An Intense Look at Old School Akron A.A. Group Number One—A Christian Fellowship—Its Roots, Specific Sources, and Persuasive Recovery Techniques
By Dick B.
2013 Anonymous. All rights reserved
Common Observations as to Akron A.A’s Resemblances to
First Century Christianity Practices
Do you realize how many different observers commented on the resemblance of the early Akron A.A. Group Number One fellowship to First Century Christianity in action? Certainly enough to warrant exploration of the language and sources that prompted the Comments and Observations:
(1) The Akronites themselves: (a) A.A. cofounder Dr. Bob called the Akron A.A. group “a Christian fellowship.” (b) Bob E., a well-known Akron A.A. pioneer, wrote to Nell Wing (A.A.’s first archivist) confirming that Dr. Bob told his business friends that the alcoholic squad people were “a Christian Fellowship.” (c) Bob E. wrote the same information to Bill W.’s wife Lois on an Akron “Four Absolutes” pamphlet, of which Dick B. obtained a copy during an Akron Founders Day Conference.
(2) The Frank Amos Report to Rockefeller: When he came to Akron to see what the
Akron A.A. Christian Fellowship was, and how well it was succeeding, Rockefeller agent Frank Amos soon wrote: (a) “Dr. Howard S. . . . aged about 35 . . . had been an alcoholic had been cured by Smith and his friends’ activities and the Christian technique prescribed.” (b) “Of the 110 members then in the program, 70 were in the Akron-Cleveland area . . . , that ‘in many respects, their meetings have taken on the form of the meetings described in the Gospels of the early Christians during the first century.”
(3) Akron Group Leader Henrietta Seiberling’s Views: According to letters to, or interviews by, Dick B., the two daughters of Henrietta B. Seiberling wrote about their mother’s emphasis on First Century Christianity in her life and in her teachings to early Akron AAs.
Bill W. pointed out that Henrietta had introduced Bill to Dr. Bob; that during the summer of 1935, she counseled many an alcoholic family, was eagerly sought out for great spiritual insight and what help she could give, and that she and Anne [Smith] had infused a much-needed spirituality into both Bob and Bill. Henrietta’s older daughter Mary confirmed this. Henrietta’s younger daughter Dorothy told Dick B. in an interview in her New York home: “I think mother had dedicated herself to living a different kind of life—the 1st century Christianity principles. . . . They (Henrietta, Dr. Bob, and Bill W.) were bound together to share experiences and to help each other in the journey of living a God directed life. . . . As to First Century Christianity—trying to follow the teachings of Christ without an overload of dogma, doctrine, or church traditions.
(4) Anne Ripley Smith, Dr. Bob’s Wife, emphasized the importance of the Bible and of the Book of Acts: Dr. Bob’s wife can best be described by what she said and did, rather than by the words of those who knew her. And the authoritative text pertaining to Anne Ripley Smith is Dick B., Anne Smith’s Journal, 1933-1939: A.A.’s Principles of Success, 3rd ed.
We think it fair to say that Anne Smith (often called “the Mother of A.A.”) lived by the basic principles and practices of First Century Christianity. In brief, she wrote as to some of them: (a) Conversion is the turning to God, the decision, the surrender [p. 46]; (b) A maximum experience of Jesus Christ leads to a radical change in personal life, bringing about a selfless relationship to people about one [p. 46]; (c) God is willing to take my past spiritual experience and weld it in a new spiritual experience. God has spoken. The moment I hear and obey His voice and come to the place of complete surrender on every area of my life, is the moment of rebirth, reunion with Christ and a start on great revival campaign. . . . (d) Surrender involves the explosive experience of a Holy Ghost conversion, the expulsive power of a new affection [p. 46]; (e) Witness to some friend who has come to you, practice daily surrender, daily Quiet Time, blocks to Guidance, let all your reading be guided, unite with a fellowship of kindred souls [p. 52]; (f) Prayer–a way to find God’s will not to change it. . . . Not about our needs but taking matters to God and having communion with Him (Your Heavenly Father knows ye have needs of all these things. ) [pp. 56-57]; (g) Giving Christianity away is the best way to keep it. We can’t give away what we haven’t got [p. 69]; (h) Winning others [p. 71]; (i) Bible study and reading. As to these, Anne wrote:
Let all your reading be guided. . . . Of course the Bible ought to be the main Source Book of all. No day ought to pass without reading it. . . . Begin reading the Bible with the Book of Acts and follow up with the Gospels and then the Epistles of Paul. . . . The Psalms ought to be read and the Prophets. [pp. 82, 60]
(5) Many others noted the resemblance of Akron A.A. ideas and practices to verses in the Gospels and Book of Acts: There are many others who noted the resemblance to First Century Christianity as reported in the Book of Acts:
(a) Dr. Bob said: “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. . . . We used to have daily meetings at a friend’s house. . . . It wasn’t until 1938 that the teachings and efforts and studies that had been going on were crystallized in the form of the Twelve Steps. I didn’t write the Twelve Steps. . . . We already had the basic ideas, though not in terse and tangible form. We got them, as I said, as a result of our study of the Good Book. . . . “
Telling of Dr. Bob’s view of Christianity and early Akron A.A., Bill W. said about Dr. Bob’s remarks in a particular situation: “He reminded us that most of us were practicing Christians. Then he asked, ‘What would the Master have thought?’”
