A Challenging New Recovery Fellowship, Recovery Program, and Explanatory Guide Book
By Dick B.
© 2014 Anonymous. All rights reserved
Arizona’s Enthusiastic Recovered Christian 12-Steppers Working to Harmonize Today’s Big Book A.A. Foundation with Akron A.A.’s Old School Bible Principles and Practices
We believe the recent vigorous organizational efforts of this Arizona Fellowship represent a new achievement and challenge for those who study and practice today’s 12-Step recovery ideas, but also believe the basic ideas for the Twelve Steps—which came from the teaching, effort, and studies of Akron’s Old School Christian Fellowship–can and should be harmonized and applied together. And this work of Arch Builders by a vigorous recovery-oriented 12-Step Fellowship offers a new challenge for those who cherish all that A.A. has done and can do for the alcoholic who still suffers and yet hunger for a meaningful understanding of the vital role played by God, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Bible as the Akron A.A. Christian Fellowship developed its successful program that so much resembled the techniques and practices of First Century Christians. See The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous: Biographical Sketches Their Last Major Talks, pages 11-16. Compare with http://www.ArchBuilders.org.
Arch Builders does not merely tack on to each step a Bible verse thought to be of value to those seeking God’s help. Nor does it bury the Steps in huge Bibles that sprinkle the Steps throughout the Bible even though early AAs never employed such a technique. This, then, will be an exploration of the daunting task of Christian 12-Step recovery at a time when secular ideas are more and more dominating the talk and practices of those embracing higher powers, unbelief, spirituality, half the A.A. story, and a minimum of historical helps almost ignored today.
The Focused Agenda of Dick B. and Ken B.
It is widely known today that my son Ken and I have devoted 25 years of travel, research, interviews, visits to libraries and archives, and speaking at Alcoholics Anonymous and International Christian Recovery Coalition conferences, groups of Christian recovery leaders, radio programs, and seminars. Also publishing 46 titles and over 1,700 articles on recovery from alcoholism and Christian recovery. See http://www.DickB.com, http://www.ChristianRecoveryCoalition, and http://www.AAHistoryChristianRecovery.com.
Our work has always been, and still is, dedicated primarily to hands-on efforts and research that have helped and will directly help the alcoholic, drug addict, and codependent who still suffers. This work has also emerged as a catalyst for a swift and presently growing Christian recovery movement and many recovered Christian speakers and conferences, as well as published books, articles, and blogs.
It did not take me long, after achieving continuing sobriety starting on April 21, 1986, to recognize the sickness and troubles of those alcoholics and drug addicts seeking or needing help. That includes me, your author. But, at about three years of sobriety and after continuous active A.A. participation and sponsoring, I was led to search for the role that the Bible had played in A.A. Initially, my answer was found in A.A.’s title, DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers. Then it came to my attention that this publication reported only the tip of an iceberg which had largely been submerged since A.A. was founded in 1935. And that most of the A.A. story and roots—“the rest of the story”—which had somehow crossed my path in my recovery, had also been submerged.
About May 2009, my son and I began seeing the importance of disseminating widely the long obscured role that God, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Bible played in recovery for those who wanted God’s help. And also, the role they could play today. The key was getting the application of the almost buried old school A.A. into the hands of Christian recovery pastors, Christian fellowship leaders, heads of Christian treatment programs and residential facilities, physicians, psychologists, clergy, chaplains, counselors, 12 Step speakers, sponsors, and the public. And that is when we began meeting personally with the leaders and learning how they were bringing God’s healing into the hands of suffering newcomers just as the earliest A.A. and its precursor entities and people had done in the 1930’s and long before A.A.
