and testimonies by healers such as A. J. Gordon, Ethel Willitts, and James Moore Hickson—who gained wide notice for healing drunkards, just as did organizations like the Salvation Army and the Young Men’s Christian Association. These are discussed at some length in our title, Dr. Bob of Alcoholics Anonymous ; by the Yale Summer School of Alcohol Studies; and by the noted religious scholar and writer Dr. Howard Clinebell. See also the many footnotes of the Guidebook that accompanies these videos in the “Bill W., Dr. Bob, and the Cure of Alcoholism: The Rest of the Story” class by Dick B. and Ken B.

Though the numbers of such evangelists are many, the following deserve special attention with reference to the First Century Christian origins of the Christian Recovery Movement and the influence on A.A.’s founders:

• Charles Grandison Finney.
• F. B. Meyer.
• Dwight L. Moody.
• Ira Sankey.
• Henry Drummond.
• Henry Moorhouse.
• K. A. Burnell and Henry M. Moore.
• Allen Folger.
• Billy Sunday.

As we are documenting in our videos, some of the evangelists mentioned above actually held campaigns in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, where Dr. Bob was born and raised.

The “Great Awakening” of 1875 in St. Johnsbury, Vermont

This event caught the attention of pastors, churches, denominations, organizations, newspapers, and writers. The transformation of communities—particularly St. Johnsbury—involved the conversion of one-third of the population, the erection of new churches, and a change in the attitude of citizens.

The accounts are so lengthy and numerous that we leave the important description of them to the pages of Dick B. and Ken B., Dr. Bob of Alcoholics Anonymous: His Excellent Training in the Good Book as a Youngster in Vermont.

The Gospel Rescue Missions

Jerry McAuley. Jerry McAuley founded the first rescue mission in the United States in 1872. He was known in his days as the “Apostle to the Outcast.”

McAuley’s rescue mission was originally known as “Helping Hand for Men,” and later became known as known as “The (Old McAuley) Water Street Mission.”

A great Bible teacher, Dr. Arthur T. Pierson once said: “If you would like to feel as if you were reading a new chapter of the Acts of the Apostles it would be well for you to visit the old Jerry McAuley Water Street Mission.” Jerry carried on his work for ten years at Number 316 Water Street. He finally concluded that this was a worked-out mine, and located a mission at No. 104 West Thirty-Second Street known as the Cremorne Mission. Jerry secured the lease and started the Cremorne Mission at that spot on January 8, 1882.

McAuley—and his successor superintendent at the mission, Samuel Hopkins Hadley (also known as “S. H. Hadley”)—focused (in colloquial language) on “soup, soap, and salvation.” J. Wilbur Chapman, Hadley’s biographer, wrote: “If you will multiply many times this story of the genuine conversion of a poor lost man, you will have the life story of S.H. Hadley, the man who during his Christian life possibly led more drunkards to Christ than any other man of his generation,” p. 24. Chapman said of S.H. Hadley’s brother Colonel H.H. Hadley that the Colonel “has the distinction of having founded more rescue missions than any other man in the world,” p. 43. Chapman concluded the S.H. Hadley biography by saying: “In the years of service in Water Street not less than seventy-five thousand persons have announced their intentions to live better lives. Not all of these have stood firm in the new faith, of course, but it is safe to say that the percentage has been as large as, if not larger than, would be the case following an ordinary revival.,” p. 288.

The Hadley biography also shows the close ties of S. H. Hadley to the Evangelists F. B. Meyer and Dwight Moody; the ties of one of his sailor drunks to the founding of six Christian Endeavor groups, and Hadley’s favorite as 1 Corinthians 13.

At the time of the “great compromise” in A.A. just before its Big Book was published in April 1939, Bill W.’s use of unmodified word God in the original draft of Steps Two, Three, and Eleven was changed. The unappointed “committee of four” (i.e., Bill W., Bill’s business partner and “sponsee” Henry P., Fitz M., and secretary Ruth Hock):

• In Step Two, removed the original word God and replaced it with the phrase “a Power greater than ourselves.”
• In Step Three, added the modifying phrase “as we understood Him” following the originally-unmodified word God.
• In Step Three, added the modifying phrase “as we understood Him” following the originally-unmodified word God.

Bill W. said the compromise was to open a “broad highway” and was “the great contribution” of the atheists and agnostics. But Bill also said that his “committee of four” compromisers had declined to include what A.A. had learned from the churches and the missions.

But the following quote is from the S. H. Hadley biography, on page 172-73. It provides, a good idea of what Bill—himself a mission convert–learned at the very Calvary Mission which was actually an outgrowth of New York’s famous Water Street Mission, founded in the last century by Jerry McAuley. First, however, note that A.A. author and historian Mel B. wrote the following about the relationship of the McAuley mission work and Sam Shoemaker’s Calvary Mission. Mel stated:

McAuley was succeeded at the Water Street Mission by S. H. Hadley. His example of recovery from alcoholism was cited in William James’s The Varieties of Religious Experience (a seminal book that profoundly influenced Bill Wilson).

Hadley’s son Harry, who also had a religious conversion experience, was seeking an opportunity to start a rescue mission when he met Sam Shoemaker. The result of their collaboration was Calvary Mission, which helped thousands of men, including Ebby Thacher.

Here are the Hadley biography remarks about S. H Hadley, his mission, and the Calvary Mission approach and activities that Bill was talking about:

The secret of Mr. Hadley’s wonderful success . . . can be summed up in the fact that his religion was not a creed, not a catechism, not a summary of Christian doctrines, not an observance of church duties, but a firm realization of Christ as a person, with whom he had conscious communion, and from he had received blessings as clearly as from the hand of a friend. Yet there was not the slightest tinge of fanaticism in his religious life . . .