(b) A.A. General Service Conference-approved book, “PASS IT ON,” tells of Bill W.’s
moving in with the Smiths in the summer of 1935 and says: “Bill now joined Bob and Anne in the Oxford Group practice of 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’” And–as Dr. Bob described this stress on the Bible—the early Akron AAs were “convinced that the answer to our problem was in the Good Book. To some of us older ones, the parts we found absolutely essential were the Sermon on the Mount [Matthew Chapters 5-7], the 13th chapter of First Corinthians, and the Book of James.” ”PASS IT ON” said of these Bible segments: “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.”
(c) Several of the Rockefeller people involved with the February 1938 report concerning early A.A. that Frank Amos prepared for John D. Rockefeller, Jr., commented on the similarities between early A.A. and First-Century Christianity:
As to John D. Rockefeller, Jr., himself: “Rockefeller was impressed [by Frank Amos’ report of February 1938 which Willard Richardson had approved and passed along to Mr. Rockefeller].” Richardson was in charge of Rockefeller charities. And, according to Richardson, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. saw the parallel with early Christianity; and, along with this, he spotted a combination of medicine and religion that appealed to all his charitable inclinations.
Albert Scott, chairman of the board of trustees of New York’s Riverside Church, chaired a meeting in Rockefeller’s private board room. After reviewing the Amos report and hearing each alcoholic tell his own personal story, Scott exclaimed: “Why this is first-century Christianity!” And he added: “What can we do to help?”
(d) John D. Rockefeller, Jr., arranged a dinner for Bill W. and other AAs on February 8, 1940, at The Union Club on Park Avenue and 69th Street in New York City. John D. had planned to attend, but he was too ill to do so. So, he sent his son, Nelson Rockefeller, to host the dinner. As Bill’s wife Lois, records in her memoirs: “When Nelson finally got up to talk, there was a great deal of expectancy. He told how impressed his father was with this unique movement, which resembled early Christianity.”
(e) There were two individuals who had a strong influence on early Alcoholics Anonymous and made much of First Century Christianity—The first was Dr. Frank N.D. Buchman, founder of “A First Century Christian Fellowship,” later known as the Oxford Group. The second was Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr., a chief America lieutenant in “A First Century Christian Fellowship,” who also oversaw Calvary Episcopal Church in New York (as well as its eight-story Calvary House building and its Calvary Mission). Both often referred to the Oxford Group by its original name, “A First Century Christian Fellowship.”
The Oxford Group certainly was a major proponent of First Century Christianity. Its original name, adopted in the autumn of 1922, was “A First Century Christian Fellowship.” It was also known, for a time, as the “Groups.” It began to adopt the name “the Oxford Group” after a newspaper in South Africa had applied that label to a group of students from Oxford University who were members of “A First Century Christian Fellowship” and were traveling by train in South Africa in September 1928. In 1938—after Bill W. had ceased his participation in the group–its name was changed to Moral Re-Armament. The name “A First Century Christian Fellowship” was still in regular use during the time Bill W. participated in it (December 1934 to August 1937) and during much of the time Dr. Bob participated in it (1933 to at least 1939). And Dick B. found much evidence for the popularity of the name “A First Century Christian Fellowship” among the libraries and effects of various Oxford Group leaders, activists, and employees in the period beginning in 1923 to the founding of A.A. in 1935. Dick B. personally met and had discussions with many of the Oxford Group leaders of that period.
