Special Intergroup Meeting: Response to Questions / Comments

Thank you to everyone involved in the discussion around the decision to accept the bequest and set up a special projects fund for our fellowship. We are blessed to have been given the opportunity to be of service to our fellow alcoholics from the beginning of the process. The founders of A.A. were clear from the very beginning that every voice should be heard. One of our greatest challenges is making sure every voice gets heard. Luckily for us, the founders also did a great deal of the heavy lifting in this regard and we have an organization with a service structure that supports this goal.

At the Special Projects Fund Meeting on Wednesday, Oct 21 we heard from over 20 of the roughly 80 participants and compiled their questions/comments/concerns. Here is a list of what we heard:

  • How seriously did we consider the traditions/concepts/principles?
  • Why wasn’t this brought to the groups before accepting the money?
  • How come it wasn’t more readily disseminated to the groups/members?
  • Members expressed a desire to return the money, or return all but 10k.
  • How is the money to be spent?
  • Was there precedent, were other entities (Intergroups/CO/GSO) consulted?
  • What will happen with the second bequest?

How seriously did we consider the traditions/concepts/principles?

The experience, strength and hope present at the monthly business meeting of Intergroup representatives is overflowing with knowledge and appreciation for the service structure of A.A.: years of experience in dealing with matters concerning the traditions, concepts and principles; the strength of the representatives comes from the trust their groups’ members place in their decisions; and the hope incumbent in the gift of sobriety as the ultimate goal for all those who have a desire to stop drinking. We fully understand and share the concerns expressed around the dangers of accepting a considerable sum of money from a deceased member of our Fellowship. We considered the long form of Tradition 7 which states: “acceptance of large gifts from any source, or of contributions carrying any obligation, is unwise. Then too, we view with much concern those A.A. treasuries, which continue, beyond prudent reserves, to accumulate funds with no stated A.A. purpose.” The Special Projects Fund was set up with a specifically stated purpose and through the decision making process as it exists in our business meetings, a summary of the circumstances can be found here

Some members expressed their belief that it did not matter how strongly Intergroup believed in the usefulness of the projects to assist our fellowship’s capability to help the still suffering alcoholic as it clearly violated the traditions and was harmful to A.A. as a whole. A.A. as a whole is constantly facing challenges that require our careful consideration in an ever changing environment. Sometimes the solutions to those problems may involve decisions that cause discomfort and unease within our membership. This has been the case since the beginning, and the structure built by those who have gone before us was tested repeatedly and came out stronger on the other side. The traditions, concepts and principles emerged out of what Bill W. termed the “Constructive Use of Trouble.” He states, “This trouble is now converted into an educational process. It is something for growth, and progress becomes our most important product – and trouble is the touchstone, the stimulus, to the perfection of that progress.” However the results of the decision to institute a Special Projects Fund turns out, A.A. as a whole will be stronger for the debate and loving discussion that surrounds the process. 

Why wasn’t this brought to the groups before accepting the money? How come it wasn’t more readily disseminated to the groups/members?

The Intergroup Representative (IGR) is the primary conduit through which the business of Intergroup is conducted. At any given time roughly 7% of the groups have an active IGR. This has been the case for many years and increasing outreach to the fellowship is one of our greatest challenges. If your group is not currently represented you can find information on the role and responsibility of the IGR here. Intercounty Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous (IFAA, or “Intergroup”) is a function of the service structure in AA by which the individual groups and members can achieve the primary purpose of helping the still suffering alcoholic. IFAA procedure relies on the participation of its members to operate and maintain the services provided and is consistently aiming to improve and expand the efficacy of both the services provided and the participation of the groups. The establishment of the Special Projects Fund is specifically rooted in assuring the continued dedication to IFAA’s purpose of serving the groups and the still suffering alcoholic. 

Members expressed a desire to return the money, or return all but 10k.

This request has been added as “New Business” to the current agenda at Intergroup.

How is the money to be spent?

You can find details about how the money is being spent and plans for future projects here

Was there precedent, were other entities (Intergroups/CO/GSO) consulted?

There have been other service entities that have taken large sums of money and addressed the concerns of their members over the decision. We have heard from a number of other people involved in service expressing their support and interest in how this process came about and in how it develops going forward. GSO was not specifically consulted during our decision making process but responded to our inquiry for their feedback recently. Their response is as follows:

I spoke with our Archivist and also with senior staff and there were a few common themes.  One of them, which you brought up in your email, is that in accordance with Tradition 4, each AA entity is autonomous and develops its own informed group conscience on how to apply the Tradition to its daily operations and activities.  While G.S.O. does currently have a limit of $10,000 for individual bequests, other A.A. entities, guided by A.A. principles and Traditions may certainly have a different threshold.

Another theme was to look closely at Tradition Seven, especially the long form which has more specifics to it: 

The A.A. groups themselves ought to be fully supported by the voluntary contributions of their own members. We think that each group should soon achieve this ideal; that any public solicitation of funds using the name of Alcoholics Anonymous is highly dangerous, whether by groups, clubs, hospitals, or other 2 outside agencies; that acceptance of large gifts from any source, or of contributions carrying any obligation whatever, is unwise. Then too, we view with much concern those A.A. treasuries which continue, beyond prudent reserves, to accumulate funds for no stated A.A. purpose. Experience has often warned us that nothing can so surely destroy our spiritual heritage as futile disputes over property, money, and authority.

The Tradition cautions treasuries not to “accumulate funds for no stated A.A. purpose.”  From what you described, there were clearly defined purposes for the contributions and that they related to carrying the message of A.A.

The long form says “…that acceptance of large gifts from any source, or of contributions carrying any obligation whatever, is unwise.”  It is up to the informed group conscience to decide if these contributions carried any obligation and what is the definition of “large gifts.” 

Several of us remembered the discussion at Conference when the bequest limit was raised from $5,000 to $10,000.  Some members spoke about how we should rely on the entire Fellowship for support rather than looking to wealthy members.  They shared that this is another expression of the spiritual concept of anonymity – no one stands out because of the amount of money they give to A.A.  The ideal is that we all get the chance for that feeling of belonging that comes from contributing as well as the spiritual rewards of giving with no reward in mind.  There is the potential for large contributions to engender a feeling of “I don’t have to participate in self-support, it’s covered by a few high rollers.” It’s good to ask if that has happened since the contributions were accepted, or not?

One other theme brought up was that we are a self-correcting Fellowship.  The process you described bears that out:  the fact that the Board at first declined the contribution, then opened it up to a broader discussion (which is in keeping with our Traditions and Concepts) and decided to accept it.  If another correction needs to be made, well that’s just A.A.

As our literature reminds us, “we are not saints” and “it’s progress, not perfection.”  If we do make a mistake, Step Ten instructs us to “make amends quickly if we have harmed anyone.  Then resolutely turn our thoughts to someone we can help.”  

I hope there is something in this hastily gathered experience that is helpful. 

What will happen with the second bequest?

The second bequest is currently under further consideration by Intergroup.

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