But instead of being elated by his success, of affected by popularity he attained, he became increasingly humble, and his utter dependence upon God was daily more manifest.

And this spirit he sought with all earnestness to impress upon the Mission converts. Their help, their only help, he insisted, was God. Anything else would fail them. They must pray. They must read their Bibles. They must maintain constant communion with Jesus. They must be deeply religious. They must rest with absolute faith on the promises of God. If they trusted in God, their old appetites, lusts, desires, temptations, no matter how powerful in the old life, would no longer have dominion over them. [These biblical ideas can be found used almost verbatim in A.A. literature by Bill W., Dr. Bob, and Bill D.]

In this way he [Hadley] made religion a real thing. He had no place for theories in his Mission. God, heaven, hell, sin, Christ, salvation, the power of prayer, the indwelling of the Holy spirit, grace for even the most abandoned and degraded, were tremendous verities with him, and he made them the essentials of his ministry.

S. H. Hadley’s son, Henry Harrison Hadley II (also known as “Harry Hadley”)–named after S. H. Hadley’s brother, Colonel Henry Harrison Hadley–collaborated with Rev. Sam Shoemaker in opening the Calvary Mission on 23rd Street in Manhattan in 1926 and became its first superintendent. That whole Hadley—Mission—Calvary Mission—Wilson link is covered extensively in Dick B., The Conversion of Bill W., 80-107. You can learn the facts from the lips and writings of Sam Shoemaker, L. Parks Shipley, Sr., Mrs. Samuel Shoemaker, Shoemaker’s assistant ministers John Potter Cuyler and W. Irving Harris, Calvary Mission brother Billy Duval, Mel B., William James, Bill Wilson, Lois Wilson, Bill Pittman, and Fitz M.

Taylor (“Tex”) Francisco—who took over as superintendent of Calvary Mission in 1933—was the superintendent of the Calvary Mission when Bill W.’s “sponsor,” Ebby Thacher, made his personal surrender—accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior—there November 1, 1934.

Tex was still the superintendent when Bill W. accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior there about December 7, 1934, just before Bill entered Towns Hospital for his fourth and final visit on December 11, 1934.

Records in such descriptive books as J. Wilbur Chapman, S.H. Hadley of Water Street, tell of the tens of thousands of down-and-outers that went through Water Street Mission and were helped, if not healed.

Records of Calvary Mission, where both Ebby Thacher and Bill Wilson accepted Christ, also report on the thousands helped in that endeavor at Calvary Mission which was owned by Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker’s Calvary Episcopal Church in New York.

The Salvation Army

“General” William Booth founded an organization in July 1865 in England— an early name for which was “The Christian Mission”—that became known as “The Salvation Army” in 1878. Booth sent an official group to the United States in 1880 to pioneer work for the organization.

The Salvation Army’s work with drunkards, derelicts, and criminals in the slums became popularized in Harold Begbie’s Twice-Born Men—a book owned, circulated, and widely-read by Oxford Group people and by the Akron AAs.

The effectiveness and techniques of the Salvation Army are well discussed by Dr. Howard Clinebell of the Claremont School of Theology. Also in one of the lectures given at the Yale Alcohol Studies in 1945—an event in which Bill Wilson was one of the participating lecturers.

The Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor

The Rev. Dr. Francis E. Clark founded this society at the Williston Congregational Church in Portland, Maine, on February 2, 1881. During its National Convention convened July 9 and 10, 1885, at Ocean Park, Maine, the society was incorporated under the laws of Maine as “the United Society of Christian Endeavor.”

At that convention, Mr. Van Patten of Burlington, Vermont, was chosen President. This Christian society, aimed at young people in the church, spread throughout the world and reached a peak membership of around 4.5 million members.

A Christian Endeavor Society started in North Congregational Church, St. Johnsbury, in 1887 (when Dr. Bob was about eight years old), and Dr. Bob said he was actively involved in it “from childhood through high school.”

Christian Endeavor’s ideas and regimen produced a thoroughly observed, reported, organized, and followed program of:

• Confession of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior;
• Conversion meetings;
• Bible study meetings;
• Prayer meetings;
• Quiet Hour;
• Topical discussions; and
• Reading of Christian literature

The Christian Endeavor program closely paralleled the original Akron A.A. program founded by Bill W. and Dr. Bob in 1935.

“A First Century Christian Fellowship” (also known later as the “Oxford Group”)

Let us also look at “A First Century Christian Fellowship” and aspects of its influence on early A.A. Dr. Frank N. D. Buchman, a Lutheran minister, and a couple of associates founded the organization in the autumn of 1922. In September 1928, the press in South Africa affixed the label “the Oxford Group” to a group of Oxford University students involved with “A First Century Christian Fellowship” who were traveling by train in South Africa, and the name stuck.

In the Oxford Group’s earliest days, Group leader Sherwood Sunderland Day wrote a little pamphlet succinctly summarizing the principles of the Oxford Group. Day wrote at the beginning of his pamphlet that the principles of the Oxford Group were the principles of the Bible.

And if you read my [Dick B.’s] comprehensive book, The Oxford Group and Alcoholics Anonymous, you will see two major points:

1. The Oxford Group’s 28 principles that impacted on A.A., and the specific language used in hundreds of Oxford Group writings [some 500 that Dick B. acquired, studied, and reported], each rested on the Oxford Group biblical principles that Bill W. later incorporated into the Big Book.