And A.A. General Service Conference-approved literature referred to the name—“A First Century Christian Fellowship.”
Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr., and his circle ware the other “First Century Christianity” nomenclature proponents. Thus, in the Episcopal Church Archives in Austin, Texas, my son Ken B. and I (Dick B.) found a lengthy article by Shoemaker—“A First Century Christian Fellowship: A Defense of So-Called Buchmanism by one of its leaders,” Reprinted from The Churchman [later renamed Churchman], circa, 1928.
(6) Others using the First Century Christianity language: Still others, whose comments are relevant here included the First Century Christian principles and practices we mentioned in our discussion of what Henrietta Seiberling had said on the subject:
(a) The first is Clarence H. Snyder, who got sober in February, 1938 and was sponsored
by Dr. Bob. Clarence stayed sober for the rest of his long years. In Ohio, Clarence had to sit down and meet with Roman Catholic alcoholics and the hierarchy of their Church to explain to them that alcoholics were not intentionally violating the Church’s teaching by reason of their reading aloud from the King James Version of the Bible, “witnessing,” and confessing their faults one to another. He said that the “alcoholic squad” was working with these drunkards; and, through this life-changing program, this “First Century Christian Fellowship” was turning them into “good Catholics.”
But that Roman Catholic Church did not buy his line.
Clarence also remembered being taken into T. Henry Williams’ bedroom for a “full surrender.” The men (likened to the “elders” in James 5:14) all got down on their knees in an attitude of prayer. They all placed their hands on Clarence, and then proceeded to pray. These people introduced Clarence to Jesus as his Lord and Savior. They explained to Clarence that this was First Century Christianity. Then they prayed for a healing and removal of Clarence’s sins, especially his alcoholism.
(b) Two other Akronites told Dick B. eye witness stories similar to that of Clarence’s.
One Akron A.A. pioneer was Larry Bauer. Larry both phoned and wrote Dick B. that, for his “full surrender,” he had been taken upstairs and “they made me a born again man.” The second Akron pioneer was Ed Andy of Lorain, Ohio. In a telephone conversation several years ago, and before the date of his death, Ed Andy told Dick B. of his surrender and said “They wouldn’t let you in unless you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.”
(7) The powerful Vermont Congregational viewpoint: Of particular interest is a book by T.D. Seymour Bassett, The Gods of the Hills: Piety and Society in Nineteenth Century Vermont. Our readers must bear in mind what many AAs and A.A. writers do not know–that both Bill W. and Dr. Bob had extensive training in and by, and connections with, Congregational Churches in Vermont. And this all occurred in the period of their lives that extended from birth until completion of their respective training at Vermont academies.
The families of both men belonged to and were prominent in Vermont Congregational Churches. Both cofounders, as young men, went to a Congregational Sunday school. Bill W. went first to the East Dorset Congregational Church in East Dorset, Vermont. Then, when he became a student at Burr and Burton Seminary, Bill W. very likely attended at least some of the services at Manchester Congregational Church every Sunday which Burr and Burton Seminary required all of its students to attend. Dr. Bob attended the North Congregational Church of St. Johnsbury and its Sunday school. All his family attended, and his mother and father were both involved in church administration. Bob then attended the Congregationalist St. Johnsbury Academy and there was required to go to a Congregational church service each week and to Daily Chapelt. Similarly, Bill was required at Burr and Burton to attend Daily Chapel where there were sermons, hymns, prayers, and reading of Scripture. The strict Daily chapel attendance was required of, and observed by both cofounders during their four years of high school education at the academies.
And, in his book, The Gods of the Hills, Bassett wrote at page 213:
The Congregational Way was primitive Christianity revived, after centuries of departures from the congregational principles of St. Stephen and the Jerusalem elders.”
