Alcoholics Anonymous History
Looking at Its Oxford Group Link in Context
Copyright 2012 Anonymous. All rights reserved.
Note! You can get a thoroughly reviewed, accurate, and complete account of the relationship of Alcoholics Anonymous with the Oxford Group, also known as “A First Century Christian Fellowship.” Obtain a copy of The Oxford Group & Alcoholics Anonymous, 2d ed. by Dick B., http://www.dickb.com/Oxford.shtml.
No facet of Alcoholics Anonymous History has been more bungled than A.A.’s connection with the Oxford Group. There are some relevant fundamentals concerning the relationship. But there are far more erroneous pieces of information still being promulgated by many today. Consider the following:
Yes, after he got sober, Bill Wilson became involved with the Oxford Group on the East Coast. But the real activities that brought about Bill’s sobriety had little to do with the Oxford Group at and before the time he got sober. Bill actually learned the solution to alcoholism–Conversion to God through Jesus Christ–from his friend Ebby Thacher and from his physician Dr. William D. Silkworth.
To be sure, Bill also learned about the Oxford Group from Rowland Hazard and Ebby Thacher. But he did not rely on Oxford Group principles and practices (their life-changing program) when he: (1) made his decision for Jesus Christ at Calvary Mission in New York; (2) became born again and so stated in his autobiography; (3) decided he needed to turn to the Great Physician Jesus Christ for help and so stated in his autobiography; and (4) went to Towns Hospital, cried out to God for help, had his indescribably white light experience–sensing God’s presence—and exclaiming “Bill, You are a free man. This is the God of the Scriptures.” .See Dick B., The Conversion of Bill W. (www.dickb.com/conversion.shtml). See also Dale Mitchel, Silkworth: The Little Doctor Who Loved Drunks. And see Bill’s own words in The Language of the Heart, page 284.
And Bill Wilson never drank again. Later, Bill went to Oxford Group functions on the East Coast and belonged to its businessmen’s team. But Bill and his wife were “kicked out” of the Oxford Group in 1937. When Bill got authority to write a book on the A.A. program, he worked out his Step ideas with Rev. Sam Shoemaker prior to publishing the Big Book in 1939. See The Language of the Heart, pages 297-98.
What about Dr. Bob and the Oxford Group link?
Bob specified the Bible as the source of A.A.’s basic ideas. He said the basic ideas for A.A. came from the Bible. He said he had nothing to do with the writing of the Twelve Steps. He said that the Bible’s Book of James, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and 1 Corinthians 13 were the absolute essentials for the Akron A.A. Christian Fellowship program founded by Bill W. and Dr. Bob in 1935. See The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous: Biographical Sketches Their Last Major Talks, pages 13-14. Did Dr. Bob attend a small Oxford Group meeting once a week at T. Henry Williams’ house? Yes. Did he get sober by applying Oxford Group principles? No. He got sober earlier by joining the little Oxford Group people and families in praying for his deliverance–and, with his prayers answered, met with Bill Wilson, and then got sober as the two studied the Bible for three months in the summer of 1935.
For most writers, the story has ended there. But the Christian Fellowship program developed and practiced by Bill, Bob, Bill Dotson, and the pioneers as a daily discipline—much like that of the Apostles in First Century Christianity. It is summarized in A.A.’s own literature at DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, page 131. The sixteen Christian practices that implemented the Akron program and the comments about their daily First Century Christianity are covered in Dick B. and Ken B., Stick with the Winners! How to Conduct More Effective 12-Step Recovery Meetings Using Conference-Approved Literature: A Dick B. Guide for Christian Leaders and Workers in the Recovery Arena.
How, then, to what extent, and if at all, did the Oxford Group’s twenty-eight life-changing principles and practices become a part of Bill Wilson’s new A.A. program and previously non-existent Twelve Steps?
Bill Wilson did that primarily by working with Rev. Sam Shoemaker in 1938 and 1939 and then codifying Oxford Group ideas in ten of A.A.’s new Twelve Steps and recovery program produced in 1939 in its Big Book first edition… Bill spelled out the real sources of those Twelve Steps and ideas in The Language of the Heart, pages 297-98!