2. Oxford Group writer after Oxford Group writer—many of whose books were read by early AAs—quoted the Bible in support of those 28 principles that later impacted on Bill’s language and approach to the Big Book.

It was Bill Wilson himself who said: “I am always glad to say privately that some of the Oxford Group presentation and emphasis upon the Christian message saved my life.”

Bill W.’s wife, Lois, was even clearer on what the Oxford Group and its First Century Christianity had done for A.A. and for her Bill. Lois wrote:

Alcoholics Anonymous (yet to be formed at that time) owes a great debt to the Oxford Group.

The next few months were a happy time for Bill. He had the companionship of his alcoholic friends, the spiritual inspiration of the Oxford Group and the satisfaction of being useful to those he worked with.

The Oxford Group precepts [as Lois characterized them] were in substance:

• Surrender your life to God;
• Take a moral inventory;
• Confess your sins to God and another human being;
• Make restitution;
• Give of yourself to others with no demand for return;
• Pray to God for help to carry out these principles.
• There were also four “Absolutes”: absolute honesty, absolute purity, absolute unselfishness and absolute love, moral standards by which every thought and action should be tested.

And Lois W. wrote in her memoir:

God, through the Oxford Group, had accomplished in a twinkling what I had failed to do in seventeen years.

Gloria Deo

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Recovery News Release for 2015

Recovery News Release for 2015 

28 Years of Hands-on Experience Helping Alcoholics and Addicts; and 25 Years of Research, Travel, Interviews, Networking, Conferences, and Publications 

How to Apply “Old-School” Recovery Today 

By Dick B. and Ken B.

© 2015 Anonymous. All rights reserved

Your Opportunity to Learn and Tell Others

“the Rest  of the Story” about Early A.A.’s Cure for Alcoholism

Forthcoming video class:

“Bill W., Dr. Bob, and the Cure of Alcoholism: The Rest of the Story”

46 published titles on A.A. history and the Christian Recovery Movement. More than 1,750 published articles. A multi-video tour of the hundreds of resources in Dick B.’s research library he donated to various archives and libraries. More than 600 photos of recovery roots unearthed by the authors during our recent research trip to Vermont. YouTube videos, Christian Recovery Radio interviews and resources, websites, the FREE “Dick B. FYI Newsletter,” blogs, and social media.

For groups, meetings, seminars, panels, fellowships, radio, videos, sponsors, speakers, leaders, pastors, counselors, treatment programs, sober living homes, hospitals, physicians, and agencies.

To learn more, please see:

Gloria Deo

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Bill W.’s mention of “Christ” and “the Master” in a letter he wrote in 1940, quoted on page 114 of “As Bill Sees It”

Bill W.’s mention of “Christ” and “the Master”

in a letter he wrote in 1940,

quoted on page 114 of As Bill Sees It

By Dick B.

© 2015 Anonymous. All rights reserved

In a letter Bill W. wrote in 1940, he stated: “At first, the remedy for my personal difficulties seemed so obvious that I could not imagine any alcoholic turning the proposition down were it properly presented to him. Believing so firmly that Christ can do anything, I had the unconscious conceit to suppose that He would do everything through me–right then and in the manner I chose. After six months, I had to admit that not a soul had surely laid hold of the Master–not excepting myself.” [As Bill Sees It (New York, NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1967), 114]

Gloria Deo

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The Resurgent Applications in Recovery Today of Book of James, Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, 1 Corinthians 13

The Importance Yesteryear and Now
of the Book of James, Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, and 1 Corinthians 13
in Early Akron A.A.’s Basic Ideas and Founding Principles and Practices

What’s Emerging from “Old-School” A.A.
in Today’s Basic A.A. Bible Recovery Studies

[And note the frequency of quotes in A.A. General Service Conference-approved literature taken directly from the Book of James, Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, and 1 Corinthians 13—quotes that pepper both the personal stories and the Big Book chapters and language—which may often not be recognized nor understood. We take the actual language from the Bible, identify and explain it as presented in A.A. literature, and representing “absolutely essential” ideas applied in early A.A. and applicable today. For more on this topic, see: Dick B., The James Club and the Original A.A. Program’s Absolute Essentials, 4th ed. (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 2005): http://www.dickb.com/JamesClub.shtml.%5D

By Dick B.
© 2014 Anonymous. All rights reserved

• Here is what Dr. Bob said to AAs in his last major talk to them in Detroit in December 1948 as stated in the transcript of that talk published in the A.A. General Service Conference-approved pamphlet, The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous:

In early A.A, days, . . .

. . . our stories didn’t amount to any-thing to speak of. When we started in on Bill D., we had no Twelve Steps, either, we had no Traditions.

But we were convinced that the answer to our problems was in the Good Book. To some of us older ones, the parts we found absolutely essential were the Sermon on the Mount, the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, and the Book of James.

• Here is what the A.A. General Service Conference-approved book ‘PASS IT ON’ states about what Dr. Bob’s wife Anne shared with Bill W. and Dr. Bob over the summer of 1935 while Bill was staying at Dr. Bob and Anne’s home at 855 Ardmore Avenue in Akron. And note that ‘PASS IT ON’ shows how quickly the use of the Book of James, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), and First Corinthians became a part of the A.A. structure:

At Anne’s suggestion, Bill moved in with the Smiths. . . . Bill now joined Bob and Anne in . . . having morning guidance sessions together, with Anne reading from the Bible. “Reading . . . from her chair in the corner, she would softly conclude, ‘Faith without works is dead.’” “As Dr. Bob described it, they were ‘convinced that the answer to our problem was in the Good Book. To some of us older ones, the parts that we found absolutely essential were the Sermon on the Mount, the 13th chapter of First Corinthians, and the Book of James.’” The Book of James was considered so important, in fact, that some early members even suggested “The James Club” as a name for the Fellowship.