The Tangled Web of Varying, Conflicting, and Often Ignored Recovery Programs and Recovery History Despite the Passing of About 75 Years of A.A. Fellowship Activity
Before we discuss the task Arch Builders encountered when we came to know it, we need to outline briefly the options that were floating around recovery circles by 2009. For the sick folks were surrounded by a bewildering variety of words, phrases, ideas, programs, and opinions that they could scarcely define or learn the heart of recovery by reliance on God. The following are the floating choices
First, there is the long history of Christian efforts and successes helping drunks long before A.A.; and these many Christian programs and their leaders substantially influenced our cofounders. There was an historical foundation for effective Christian help by huge Christian organizations for alcoholics and addicts long before A.A. was founded. Earliest A.A., when founded in 1935, had been preceded by many, large, effective Christian entities and people who had begun in the 1850’s to turn their attention to the down and out drunk and derelict.
Their programs could be found in the Young Men’s Christian Association, Gospel Rescue Missions, the Salvation Army, revivals of the great evangelists like Dwight Moody and F.B. Meyer, Congregationalism, and the Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor. Later, even some of the life-changing ideas of the Oxford Group.
For the most part, their exemplary approaches to healing the sick involved abstinence, turning to God for help, growing in understanding of and obedience to God through Bible study, prayer, quiet time, and Christian literature, and helping the drunkard find his way out with the tools and then help others in the same way. This data is part of “the rest of the story”—the part virtually unknown or unmentioned. And yet, it was a major inspiration for recovery from alcoholism and addiction by relying on God.
The documentation of this early work can be found in the following literature: J. Wilbur Chapman, S.H. Hadley of Water Street; Dick B. and Ken B., Dr. Bob of Alcoholics Anonymous: His Excellent Training in the Good Book as a Youngster in Vermont (http://www.dickb.com/drbobofaa.shtml); Dick B., The Conversion of Bill W.: More on the Creator’s Role in Early A.A. (http://www.dickb.com/theconversionofbillw.shtml); and 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 (http://mcaf.ee/h0mwp).
In other words, for those who wanted to learn why Divine Aid ministered by Christians played such a prominent part of alcoholism treatment before A.A. began, there was ample proof that recovery workers could rely on God for healing alcoholics. See Alcohol, Science and Society: Twenty-nine Lectures with Discussions as given at the Yale Summer School of Alcohol Studies, 1945, pages 414-15, 417, 456-57.
Second, before the first A.A. “Christian fellowship” group was founded in Akron on July 4, 1935, the first three AAs had each gotten sober for life by prayer and reliance on God, based also on the answers they found in the Bible and their church lives.
The first successes in early A.A. were accomplished by Bill W., Dr. Bob, and the attorney Bill D. before Akron Group Number One was founded. The reliance of the first three AAs was on quitting liquor for good, entrusting their lives to God’s care and direction, and then helping others. Dr. Bob summarized the situation in his last major talk to AAs. At that point, there were no Steps, no Traditions, no Big Books, no war stories, and no meetings as we know them today.
Dr. Bob said:
In early A.A. days, . . .
. . . our stories didn’t amount to anything to speak of. When we started in on Bill D. [A.A. Number Three], we had no Twelve Steps, either; we had no Traditions. [And there was no Big Book, and there were no “war stories” or meetings as we know them today].
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.
We used to have daily meetings at a friend’s house.
[The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous: Biographical Sketches Their Last Major Talks, page 13].
In plain words, Dr. Bob explained that the first three AAs looked almost exclusively to the Bible and particularly to Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, 1 Corinthians 13, and the Book of James for their answers from God about how to conquer the alcoholism illness. The Bible was the acknowledged main Source Book of all, as Dr. Bob’s wife phrased it in the journal she shared with early AAs each morning. See Dick B., Anne Smith’s Journal 1933-1939, pages 53-56, 60, 115
Third, beginning about June 10, 1935, the early AAs began developing the first Christian program of recovery. It was summarized in seven points. [DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, 131]. And our research soon established about 16 practices that implemented the seven points and that much resembled those of First Century Christians and are summarized in Dick B. and Ken B., Stick with the Winners!, pages 27-37.
In November 1937, Bill W. and Dr. Bob counted noses and found that about 40 alcoholics had maintained continuous sobriety during the preceding two-year period. And they concluded that God had shown them how to pass the message along.