(8) Two books on Christian healing carried the First Century resemblance still further. Each book was owned by Dr. Bob, studied by him, and circulated to members of the Akron A.A. Group Number One Christian Fellowship:
(a) The first book is that of Ethel Willitts, Healing in Jesus’ Name: Fifteen Sermons and
Addresses on Salvation and Healing, 2d ed. Ethel Willitts was an evangelist who spent several months in Akron after A.A. was founded and before the Big Book was written. At pages 94 and 95 of Healing in Jesus’ Name, she points to 1 Corinthians 12:27, 28. She reminds that God provided for teachers, miracles, and gifts of healing. She adds:
We are now living in the dispensation of the Holy Spirit, when the Holy Spirit, the miracle worker, should be working in our churches even more so than in the early times. . . . In the early church times, God established teachers who taught salvation and healing and went about healing all manner of sickness and all manner of diseases. They were, like Paul, declaring the whole counsel of the Lord.
(b) The second book contains James Moore Hickson’s reports on thousands of Christian
healings. In Heal the Sick, Hickson points out at page 3: “The Early Church accepted the commission and obeyed the command, and the healing of the sick formed a natural part of her ministry. The healing ministry continued for some centuries. . . . ”
The Relevant Practices of First Century Christians Reported in the Gospels and the Book of Acts That Were Commonplace in the Akron A.A. Group Number One “Christian Fellowship”
1. Receiving power and witnessing: [Jesus] “showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days. . . . [and said] For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. . . . But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
2. Fellowship with God, His Son Jesus Christ, and other believers: Many have concluded that the author of 1 John was one of the apostles. And that author wrote: “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.”
3. Receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost: The Book of Acts reported as to those present in Jerusalem for the day of Pentecost: “Men and Brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
4. Those who gladly received the word were baptized, and the same day three thousand were added to their number.
5. Continuing stedfastly in the apostle’s doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread, and in prayers.
6. Power after the Holy Ghost was come upon them. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
7. Appearing to the Apostles after his resurrection, Jesus told them: (a) Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. (b) He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. . . . (c) And these signs shall follow them that believe: In My name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues. . . . they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. (d) And they went forth and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.
8. The first healing: At the Temple Gate called Beautiful, Peter and John healed the man lame from birth. Peter commanded him, “In the name of Jesus Christ, rise up and walk.” Asked by what power or by what name the impotent man was made whole, Peter said: “by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth . . . even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. . . . Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
9. By the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people (and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch. . . . And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.)
10. A multitude were healed—every one: “There came also a multitude out of the cities round about Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits and they were healed every one.”
11. And all that believed were together, and had all things in common. . . . And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart. Praising God, and having favor with the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
12. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.
13. These daily meetings of the Apostles followed the path of Jesus who said: “I was with you in the temple teaching, and ye took me not: but the scriptures must be fulfilled.
The Relevant, Documented Practices of Both the Akron A.A. “Christian Fellowship” as Well as Many Other Early AAs Should Here Be Reviewed, Pondered, and Compared With the Practices of First Century Christianity (as Seen in the Book of Acts, Especially)
1. Qualifying the newcomer as an alcoholic wanting to quit for good and who will do anything that will help him abstain. The A.A. Big Book states, as to relief from alcoholism, “God could and would if He were sought.” Compare the verse from Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount—often explained by Dr. Bob as meaning first things first. Hence Bob quoted Matthew 6:33: “And seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Compare also the language of Hebrews 11:6—frequently referred to by Oxford Group people and by Rev. Samuel Shoemaker: “But without faith, it is impossible to please him [God]” for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
2. Hospitalization was a “must” and was a way to assure safe detox and to prevent seizures or DT’s.
3. The newcomer was then required to make a decision to quit drinking forever.
4. Belief in God was required.
5. Coming to God through accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior was required.
6. Asking God in the name of Jesus Christ to take alcohol out of your life and to test their lives in order to live by Christian principles such as the Four Absolute standards of Jesus.
7. Fellowshipping with like-minded believers occurred daily As Dr. Bob described it, “We used to have daily meetings at a friend’s house.” (The Co-Founders, 13)
8. Learning from the Bible what God promises, expects, and renewing their mind to it.
9. Prayer – both individual and group.
10. Quiet Time – the Bible, prayer, Guidance, devotionals.
11. Study time—individual or group—the Bible (the Book of James, Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, and 1 Corinthians 13 were considered “absolutely essential” to the program.)
