Tradition Two: “For our Group purpose there is but one ultimate authority—a loving God as He may express Himself in our Group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants, they do not govern.”
Not always understood, group conscience as expressed in Tradition Two is a powerful spiritual concept that makes it possible for people of diverse backgrounds and temperament to rise above personal ambition and unite in a common purpose; to stay sober and extend the hand of AA to the alcoholic who still suffers.
Box 459 – Vol. 35, No. 1 February/March 1989
What is an Informed Group Conscience?
There are two ways: The competitive way permits the person with the loudest voice to push his ideas across, take a vote and come up with a ‘majority’ decision. This is not an informed group conscience. In the cooperative way, group members come together in mutual trust to arrive at a group decision, not one individual’s personal triumph.
The group conscience is the collective conscience of the group membership and thus represents substantial unanimity on an issue before definitive action is taken. This implies that pertinent information has been studied and all views have been heard before the group votes.
This reminds us that Concept One states “The final responsibility for AA World Services should always reside in the collective conscience of our whole fellowship.” No one person or group should make our decisions for us, no matter how persuasive they may be.
Suggested Steps to Achieving an Informed Group Conscience
- GATHER KNOWLEDGE: The GSR or other chairperson of the group informs himself/herself about the topic to be discussed. Then:
- PRESENT TOPIC/ISSUE: Present the information on the topic to the home group, giving enough background material so all participants are informed on both sides of the topic. The chairperson should be as unbiased as possible on the topic.
- SHARING: Ask each member to share in turn, being sure to allow all to share once before anyone shares a second time. Remember, this is not a general discussion meeting. It is a method of arriving at unanimity on a specific subject. Remember to carefully listen to any minority opinions.
- CONSENSUS: Continue the process until substantial group unanimity is achieved. This is usually considered 2/3 of the participants. More than one sharing session may be needed. Remember, you are striving for a group conscience, not a “popular vote.” Be patient and practice AA principles as the process continues.
- RECAP: Once a group conscience is achieved, present a summary of their conscience to the group as a whole including minority opinion. Pass the group conscience and any minority opinion on to the appropriate person(s), be it the Delegate, Area Committee, or District.
- What does “informed group conscience” mean?
- When is “substantial unanimity” important?
- What does “conference-approved” mean?