• The importance of continuity in early A.A. is well covered in Wally P.’s book, But, For the Grace of God, in part, as follows:

Evan W. had been an editor of the Akron Beacon Journal. . . . He got sober in May, 1941. Once Evan was on his feet, Dr. Bob asked him to write some “Blue Collar A.A.” pamphlets for the fellowship. As Dr. Bob explained, the Big Book was too complicated for many A.A.’s, and he wanted Evan to present the program in its most basic terms. . . . The pamphlets were originally sold by the Akron Group and later by the Central Committee out of P.O. Box 932.

A fifth pamphlet that came out of Akron in the 1940’s was title What Others Think of Alcoholics Anonymous. This pamphlet was published by the Friday Forum Luncheon Club of the Akron A.A. Groups.

The pamphlet contained a “lead” given by Dr. Bob in Youngstown, Ohio. Dr. Bob’s words were summarized by A.A. Le Minte of the Youngstown, Ohio Vindicator . . .

The speaker told how he ended 35 years of steady drinking after trying various methods that included hospital and sanitariums. Ardent reading of the Bible and an earnest desire to stay sober also failed. He still got drunk every night. Then he met the other founder-to-be, who had been sober for four months and had learned that the way to convince himself was to convince some other drunk. Then they began working on a third alcoholic and this practical cure for drunkenness was born.

Members of Alcoholics Anonymous begin the day with a prayer for strength and a short period of Bible reading. They find the basic messages they need in the Sermon on the Mount, in Corinthians and the Book of James.

“But that is not enough,” the speaker said, “for you cannot honestly accept what you read without putting it into practice, and that means you must help somebody else. . . .”

Special News about the Resurgence of Seven ‘James Club’ Meetings

Three James Club Meetings are now held and growing in Norco, California.

Three James Club Meetings are now held and growing in Glendora, California.

A James Club Meeting has been discussed by a Christian AA in Long Island, New York.

These supplement the studies in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Tennessee. To obtain further information, please contact DickB@DickB.com.

• The materials include the specific verses and basic ideas that have much to tell about “old-school” A.A. They review the Bible verses, the A.A. General Service Conference-approved books and pamphlets that quote them, and explanations of how they tie together. You will recognize basic A.A. ideas such as “Thy will be done;” “Faith without works is dead;” “Love thy neighbor as thyself;” “Seek ye first the kingdom of God;” amends and restitution; seeking God’s guidance when you lack wisdom; the problem with “temptation;” humbling yourself in the sight of the LORD so that He can lift you up; the effective fervent prayer of a righteous man; guarding the erring member the tongue; looking for your role in observed defects; and the ingredients of “love” found in 1 Corinthians 13 as published by Henry Drummond in The Greatest Thing in the World. And much much more. Courteous questions are welcome.

Gloria Deo

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“The Word-of-Mouth Program”/”Six Steps” of Bill W.

“The Word-of-Mouth Program”/“Six Steps” of Bill W.
(Compiled, and with a Commentary, by Dick B. and Ken B.)

By Dick B. and Ken B.
© 2014 Anonymous. All rights reserved

On a number of occasions, Bill W. discussed how his “new version of the program, now the ‘Twelve Steps,’” came into being. In doing so, he usually stated or implied that the Twelve Steps evolved out of six predecessor “practices,” “principles,” elements, or “steps.” For example, in a talk Bill read at the 105th annual meeting of The American Psychiatric Association, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on May 23-27, 1949, he identified “the particular practices” which his old schoolmate from Burr and Burton Seminary days, Ebby T., had shared with him and that had been given to Ebby by some “Oxford Group people”:

Two alcoholics [Bill W. and Ebby T.] talk across a kitchen table [in late November 1934]. . . . My friend had arrived to tell how he had been released from alcohol. . . . Having made contact with the Oxford Group, . . . my friend had been specially impressed by an alcoholic he had met [Rowland H.], a former patient of C. G. Jung. Unsuccessfully treating this individual for a year, Dr. Jung had finally advised him to try religious conversion as his last chance. While disagreeing with many tenets of the Oxford Group, my former schoolmate did, however, ascribe his new sobriety to certain ideas that this alcoholic and other Oxford Group people [Shepherd (“Shep”) C. and Cebra G.] had given him. The particular practices my friend had selected for himself were simple:

1. He admitted he was powerless to solve his own problems.
2. He got honest with himself as never before; made an examination of his conscience.
3. He made a rigorous confession of his personal defects.
4. He surveyed his distorted relations with people, visiting them to make restitution.
5. He resolved to devote himself to helping others in need, without the usual demand for personal prestige or material gain.
6. By meditation he sought God’s direction for his life and help to practice these principles at all times.

. . . The spark that was to become Alcoholics Anonymous had been struck. What then did happen across the kitchen table? Perhaps this speculation were better left to medicine and religion. I confess I do not know. Possibly conversion will never be fully understood. Looking outward from such an experience, I can only say with fidelity what seemed to happen. Yet something did happen that instantly changed the current of my life. (emphasis added)

In his talk before The American Psychiatric Association in 1949, Bill asserted: (1) Ebby had shared with him six “practices” that several Oxford Group people had given him (Ebby); and (2) Ebby had used the word God in setting forth the sixth “practice”—with no modifying or qualifying words.