12. Study time—eyes on the page by individual or group—Joe and Charlie Big Book tapes.
13. Sponsor time—taking newcomers through the 12 Steps—with guidebook—evidenced by the Our A.A. Legacy to the Faith Community authored by three Clarence H. Snyder sponsees and their wives..
14. Communicating daily.
15. Breaking bread together daily.
16. Visiting other believers daily in meetings or in homes or groups.
17. Study time—Christian devotionals—The Runner’s Bible—1 Corinthians—Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount—James.
18. Church services, group Bible studies, religious services.
19. Speaker meetings that focus on the solution, not war stories, or recitals of misery and failures. Instead, talking about what God has done for them, talking about the Big Book and Steps, talking about the Bible, talking about A.A.’s historical roots, and talking about living sober.
20. Looking for someone to help and sponsor.
21. Helping others get straightened out the same way—welcome and courteously help them at meetings or elsewhere, provide rides, sit with newcomers who timidly come to meetings, pray with and for them, go to wholesome activities together—sports, dances, barbeques, movies, TV and popcorn, comedy shows, music, amusement parks, plays, athletic games, other games, chip meetings, birthday parties, roundups, conferences, area meetings—Unity, Gratitude Nights, etc.
22. Become a qualified speaker—covering God, Jesus Christ, Bible, Big Book, Steps, and what you did to maintain sobriety and move toward a useful, abundant life.
23. Become a qualified sponsor—teach the Big Book, the Steps, the history, the Bible, and prayer.
24. Participate in your own recovery—and do it within your own meetings, commitments, service work, setups, cleanups, greeting, coffee-making, or literature person.
25. Stick with the winners and stay away from temptation, slippery places, slippery people.
26. Attend to health matters, dental matters, injuries, and illnesses; family matters, custody matters; criminal, civil and domestic issues; as well as missed court dates and lack of response to court orders, and tickets.
27. Get a job. Or pursue vocational training, educational programs, and housing needs. Also, possibly, volunteering for charitable, church, non-profit, organizational work while looking for the other solutions; or, at the same time as working at a job, school, or finding a housing solution.
28. Take pride in appearance.
Starting a Productive Recovery Journey Today–Applying and Combining “Old-School” Akron A.A. Biblical Techniques or Programs, with Today’s Successful 12-Step approaches; And Bending Every Effort to Harmonize the Two, Using A.A. General-Service Conference-approved Literature as a Topical Tool.
Whether they fully understand their own words or descriptions, those who speak today of early Akron A.A. in terms of its likeness to First Century Christianity need to learn more, discern more, reframe more, and tolerate more if they are to focus on their own recovery and useful lives as well as reaching out to help those who still suffer and truly want God’s help.
The importance of the principles and practices of the early Apostles (to the extent accepted and applied successfully by the Akron A.A. pioneers) is simply the fruit of aligning one’s life with what the Bible discloses to be God’s will for man. For the Big Book frequently and both directly and indirectly speaks of doing God’s will and “Thy will be done.” And, however perfect or imperfect they were individually, the early Christians were close in person or time to the Exemplar, being doers of God’s Word, and not hearers only, deceiving their own selves.
Briefly, then, let’s review what the Apostles were attempting to do and the results they were able to achieve when they walked in fellowship with God, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Bible.
Asked, “Master which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said . . . “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all they heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also. . . . For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. . . . Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
Said Jesus: “I was daily with you in the temple teaching, . . .”
Some of the Apostles were actually present to hear Jesus’s words. And those First Century Christians followed the foregoing principles cited above, applying them in learning the Word, prayer, fellowship, comradeship, worship, witnessing, healing, and conversion.
(1) They that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them three thousand souls (Acts 2:41).
(2) They continued daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, and ate their meat with gladness and singleness of heart (Acts 2:46).
(3) They continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers (Acts 2:42).
(4) And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles (Acts 2:43).
(5) And all that believed were together, and had all things common (Acts 2:44).