Fourth, with that news, Bill sought and received authorization to write a book about the program. Bill set about writing it, having the help of his friend Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr. Bill had previously gone to Calvary Mission and handed his life over to God by accepting Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior at the altar. Then, in a short while, Bill—still drinking—had gone to Towns Hospital; he had cried out to God for help; and he had a vital religious experience in which his room blazed with an indescribably white light. Bill believed he had been freed of his alcoholism and thought, “This is the God of the Scriptures.” And Bill was cured of his alcoholism and never drank again. [The Language of the Heart, pages 281-86. See also Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., page 191.]
In Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, Bill explained that he had begun to write the Big Book. He was greatly pleased with what he had written; and he read two friends “the new version of the program, now the ‘Twelve Steps,’” [Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, pages 161-62]. Bill also explained what he believed were the three sources of the Big Book basic ideas. In The Language of the Heart, beginning at page 296, Bill credited the ideas in Step One to Dr. William D. Silkworth’s explanation that alcoholism was a grievous and often fatal malady of the mind and body—an obsession that condemns the alcoholic to drink joined to a physical allergy that condemns the alcoholic to madness or death. Thus producing the seeming hopelessness of the illness embodied in the Step One admission.
Next, Bill credited the ideas in Step Twelve to Professor William James’s book, The Varieties of Religious Experience, in which James propounded that frequently the remedy for the sickness of body, mind, and soul involved a religious experience that would not only expel the alcohol obsession, but which also made effective and truly real the practice of spiritual principles “in all our affairs.”
Finally, Bill credited all the rest of the Steps—Steps Two through Eleven—(“the spiritual substance of our remaining Steps”) as having come “straight from Dr. Bob’s and my own [his own] earlier association with the Oxford Group as they were then led in America by that Episcopal rector, Dr. Samuel Shoemaker.” See The Language of the Heart, page 298. On page 298, Bill also introduced his discussion of Steps Two through Eleven with the following questions pertaining to the Shoemaker role:
Where did the early AA find the material for the remaining ten steps? Where did we learn about moral inventory, amends for harm done, turning wills and lives over to God? Where did we learn about meditation and prayer and all the rest of it?
Just before the Big Book was being readied for the final discussion and submission to the printer, Bill wrote in Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, page 166:
Just before the manuscript was finished an event of great significance for our future took place. At that time it looked like just another battle over the book. The scene was Henry’s office in Newark, where most of the writing had been done. Present were Fitz, Henry, our grand little secretary Ruth, and myself. We were still arguing about the Twelve Steps.
Note carefully what Bill then said about God and the steps. At page 166-67 of Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, Bill wrote:
All this time I had refused to budge on these steps. I would not change a word of the original draft, in which, you will remember, I had consistently used the word “God,” and in one place the expression “on our knees” was used. Praying to God on one’s knees was still a big affront to Henry. He argued, he begged, he threatened. . . . He was positive we would scare off alcoholics by the thousands when they read those Twelve Steps.
And so the “new version” of the program—the Twelve Steps—was plainly talking about Almighty God, the Creator, and His role in recovery as explained in the Steps first written!
Finally a dramatic change, a revised program approach, an unusual compromise, and a shift from God to any God or no God took place in the Newark office when the little committee of four—Fitz M., Hank P., secretary Ruth, and Bill—did a complete, surprising about-face. And Bill describes it on page 167 of Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age as follows:
Little by little both Fitz and Ruth came to see merit in his [Hank P.’s] contentions. Though at first I would have none of it, we finally began to talk about the possibility of compromise. Who first suggested the actual compromise words I do not know, but they are words well known throughout the length and breadth of A.A. today:
In Step Two we decided to describe God as a “Power greater than ourselves.” In Steps Three and Eleven we inserted the words “God as we understood Him.” From Step Seven we deleted the expression “on our knees.”
And, as a lead-in sentence to all the steps we wrote these words: “Here are the steps we took which are suggested as a Program of Recovery.” A.A.’s Twelve Steps were to be suggestions only.
Such were the final concessions to those of little or no faith; this was the great contribution of our atheists and agnostics. They had widened our gateway so that all who suffer might pass through, regardless of their belief or lack of belief.