In a talk Bill gave on April 28, 1958, at the New York City Medical Society on Alcoholism, he spoke of six “principles . . . [his old school friend from Burr and Burton Seminary, Ebby T.] had learned from the Oxford Group” and had shared with him in November 1934:

He [Ebby] came to my house one day in November, 1934, and sat across the kitchen table from me while I drank. No thanks, he didn’t want any liquor, he said. Much surprised, I asked what had got into him. Looking straight at me, he said he had “got religion.” . . . As politely as possible, I asked what brand of religion he had.
Then he told me of his conversations with Mr. R., [Rowland H.] and how hopeless alcoholism really was, according to Dr. Carl Jung. . . . Next Ebby enumerated the principles he had learned from the Oxford Group. In substance here they are as my friend applied them to himself in 1934:

1. Ebby admitted that he was powerless to manage his own life.
2. He became honest with himself as never before; made an “examination of conscience.”
3. He made a rigorous confession of his personal defects and thus quit living alone with his problems.
4. He surveyed his distorted relations with other people, visiting them to make what amends he could.
5. He resolved to devote himself to helping others in need, without the usual demands for personal prestige or material gain.
6. By meditation, he sought God’s direction for his life and to help to practice these principles of conduct at all times. (emphasis added)

In language similar to that used in his 1949 talk read at The American Psychiatric Association, Bill told those present at the New York City Medical Society on Alcoholism meeting in 1958: (1) Ebby had “enumerated the principles he had learned from the Oxford Group;” and (2) Ebby had used the word God in setting forth the sixth “practice”—with no modifying or qualifying words.

And Bill added later in his 1949 speech at the New York Medical Society on Alcoholism meeting:

By the spring of 1939, our Society had produced a book which was called “Alcoholics Anonymous.” In this volume, our methods were carefully described. For the sake of greater clarity and thoroughness, the word-of-mouth program which my friend Ebby had given to me was enlarged into what we now call A.A.’s “Twelve Suggested Steps for recovery.” . . . This was the backbone of our book. To substantiate A.A. methods, our book included twenty-eight case histories. (emphasis added)

Note that Bill stated in Ebby’s sixth “principle” listed above that Ebby had “sought God’s direction”—not the direction of “a Power greater than ourselves;” not the direction of “God as we understood Him;” and not the direction of “a Higher Power.” And Bill claimed that “. . . the word-of-mouth program which my friend Ebby had given to me was enlarged into . . . A.A.’s ‘Twelve Suggested Steps for recovery.’”

In September 1954, Bill had made a series of audio recordings about his life. Transcripts made of those recordings were later published as his “autobiography.” In the audio recordings, Bill stated that Ebby had also come to see him during his (Bill’s) fourth and final stay for alcoholism at Towns Hospital December 11-18, 1934. And Bill said that during Ebby’s visit:

. . . [Ebby] began to repeat his pat little formula for getting over drinking. Briefly and without ado he did so. Again he told

[1] how he found he couldn’t run his own life,
[2] how he got honest with himself as never before.
[3] How he’d been making amends to the people he’d damaged.
[4] How he’d been trying to give of himself without putting a price tag on his efforts, and finally
[5] how he’d tried prayer just as an experiment and had found to his surprise that it worked. (emphasis added)

In both his talk before The American Psychiatric Association in 1949 and his talk before the New York City Medical Society on Alcoholism in 1958, Bill had listed six “practices” or “principles” which he said Ebby “had learned from the Oxford Group” and had shared with him in November 1934 at Bill’s home on 182 Clinton Street in New York. Yet when Bill made the audio recordings in 1954 which eventually became his “autobiography,” he listed only five elements which Ebby had shared with him when he (Ebby) repeated his “pat little formula for getting over drinking” during Ebby’s visit to Towns Hospital to see Bill in December 1934. And the wording of the five elements in Ebby’s “pat little formula” varied significantly from the wording of the six “practices” or “principles” Bill had listed in his 1949 and 1958 talks. In particular, as we focus in this series of videos on the cure for alcoholism through the power and love of God that A.A.’s cofounders Bill W. and Dr. Bob found, let’s be sure to observe differences in wording such as the complete omission of the word God from the five-element “pat little formula” Ebby shared with Bill at Towns Hospital in December 1934. The closest Bill got to the word God in the five-element “pat little formula” list was his comment that Ebby had “tried prayer . . . and . . . it worked.” That statement certainly seems weak in comparison with the following assertion by Bill in his own personal story in the Big Book:

. . . [M]y friend [Ebby] sat before me, and he made the point-blank declaration that God had done for him what he could not do for himself. His human will had failed. Doctors had pronounced him incurable. (emphasis added)

As we will see again and again as we continue to examine various lists of five(!) or six “practices”/”principles”/elements/”steps” which Bill claimed over the years were the direct antecedents of the “Twelve Steps” in the Big Book, the wording of the five or six items did not agree from one list to another—particularly when it came to mentions of the word God.

In Bill W.’s 1949 presentation before The American Psychiatric Association, in his 1958 presentation before the New York City Medical Society on Alcoholism, and his personal story in the Big Book, Bill indicated that Ebby had used the unmodified word God in identifying the source of his (Ebby’s) deliverance from alcoholism. As Bill put it in his (Bill’s) story in the Big Book as he reviewed Ebby’s visit to Bill’s home:

Thus was I convinced that God is concerned with us humans when we want Him enough. At long last I saw, I felt, I believed. Scales of pride and prejudice fell from my eyes. A new world came into view. (emphasis added)

In other discussions of the six “practices,” “principles,” elements, or “steps” that Bill claimed were in use before he wrote the Twelve Steps in 1938, Bill spoke of a gradual evolution of a “word-of-mouth program” involving “six steps,” rather than stating or implying that Ebby had given Bill the “practices,” “principles,” or elements in late-November 1934 that led directly to the Twelve Steps Bill wrote in 1938. For example, Bill stated:

Since Ebby’s visit to me in the fall of 1934 we had gradually evolved what we called “the word-of-mouth program.” Most of the basic ideas had come from the Oxford Groups, William James, and Dr. Silkworth. Though subject to considerable variation, it all boiled down into a pretty consistent procedure which comprised six steps. These were approximately as follows:

1. We admitted that we were licked, that we were powerless over alcohol.
2. We made a moral inventory of our defects or sins.
3. We confessed or shared our shortcomings with another person in confidence.
4. We made restitution to all those we had harmed by our drinking.
5. We tried to help other alcoholics, with no thought of reward in money or prestige.
6. We prayed to whatever God we thought there was for power to practice these precepts. (emphasis added)

After listing “six steps” which varied in wording from the six “practices” or “principles” Bill had said Ebby had given Bill at the late-November 1934 meeting at 182 Clinton Street, Bill said: “This was the substance of what, by the fall of 1938, we were telling newcomers.”

Note carefully in Bill W.’s recitation of “the word-of-mouth program” and its “six steps” in Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age the following two phrases: (1) “[s]ince Ebby’s visit to me in the fall of 1934;” and (2) “we had gradually evolved.” Note also the sentence: “Most of the basic ideas had come from the Oxford Groups, William James, and Dr. Silkworth.” Bill seems here to have moved away from directly attributing to Ebby and his late November 1934 visit “the word-of-mouth program” and its six [or five!] “practices,” “principles,” or elements. Rather he speaks of a gradual evolution that occurred since Ebby’s first visit to see Bill at 182 Clinton Street. In addition, rather than attributing the six “steps” solely to Ebby and Ebby’s three Oxford Group mentors (Rowland H., Shep C., and Cebra G.), Bill expands the sources beyond just “the Oxford Groups” to include also: (a) William James (by way of James’s book The Varieties of Religious Experience); and (b) Dr. William D. Silkworth (with whom Ebby had had no connection of which we are aware).

In a 1963 letter to Rev. Sam Shoemaker, Bill W. put even more distance between Ebby’s discussions with him (Bill) in late 1934 and “the word-of-mouth program” comprised of “six steps.” Bill wrote to Sam on April 23, 1963:

After the alcoholics parted company with the O.G. [= Oxford Group] here in New York [Bill and Lois W. had left the Oxford Group in about August 1937], we developed a word-of-mouth program of six steps which was simply a paraphrase of what we had heard and felt at your meetings. The Twelve Steps of A.A. simply represented an attempt to state in more detail, breadth and depth, what we had been taught—primarily by you. (emphasis added)

Bill’s statement in his letter to Rev. Sam Shoemaker quoted above echoes an earlier comment Bill made relating to Sam’s speech at A.A.’s International Convention in St. Louis in 1955:

There came next to the lectern a figure that not many A.A.’s had seen before, the Episcopal clergyman Sam Shoemaker. It was from him that Dr. Bob and I in the beginning had absorbed most of the principles that were afterward embodied in the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, . . .
. . . [T]he important things is this: the early A.A. got its ideas of self-examination, acknowledgment of character defects, restitution for harm done, and working with others straight from the Oxford Groups and directly from Sam Shoemaker, their former leader in America, and from nowhere else.

The statement: “. . . [S]traight from the Oxford Groups and directly from Sam Shoemaker, their former leader in America, and from nowhere else” does not seem to leave much room for Ebby, does it?

In his July 1953 A.A. Grapevine article titled “A Fragment of History: Origin of the Twelve Steps,” Bill W. presented what he called the “principles” of “the so-called word-of-mouth program of our pioneering time”:

During the next three years after Dr. Bob’s recovery [Dr. Bob took his last drink in June 1935], our growing groups at Akron, New York, and Cleveland evolved the so-called word-of-mouth program of our pioneering time. As we commenced to form a Society separate from the Oxford Group, we began to state our principles something like this:

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol.
2. We got honest with ourselves.
3. We got honest with another person, in confidence.
4. We made amends for harms done others.
5. We worked with other alcoholics without demand for prestige or money.
6. We prayed to God to help us do these things as best we could.”

Though these principles were advocated according to the whim or liking of each of us, and though in Akron and Cleveland they still stuck by the O. G. absolutes of honesty, purity, unselfishness, and love, this was the gist of our message to incoming alcoholics up to 1939, when our present Twelve Steps were put to paper. (emphasis added)

In his A.A. Grapevine article quoted above, Bill did not even mention Ebby’s late November 1934 visit or Ebby’s recitation of his “pat little formula” at Towns Hospital during Bill’s final stay in December 1934 in relation to “the so-called word-of-mouth program of our pioneering time.” Bill even seems to have distanced the “word-of-mouth program” from both the Oxford Group and Rev. Sam Shoemaker by saying: “As we commenced to form a Society separate from the Oxford Group, we began to state our principles something like this:” At least here, Bill sets forth the sixth “principle” using the unmodified word God.

At least two other challenges arise at this point when one studies Bill’s “six steps” of “the so-called word-of-mouth program of our pioneering time” which Bill said evolved into “the new version of the program, now the ‘Twelve Steps.’” First, Bill stated:

. . . [T]hese principles were advocated according to the whim or liking of each of us, . . .

And along those lines, he also said: (1) “‘the word-of-mouth program’” was “subject to considerable variation;” and (2) the “six steps . . . were approximately as follows: . . .” So, based on A.A. cofounder Bill W.’s own words, the idea that was a group of “six Steps” with consistent wording from the time Ebby first came to see Bill in late November 1934 would seem to require some further scrutiny.