(6) Peter and John went up together into the temple. Peter approached a man lame from his mother’s birth who asked an alms. Peter said: “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.” And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones regained strength. And he leaping up stood; and walked, and entered with them into the temple. Walking and leaping and praising God. (Acts 3:1-3, 6-8)
(7) And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong. . . . the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. (Acts 3:16)
(8) Asked by what power or by what name have ye done this, Peter said, Be it known unto you all,, and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand before you whole. . . . Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. . . . And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus; and great grace was upon them all” (Acts 4:7, 10, 12, 33)
(9) And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people (and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch. . . . And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes of men and women. (Acts 5:12, 14)
And We Believe the Documentation of What the Early Akron A.A. Group Number One Christian Fellowship Did is Fully Supported by, and Shown to Be Appropriate and Available Primarily by A.A. General Service Conference-approved Literature
In the homes of early A.A. Christian Akronites, they studied the Bible, had prayers, read literature, used Quiet Time devotionals, visited newcomers in the hospital, led the newcomers to profess belief in God and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, fellowshipped together daily, broke bread together, and hung out with like-minded believers, asked God to take alcohol out of their lives and to help them live by cardinal Christian principles. And it worked! Those who were real alcoholics, who were determined to stay away from liquor for good, who were willing to do whatever it took, and who followed the seven-point program summarized on page 131 of DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers had a remarkable percentage of success—both in Akron and in Cleveland. And they publically and frequently gave testimony that they had been cured.
The Value of the Old School Akron A.A. Program Is That It Came From and Was Embraced by and Successfully Applied in Earlier, Pre-A.A. Substantial and Successful Christian Recovery Work, And Then Tested as to the Efficacy of Those Christian Roots for Four Years (1935-1939), and Thereafter—Even as the efficacy of God’s Help in Recovery Is Still Being Tested and Successful Today!
Here is a timeline of the solid roots of early Akron A.A.’s Christian Fellowship
1. The teachings of Jesus and the records of the Apostles as sketched above.
2. The Christian organizations and people of the 1900’s who served and healed, and turned from fighting liquor and saloons to helping the” unworthy” derelicts, criminals, prostitutes, alcoholics, and addicts.
They employed various and differing techniques, but the fundamental and needed Christian ingredients were similar: (a) Belief in God. (b) Conversion to God through accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. (c) Standing on the truth and teachings of Scripture. (d) Prayer meetings. (e) Scripture reading. (f) Quiet Time. (g) Sermons. (h) Hymns (i) Revivals. (j) Rehabilitating Lives. (k) Changing lives. (l) Attaining remission of sins. (m) Being healed of all manner of sicknesses and diseases. (n) Being redeemed from the power of darkness, and (k) Assuring Everlasting life. And these practices are just as welcome to, and compatible with, the needs of thousands of dedicated 12-Step people today.
3. The people and entities that constituted the Christian roots and sources of A.A. were: (a) The Young Men’s Christian Association. (b) Gospel Rescue Missions. (c) Evangelists like Dwight Moody, Ira Sankey, H.M. Moore, Allen Folger, F.B. Meyer, and Henry Drummond. (d) The Salvation Army (e) Congregationalism. (f) The Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor; and belatedly and to a degree (g) A First Century Christian Fellowship—often spoken of as the Oxford Group.
4. The Christian Upbringing of Dr. Bob and Bill W. in Vermont can be seen in the original A.A. recovery formula:
(a) As to Dr. Bob: The Great Awakening of 1875 in St. Johnsbury where an entire village was transformed, Dr. Bob and his family trained him and themselves in salvation and the Word of God. North Congregational Church of St. Johnsbury provided—with its documented confession, creed, baptism, sermons, hymns, prayers, reading of Scripture; Sunday school; YMCA connections; St. Johnsbury Academy—with its required daily chapel offering sermons, prayers, hymns, reading of Scripture; required weekly church attendance, required Bible study, and the ever-present school YMCA activities.
(b) As to Bill W.: The conversion and cure of Grandpa Willie Wilson alcoholism, Bill W. and his family trained Bill in Christian precepts, East Dorset Congregational Church (the Wilson family owned Pew 15, and the Griffith family were regular attenders) provided—with its documented confession, creed, baptism, sermon, hymns, reading of Scripture, Temperance meetings, revivals, conversion meetings; Sunday school; Bible reading with grandfather Griffith and friend Mark Whalon. Burr and Burton Seminary (which Bill attended for four years) provided—with its required four year Bible study course–Bill W.’s presidency of the seminary YMCA, his girlfriend’s presidency of the seminary YWCA, daily chapel—with sermons, prayers, hymns, reading of Scripture; required attendance at Manchester Congregational Church—Ebby Thacher’s attendance at the seminary with Bill W. for a time and Ebby’s boarding with the Manchester Congregational Church pastor, Rev. Sidney K. Perkins; And then Bill W. and Ebby’s attendance at Norwich Military Academy – with similar but less stringent religious requirements.