God was certainly there in our Steps, but He was now expressed in terms that anybody—anybody at all—could accept and try.
And, before we leave this “compromise” of the word God, this supposed contribution of “our” atheists and agnostics, and this invitation to “all . . . regardless of their belief or lack of belief,” we would point to some contested, misunderstood, and predominant compromise theories—certainly not to be found in the Bible or even in most of the Big Book today. These compromise ideas—even today—leave believers, unbelievers, Christians, atheists, and those seeking God’s help with a major dilemma. The compromise ideas had meant that the “old-school” A.A., the Bible-based practices and prayers, and the centuries-old defined beliefs about the Creator had not been based on practical recovery experiences, known success, or even the ideas of the founders of A.A.
An example of how far today’s compromised A.A. “god” has strayed from “old-school” A.A may be seen in the A.A. General Service Conference-approved pamphlet titled “A Newcomer Asks . . .” (Item # P-24; published in 1980). It states:
The majority of A.A. members believe that we have found the solution to our drinking problem not through individual willpower, but through a power greater than ourselves. However, everyone defines this power as he or she wishes. Many people call it God, others think it is the A.A. group, still others don’t believe in it at all. There is room in A.A. for people of all shades of belief and nonbelief.
Compare with this case for a higher power that can be a group or nothing at all, the solution, as originally set forth in the First Edition of Alcoholics Anonymous, at page 35-36:
There is a solution. . . . The great fact is just this, and nothing less: that we have had deep and effective spiritual experiences, which have revolutionized our whole attitude toward life, toward our fellows, and toward God’s universe. The central fact of our lives today is the absolute certainty that our Creator has entered into our hearts and lives in a way which is indeed miraculous. He has commenced to accomplish those things for us which we could never do by ourselves. If you are as seriously alcoholic as we were, believe there is no middle-of-the-road solution.
These two totally conflicting assertions leave a task that is worthy of the effort of some group like Arch Builders to untangle. Today, some people are calling their higher power a rock or a tree. Some are criticizing those who mention God, Jesus Christ, or the Bible. Some are talking about spiritual experiences and spiritual awakenings. And many many members just don’t know or “experience” the solution that Bill Wilson tendered in 1939.
Some of the confusing and lingering questions are: To whom am I to pray? Upon whom do I rely or to whom do I surrender my life? Where—without the Bible as the guide—can we find definitions or explanations of mere compromise suggestions not even resting on any Steps at all—Steps just written, Steps never practiced (though purporting to exist) , and Steps that had never been taken? From where did the idea of some “higher power” suddenly rise to general use? If one has a “lack of belief,” in what phase of the Big Book or the Steps is he to begin, if at all, relying for recovery on “something” other than self?
There is a Challenge for Those Who Wish God’s Help, Who Endeavor—Within the Ranks of Today’s A.A.—to Form Fellowships, Groups, and Meetings that Exercise the Freedom of Choice to Learn, Apply, Teach, and Rely Upon the Help of God is to Act within the very Boundaries of A.A.’s Assurance that their Steps are Suggestive Only. To tolerate and Understand, that Believers and Unbelievers, Christians, Atheists, and Those Seeking a god’s Help may Utilize, Apply, Disregard, or Modify the Compromise Program Suggested by the Committee of Four when the Big Book was Being Printed in 1939. Or to stand on the Countless Pages of A.A. Material that Today States Things like this:
Bill W. is quoted on page 30 of The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous as follows: For example, a fellow came to Dr. Bob and said, “I’m an alcoholic; here is my history. But I also have this other ‘complication.’ Can I join A.A.?” Finally, there was some kind of hearing on it among the self-appointed elders. I remember how perfectly Bob put it to them. He reminded us that most of us were practicing Christians. Then he asked, “What would the Master have thought? Would He have kept this man away?” He had them cold! The man came in, was a prodigious worker, and was one of our most respected people.