In fact, Jim B.—who became involved with the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous in early January 1938—stated that when he came in A.A., “we had no real formula”:

At that time [around the middle-to-end of January 1938] the group in New York was composed of about twelve men who were working on the principle of every drunk for himself; we had no real formula and no name. We would follow one man’s ideas for a while, decide he was wrong, and switch to another’s method. (emphasis added)

It was not until Jim had “crawled back to New York” after “wandering around New England half drunk” for a few days in early June 1938, that Jim said:

Around this time our big A.A. book was being written, and it all became much simpler; we had a definite formula that some sixty of us agreed was the middle course for all alcoholics who wanted sobriety, and that formula has not been changed one iota down through the years.

Bill W.’s wife Lois—who at least in 1936 was keeping a diary —stated explicitly that Bill had begun “to write the book in May 1938 . . .”

Then there is a copy of a handwritten note currently floating around the Internet for which the original supposedly is—or at least was—in the files of A.A.’s archives in New York. This note contains a presentation of six “Original AA steps.” It reads:

For Ed –

1. Admitted hopeless
2. Got Honest with self
3. Got honest with another
4. Made Amends
5. Helped other with demands
6. Prayed to God as you understand Him

Bill W.


Original AA steps (emphasis added)

Since the provenance of this note is sketchy, it is included here for the sake of completeness of presentation.

And now we turn to the personal story of one of Dr. Bob’s sponsees, Earl T. of Chicago, a man who got sober in April 1937. Earl’s personal story, titled “He Sold Himself Short,” first appeared in the Big Book’s second edition published in 1955. The writer of the story titled “He Sold Himself Short” claims that he and Dr. Bob “spent three or four hours formally going through the Six-Step program as it was at that time.” And the writer then gives the following list of “the six steps”:

1. Complete deflation.
2. Dependence and guidance from a Higher Power.
3. Moral inventory.
4. Confession.
5. Restitution.
6. Continued work with other alcoholics. (emphasis added)

This assertion that Dr. Bob took Earl T. through “the Six-Step program as it was at that time,” and the wording and the order of these supposed “six steps,” raise questions. First, some of the language is simply not that usually employed by Dr. Bob. For example, the alleged first “Step” reads: “Complete deflation.” It was Bill W., rather than Dr. Bob, who often used the word “deflation.” In contrast, DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers says of Dr. Bob: “Another thing Dr. Bob put quite simply: ‘The first one will get you.’ According to John R., he kept repeating that.” More significantly for our discussion here, I (Dick B.) have not found a single example of Dr. Bob’s ever referring to a “higher power” (as in the second “Step” above) other than this supposed use of the term in this personal story. Actually, his usual language in referring to God was “Heavenly Father” or “God” or “the Lord.” Whether Earl T. actually made the statement about “the Six-Step program” or gave the list of “the six steps” as found in the “He Sold Himself Short” personal story, we do not know.

But these points seem clear from the “He Sold Himself Short” story and from what Earl T.’s wife Katie disclosed in a lengthy interview in 1985. The Big Book indicated that Dr. Bob had covered a good many A.A. ideas with Earl, in addition to the quoted six specifics. The interview with Earl’s wife had these things to say:

• The men were desperate and took the program as presented.
• She said: “There was no book, no pamphlets, no nothing, and the only way you could get it was through passing it on verbally to the next fellow.”
• She said she felt the Oxford Group people had the same ideas and principles as AA now has—they helped others. However they never coped with alcoholism.
• Earl was a nervous wreck and didn’t know what to do or talk about. He said they had better pattern themselves after the Oxford Group, and they had used the Bible. When they met, they picked out a chapter, and it was read. Then they discussed it.
• The next thing they decided upon was a quiet time.
• The alcoholic was asked to offer a prayer, ask for guidance, and at night when he came home to review what had happened to him, and also to offer a prayer of thankfulness
• The alcoholic was to rise an hour before his usual time and get things straightened out and in order before he started out.
• Both Dr. Bob and Anne were frequently seen by Earl and his wife; and Bill W. often stayed in the home of Earl and his wife.
• Neither Earl nor his wife is quoted as making mention of any Steps; and Earl did not die until he had a stroke in his 90’s.

Finally, we want to mention here what Bill’s wife Lois called “the Oxford Group precepts . . . in substance”—which happened to be six in number:

[1.] [S]urrender your life to God;
[2.] [T]ake a moral inventory;
[3.] [C]onfess your sins to God and another human being;
[4.] [M]ake a restitution;
[5.] [G]ive of yourself to others with no demand for return; [and]
[6.] [P]ray to God for help to carry out these principles. (emphasis added)

Two quick points about the preceding list of six so-called “Oxford Group precepts”: (a) Footnote 2 on 197 of ‘PASS IT ON’ (given near the bottom of page 206) points out that there were no “six steps of the Oxford Group.” (b) Note the use of the word “God” without modifying words in “precepts” one, three, and six.

In addition, and more importantly for our presentation of “the rest of the story,” Bill seemingly treated the word “God” in the supposed “sixth step” of “the word-of-mouth program” differently according to the view he was advocating or sanctioning at a particular time. For example, in July 1953, Bill stated the “sixth step” as follows:

“6. We prayed to God to help us do these things as best we could.” (emphasis added)

This use of the word “God” without any modifying words is similar to use of the word “God” in one of the seven points of Frank Amos’s summary of the Akron program as of February 1938.

