Bible and Christian Roots of A.A.
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Outline of Important Bible and Christian Roots of Early A.A. Do you know them?
Early Akron Alcoholics Anonymous called itself a “Christian Fellowship.”
Observers frequently said that early A.A. was “First Century Christianity” at work.
Bill W. specifically said that Dr. Bob had reminded a group of AAs, including Bill, that most of them were practicing Christians. And then Dr. Bob asked them what the “Master” would do
A.A. Cofounder Dr. Bob had a deep and meaningful Christian upbringing as a youngster in St. Johnsbury, Vermont.
A.A. Cofounder Bill W. also had a deep and meaningful Christian upbringing as a youngster in East Dorset, Rutland, Manchester, and Northfield, Vermont.
There were a number of Christian organizations and people who were helping drunks long before A.A. was founded. Some said they were offering “soup, soap, and salvation.” And these impacted on the lives of the Cofounders in their days in Vermont. They also impacted on the ideas adopted by A.A.
These organizations and people included Young Men’s Christian Association, Gospel Rescue Missions, Salvation Army, Evangelists (Moody, Sankey, Meyer, Moore, Drummond, and Folger—to mention some), Congregationalism, and Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor.
Bill W. said that the ideas in his new version of the program (and specifically the First Step came from Dr. William D. Silkworth, who was a devoted Christian, a member of Rev. Sam Shoemaker’s Calvary Church in New York, and was the one who first told Bill that Jesus Christ, the Great Physician could cure Bill of his alcoholism).
A.A.’s connection with the Oxford Group at the beginning was mentioned by both Bill W. and Dr. Bob. And the Oxford Group was at first called “A First Century Christian Fellowship.”
Dr. Bob’s wife recommended to early AAs that they read books on the life of Jesus Christ and that they read the Bible every single day. She said it was the main “Source Book.”
The daily devotionals that early Akron AAs used in their prayer, Bible study, and meditation sessions were uniformly Christian. Examples were The Runner’s Bible, Upper Room, My Utmost for His Highest, Abundant Living, Victorious Living, Daily Strength for Daily Needs
All AAs in the Akron Number One Group who were hospitalized read the Bible and prayed with Dr. Bob during their stay. They then professed their belief in God and made a decision for Christ.
All early Akron AAs were required to make a “regular surrender” in which they accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and asked God to take alcohol out of their lives.
The books that Dr. Bob read and circulated among early AAs were primarily Christian and numbered in the dozens. Examples of Christian books on healing were James Moore Hickson, Heal the Sick, and Ethel Willits, Healing in Jesus Name. The books were circulated among the pioneers by Dr. Bob.
Bill Wilson’s friend Ebby Thacher was lodged at Calvary Mission in New York; accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior; got sober; visited Bill at his home; and convinced Bill that Ebby had been born again and that he (Bill) might be helped out of his alcoholism at the same place and in the same way
Bill Wilson then went to Calvary Mission himself; accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior at Calvary Mission; and wrote in his autobiography, “For sure, I’d been born again.”
Bill went on the Towns Hospital, decided he should call for help from the Great Physician; cried out to God for help; underwent a vital religious experience in which Bill sensed the presence of God in his hospital room; and thought to himself: “Bill, you are a free man. This is the God of the Scriptures.” Bill was cured of his alcoholism, said so on numerous occasions, and never drank again.
The family of Dr. Bob—parents and grandparents—were very active in the North Congregational Church of St. Johnsbury. Bob’s father was a Deacon and taught Sunday school. Bob’s mother was in charge of church education, sang in the choir, and was church historian. The Smiths attended church with frequency 5 days each week.
The family of Bill W.—parents and grandparents—were very active in the East Dorset Congregational Church in Vermont. The Wilsons were among the founders and held office in the church. They owned Pew 15. The Griffiths were regular attenders. Bill’s parents were married in the church and lived in its parsonage for a time.
Both Dr. Bob and Bill W. were raised in Congregational churches and Sunday schools in Vermont–all attended by their parents and grandparents. They both attended Academies run by Congregationalists and which required attendance at Daily Chapel with Sermons, Hymns, Prayers, and reading of Scripture. Bill later attended daily chapel at Norwich University where Bill was a cadet.
Bill was president of the Burr and Burton Seminary Young Men’s Christian Association; and Bill took a four year Bible study course at the Seminary. Bill attended services and events at Manchester Congregational Church during Bill’s matriculation at Burr and Burton Seminary.
The early A.A. program in Akron, Ohio was founded primarily on Christian principles and practices laid down by the Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor, in which Dr. Bob and his family were active in Vermont. It also incorporated the requirement that all members become Christians.
The first three AAs had no Steps, no Traditions, no Big Books, no “War Stories,” and no meetings like those held today. They believed the answers to their problems were in the Bible. And they also believed and studied as “absolutely essential” to their program the Book of James, Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, and 1 Corinthians 13. They had daily meetings.
Bill W.’s “new version” of the program embodied in his Big Book and 12 Steps four years later was, according to Bill, based primarily on the teachings of Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr., Rector of the Calvary Episcopal Church in New York, who was called a “Bible Christian,” and whom Bill called a “cofounder of A.A.” Bill worked on the text of the new version with Shoemaker; asked Shoemaker to write the Twelve Steps; but Shoemaker declined, suggesting that Bill should write them.
Dr. Bob’s wife kept a journal from 1933-1939 from which she read each morning to AAs and their families; and in it, she spoke frequently of the Bible, Christian literature, Jesus Christ, God, and the Holy Spirit. At the morning Quiet Times, Anne led with a prayer, reading from Scripture, a Quiet Time session, and a discussion session.
Both Bill and Bob had extensive involvement with the Young Men’s Christian Association. Bill as President, and Dr. Bob’s father as President.