Dr. Bob is quoted on page 19 of The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous as follows: Another thing which most of us are not too blessed is the feeling of humility. . . I’m talking about the attitude of each and every one of us toward our Heavenly Father. Christ said, “Of Myself, I am nothing—My strength cometh from My Father in heaven.” If He had to say that, how about you and me? . . . . We had no humility, no sense of having received anything through the grace of our Heavenly Father.
In DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, Bill W. and Dr. Bob’s daughter Sue were quoted as follows on page 71: “For the next three months, I lived with these two wonderful people,” Bill said, “I shall always believe they gave me more than I ever brought them. Each morning there was a devotion. . . After a long silence, in which they awaited inspiration and guidance, Anne would read from the Bible. ‘James was our favorite. . . . Reading from her chair in the corner, she would softly conclude, ‘Faith without works is dead.’ “This was a favorite quotation of Anne’s, much as the Book of James was a favorite of early A.A.’s—so much so that ‘The James Club’ was favored by some as a name for the fellowship. . . . Sue also remembered the quiet time in the mornings—how they sat around reading from the Bible.”
On page 191 of the 4th edition of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill W. is quoted as follows: Bill looked across at my wife and said to her, “Henrietta, the Lord has been so wonderful to me, curing me of this terrible disease, that I just want to keep talking about it and telling people.”
On page 181 of the 4th edition of Alcoholics Anonymous, Dr. Bob is quoted as follows: “Your Heavenly Father will never let you down!”
To summarize the challenging tasks for groups today: 1) if they refer to God, to Jesus Christ, to the Holy Spirit, or to the Bible, they are often denied listing as an A.A. group. 2) if they apply the compromise Steps and rely upon God as someone understands Him, or nothing at all, they lose their own choice of divine help and are forced to use and perhaps try to believe idolatrous words not acceptable to them or under the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Bible. 3) if they stick solely to someone’s interpretation of what is or is not “Conference-approved” or permissible under the Traditions, they may be compelled to limit discussion, literature, and format to “non-Conference approved,” irreligious, or even atheistic viewpoints which do not and cannot govern what members do, say, read, believe, or discuss.
Some groups today are compelled to use group names that are not indicative of the beliefs or approaches of members even though such membership is commonly accepted by A.A. offices and servants even when adopted and submitted naming a group atheist or agnostic or Buddhist or gay and lesbian. Some groups therefore compromise their own beliefs to conform by calling their “higher power” Jesus or God or a chair or a rock. Some groups hide their purpose by using such names as “easy does it” or “batteries included.” Some groups begin their meetings by reading each of the Twelve Steps and adding to each Step a Bible verse which often was not ever studied in early A.A. or is just a private interpretation of some group leader as to what might or might not be agreed upon, acceptable, or in conformity with either the Big Book’s rendition of a Step’s language or the Bible’s verses that are—without either religious or 12-step definitions.
Arch Builders has a new, useful approach to the Big Book and its arch building thesis, the Twelve Steps, and the Bible—a plan that offers Christian and believing 12-Steppers a fresh approach to A.A.
Arch Builders has formed its group, to the best of its ability, in conformity with A.A. Traditions and with frequent use of “Conference-approved” words and phrases. And that is how it has met the challenge outlined in this article.
We therefore briefly tell you what Arch Builders seems to hold out as its name, principles, practices, and literature used by members.
Arch Builders in Arizona was one of the first new fellowships which both worked within the A.A. system, featured study of the Big Book and 12 Steps, pointed up spots where they believed the Steps could be related to the Bible, and provided Christian recovery help to those who still suffer in Arizona and also as widely as their service was sought.
Arch Builders, a Host of Christian Leaders, and the “Rest of the Story”
On our “Christian Recovery Radio with Dick B.” show (www.ChristianRecoveryRadio.com) and on trips to which we were invited in Florida, Delaware, New York, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, Missouri, Alaska, Arizona, California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Canada, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and many other areas, we met leaders who did not know a great portion of A.A.’s roots, its pre-A.A. Christian influences, the contribution of A.A. precursors like the Salvation Army, Rescue Missions, the Young Men’s Christian Association, Congregationalism, the great evangelists, and Christian Endeavor. And the leaders were not only hungry to learn more but to apply the valid and studied biblical principles in their recovery work that had so much characterized A.A. of Akron’s “Christian fellowship,” and the immense success (93%), and growth in Cleveland.