When, however, Bill was penning the Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age story in 1957, he wrote:

“6. We prayed to whatever God we thought there was for power to practice these precepts.” (emphasis added)

In this second example, rather than stating simply that “We prayed to God for power . . .”—i.e., using the word “God” without modifying words, as in the first example above—Bill added the words “. . . whatever . . . we thought there was.” That was a significant change in wording.

When Bill wrote out the “six steps” for a man named Ed in April 1953, he worded the “six step” in yet a different way:

“6. Prayed to God as you understand him.” (emphasis added)

In this third example, Bill chose to add the modifying words “as you understand him” after the word “God,” using in this version of the “sixth step” language that closely resembled how Steps Three and Eleven read in the Big Book; i.e., “. . . God as we understood Him.”

Well, those are the five or six “practices,” “principles,” elements, or “steps” in the “word-of-mouth program” that Bill W. claims evolved into “the new version of the program, now the ‘Twelve Steps.’” Food for thought.

Gloria Deo

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Surrenders/New Birth Requirement in Early Akron A.A

Surrenders / New Birth Requirement in Early Akron A.A.
(Ed Andy, Larry Bauer, Clarence Snyder, and J.D. Holmes)

Dick B.
© 2014 Anonymous. All rights reserved

Even more significant was the fact that Dr. Bob himself insisted that new members accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and usually was among the group of “elders” that took the newcomer upstairs and brought him to Christ. See Dick B, When Early AAs Were Cured and Why, 34-35. For example, see Dick B., The Golden Text of A.A., 31-32, reporting that Ed Andy, an A.A. old-timer from Lorain, Ohio, told Dick B. in a recorded telephone conversation on January 9, 1994: “They would not let you in unless you surrendered to Jesus Christ on your knees.” Larry B., old-timer from Cleveland, Ohio, told Dick B. on September 18, 1992: “They took me upstairs to be a born-again human being and be God’s helper to alcoholics.” Similar documentation is available from Dr. Bob’s sponsee, Clarence Snyder, who got sober February 11, 1938. Also, from J. D. Holmes.

As to the required belief in God, see DR. BOB, 144. As to Clarence Snyder’s new birth, see Dick B., The Akron Genesis, 193-96; and Three Clarence Snyder Sponsee Old-Timers and Their Wives, Our A.A. Legacy to the Faith Community: A Twelve-Step Guide for Those Who Want to Believe, Dick B., comp. and ed. (Winter Park, FL: Came to Believe Publications, 2005), 27. As to Larry Bauer’s new birth, see Dick B., The Akron Genesis, 196. As to Ed Andy’s new birth, see Dick B., The Golden Text, 31. As to J. D. Holmes and the other three, see Dick B. A New Way In: Reaching the Heart of a Child of God in Recovery with Hi Own, Powerful Historical Roots (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 2006), 11.

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Orders from A.A.?

A.A. Authorities, Directors, Managers, Conference or Board Leaders Give You an Order or Tell You What You Can’t Do, Say, Discuss, or Read
Some Words of Comfort for Those Who Receive Such Messages
By Dick B.
© 2014 Anonymous. All rights reserved
[AAs seldom appear at meetings or offices looking for a scrap! Many are attending meetings not only to overcome their drinking problems, but also to escape the miserable consequences of their own excessive drinking. Even better, they’s like a new life. They want a way out. They don’t want a way into the boxing ring. Yet scarcely a week goes by that we don’t receive heart-wringing emails, letters, visits, or phone calls from some fellowship member who has encountered a purported authority or “bleeding deacon” at an A.A. office, group, or meeting who has just told them what they can or can’t read. What they can or can’t say. What they can’t bring to a meeting. What they can’t name their group or meeting. Or that or they will be denied an A.A. listing because some office manager, secretary, or clerk asserts “authority” that supposedly says it violates some Tradition or is not Conference-approved. Of course you can always vote with your feet and attend some other meeting, group, or office. You may also get a coffee pot, take it and your resentment out the door, and form your own meeting. I’ve been at meetings where police were called, fist-fights occurred, insults were hurled, and shouting had become the norm. There has even been A.A. backed-litigation instituted.
But don’t you really want peace, freedom, friendship, help, and victory over the ravages of alcoholism? We have yet to see an armored vehicle, a machine gun, or tear gas. But the consequences of riotous behavior may be getting drunk, getting disgusted, getting mauled, or getting as far from A.A. as your feet will carry you.
However, overcoming alcoholism and its consequences may be your objective, or if fear and shame and anger are ruling your life, or if you haven’t yet learned to cease drinking, trust God, clean house, and turn your attention to helping someone still suffering, your time has come.] And here are some thoughts from A.A. literature that may help:
“This Is Life for Us; You Can’t Keep Us Out.”
“Tradition Nine states: ‘A.A., as such, ought never to be organized, but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.’ . . .
. . .
What we really mean, of course, is that A.A. can never have an organized direction or government. . . .
. . . It [Alcoholics Anonymous] does not at any point conform to the pattern of a government. Neither its General Service Conference, its General Service Board, nor the humblest group committee can issue a single directive to an A.A. member and make it stick, let alone hand out any punishment. . . . Groups have tried to expel members, but the banished have come back to sit in the meeting place, saying, ‘This is life for us; you can’t keep us out.’ . . . An A.A. may take advice or suggestions from more experienced members, but he surely will not take orders. . . .
One would think that A.A.’s Headquarters and General Service Conference would be exceptions. Sure the people there would have to have some authority. But long ago Trustees and staff members alike found they could do no more that make suggestions, and very mild ones at that. . . . We recognize that we cannot dictate to fellow members, individually or collectively.
. . . Great suffering and great love are A.A.’s disciplinarians; we have no others.”
[Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age
(New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1957), 118-20]
Gloria Deo

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