5. How the First Three AAs got sober before there were any Big Books, Steps, Traditions, War Stories, or Meetings such as those today. The first three AA were each believers in God, Christians, and Bible students. Each hit bottom, decided to quit for good, turned life over to God for help and direction, and served others :
(a) As to Bill W. —The very start of Bill’s recovery success involved Dr. Silkworth’s advice to Bill W. and his wife at the lowest possible bottom about cure by the Great Physician Jesus Christ; Ebby’s new birth at Calvary Mission and his testimony to Bill; Bill’s acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior at Calvary Mission; Bill’s writing his brother-in-law that he “found religion;” and then writing in his autobiography that “For sure I’d been born again. Yet–again drunk and despairing–Bill remembered possible help from Great Physician, checked into Towns Hospital; decided to call on the Great Physician; cried out to God for help; had a vital religious experience in his hospital room with blazing indescribably white light; the sense of being on a mountain top, feeling a breeze of the spirit, and thinking: “Bill, you are a free man. This is the God of the Scriptures.” Bill lost all of his doubts about God. He never drank again. He feverishly set about trying to help other drunks with a Bible under his arm, telling them they must give their live to God, and that the “Lord” had “cured” him of his alcoholism.
(b) Dr. Bob—Next in the recovery line of miracles, Dr. Bob attended Henrietta Seiberling’s special meeting in Akron, admitted he was a secret drinker, dropped to his knees with the others present, and prayed for deliverance. Bob’s prayers were answered when stranger Bill W. called Henrietta Seiberling asking for a drunk to help, Henrietta believed those prayers were answered, arranged a meeting between Bob and Bill where Bob perceived the importance of service, Bob had one last drinking binge, and decided to “go through with the program,” and never drank again. Both men decided to help other drunks.
(c) Bill D. was the first successful AA—A.A. Number Three—with whom Bill W. and
Dr. Bob worked and then succeeded. Bill D.—an Akron attorney–had been a church deacon and Sunday school superintendent. Bill D. was desperately drunk in Akron City Hospital, then heard Bill and Bob witness to him, then turned to God for help. And then Bill D. was cured; and walked from the hospital a free man. Bill D. went on to serve and help many newcomers. He was discharged from the hospital on July 4, 1935; and Bill Wilson called that date, the date of the founding of A.A.’s first group—Akron Group Number One.
(d) The technique of these first three AAs—believers in God, Christians, and students of
the Bible—was this: They had hit their bottom. They quit for good. Each sought God’s
help. Each was cured and said so. And
(e) Each Began intense work helping others.
6. The early Akron A.A. Group Number One Christian Fellowship program was founded on several, simple, basic ingredients: (a) Their basic ideas from the Bible. (b) Becoming a Christian was required. (c) Hospitalization was required. (d) Most of the program’s principles and practices were based on the Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor program: Conversion meetings, Bible studies, prayer meetings, topical discussion of biblical subjects. Quiet Hour. Reading and discussing Christian literature, and Socializing.
7. Four years later (in 1939), Bill introduced his “new version of the program” with Twelve Steps in the Big Book. He claimed its ideas were taken from three totally different sources: (a) Dr. William D. Silkworth—who defined alcoholism (and who, we now know, told Bill that the Great Physician, Jesus Christ, could cure Bill of Bill’s alcoholism; (b) Professor William James—who validated for Bill vital religious experiences curing alcoholics; and (c) Rev. Sam Shoemaker—who gave Bill the remainder of the Steps from Oxford Group principles.
Using Dick B and Ken B. Books and Conference-approved books to Launch Christian Fellowship Meetings for Christians and those AAs who want God’s help
[Utilize the Big Book; DR. BOB of Alcoholics Anonymous, The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous; Experience, Strength and Hope; Stick with the Winners!; and Pioneer Stories in Alcoholics Anonymous;]