Welcome to Panel 69 of the General Service Conference. And welcome to the first “Delegate News” posting on the Area’s redesigned website. My name is Stephen S., and I will be serving as Area 53’s Delegate to the Conference for the next two years.
I look forward to using this space to keep Area 53 A.A.s informed about events and issues in the General Service Structure. And I hope that you will contact me with your concerns and questions. Keep in mind that the Delegate is not a “decider.” The answer will almost always be: get involved to be part of the appropriate group conscience that will make the decision.
The term “General Service Conference Structure” refers to a framework that allows A.A.’s collective group conscience to “speak forcefully and put its desires for Conference-wide services into effect.” (The A.A. Service Manual, p. S15) These are the services needed to carry the message that individuals, groups, or even Areas cannot effectively provide. The most obvious of these is the publication of uniform literature. Can you imagine where we would be today if every group of A.A.s published its own books and pamphlets? My guess is that I would be drunk!
You don’t really have to imagine because we have the experience of the 1940s when groups all over the United States and Canada were creating their own literature and understanding of the program. The resulting confusion led Bill W. to propose the Twelve Traditions, which were adopted in 1950. In 1951, the Conference began approving our literature. This history is beautifully described by Bill W. in his essay, “A.A.’s Legacy of Service,” published as an introduction to The A.A. Service Manual. Even better, read A.A. Comes of Age to appreciate our pre-Tradition years.
Other “general services” include collecting and sharing the experiences of A.A.s world-wide who carry the message into new areas, into institutions, to the many professionals who we come in contact with, and to the general public. The “Big Book” has been professionally translated into seventy-one languages during its eighty-year history. Our archives are full of stories about our message being weakened by translations made by well-meaning individuals desperate to carry our message beyond the English-speaking world. Again, imagine the difficulty of translating the “Big Book” into a language that does not share the theistic vocabulary of English, without losing the spiritual message. But this is what the general service translation process has successfully done, over and over.
Concluding that these services were needed was the easy part for our founders. Devising a way to assure that that “final responsibility and ultimate authority for A.A. world services should always reside in the collective conscience of our whole Fellowship” (Concept One) was not as obvious. The General Service Conference Structure and the “Twelve Concepts for World Service” were the solution.
Chapter One of The A.A. Service Manual describes this structure as an “upside down organization.” It starts with your A.A. group electing a General Service Representative (G.S.R.) to actively participate in the District and Area group consciences. The Area Assembly elects a Delegate to represent the Area for two years at the General Service Conference Meeting held each spring in New York. The key to the full voice of A.A. being heard is your group participating through your G.S.R. No G.S.R., no voice!
This brings us back to how I started: this May, I will be representing Area 53 at the 69th Meeting of the General Service Conference. Seventy-two items make up this year’s Agenda. In the next few days, I will post the list on this site, so you can see what we will be deliberating. We’ll be looking at items like whether we change the language of some of our literature to be “more modern and inclusive,” if and/or how we participate in social media such as YouTube and LinkedIn, and whether to suggest that non-alcoholics be limited to observing, but not participating, at “open” meetings.
You, too, can have a say. How? By attending the Area 53 Mini-Conference on March 8-10 at Deer Creek State Park. The Mini-Conference will consider twenty-five of the Agenda Items – including those that I referred to above. Come on out and help shape the Area’s group conscience. Please help me become fully informed of the views of Area 53 A.A.s. You can register by going to the Mini-Conference link on this website.
I hope to see you at the Mini-Conference, and I look forward to helping Area 53 have informed group consciences by communicating events and actions happening through the big inclusive world of Alcoholics Anonymous.