Having interviewed a number of leaders on our radio show, spoken to them on the telephone or in person, and spoken at their facilities, we began to see emerging in a variety of ways Christian outreach in the form of churches, recovery pastors, counselors, professors, physicians, Christian treatment and residential treatment, as well as fellowships of AAs who had learned the importance of the roles played by God, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Bible in early A.A. and wanted to hear “the rest of the story” and enhance their programs with the information.
We do not attempt to control or program what Christian Coalition participants do in their programs with the Big Book, the Steps, the Bible, or Jesus Christ We do urge participants to pursue their own beliefs in a tolerant way and without need for condemning present-day 12-Step language and ideas. Our aim is to encourage those in the Christian recovery movement if and when they are Christians endeavoring to define and disseminate the role that God, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Bible have played in their 12-Step Fellowship.
And Arch Builders fills that bill.
We saw heavy traces of “old-school” A.A. being applied now (today)—often out of sync with 12-Step programs, or programs that spurned A.A., or Christians who were determined to undermine any traces of Christians, Christian churches, and Christian recovery history and denounce A.A. and its ideas and its followers as heretical, hell-bound, and dangerous. Fortunately, through the International Christian Recovery Coalition, we have seen Christian recovery grow rapidly in the United States and other countries. But the question remained: Which leaders, entities, programs, counselors, and fellowships were merely flying a Christian flag, but offering little of the intense faith and First Century Christianity that had been seen and applied in early Akron A.A.
And so, on Christian Recovery Radio and in these articles, we endeavor to point out those Christian efforts and those Christian groups or recovery programs which seem to us to have a great deal of the power, love, forgiveness, fellowship, healings, Bible knowledge, prayer, and conversions that can mean so much to a suffering soul who desperately wants God’s help and is willing to do what it takes to get it. The issues are not over fellowship errors or mistakes. They are those examples of what is being done willingly today to foster knowledge and understanding of the power and love of God.
Which brings me to the Arch Builders in Arizona.
We were flown down to Phoenix and Tucson to carry the message about the roles played by God, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Bible in early A.A.’s astonishing successes. We went to see the Christian leaders and workers involved in Arch Builders.
On the plus side, we knew first hand that the Arch Builders had worked with Christians and with A.A. “servants” to follow the Traditions, rely heavily on A.A. Conference-approved literature, and yet assert the freedom to apply “old-school” A.A. today.
Much about what the Arch Builders Arizona recovered Christians do can be found on their website http://www.ArchBuilders.org. They hold meetings for the addicted and the affected. They publish an illustrated guide to the building of the spiritual arch described in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. An extensive appendix “The Recovery Yoke” documents their view of over 50 aspects of Twelve Step Fellowships in the spirit of the Big Book quote on page 164: “God will constantly disclose more to you and to us.” They are putting in substantial time to educate sponsors and their sponsees in all 12 Step programs, as a transitional resource for those leaving recovery centers and entering recovery fellowships. They have developed a format for church-centered biblical based recovery groups. And they urge those who need help of that sort to visit them on http://www.ArchBuilders.org and http://www.FOBF.net for additional information.
Arch Builder’s Meeting Information
ArchBuilder’s currently has a meeting in the Tucson metropolitan area. The meeting is listed below. And you may want to attend, observe, learn, and participate.
Saturday 8:00 am
1755 S Houghton Rd
Tucson, AZ 85748
Town Hall Building Room #5
Paul R. 520-444-7997
Christian twelve step recovery discussion
Arch Builder’s Literature for Sale on Amazon.com
See ArchBuilders: A Biblically Based Recovery Manual by Friends of Bill’s “Friend” (CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2014); ISBN: 1496083954; Price: $12.99: http://mcaf.ee/62ynt