At the June 12, 2011 assembly, Dave C., Alternate Delegate spoke on the topic of “How Concept 12 Relates to Our Service and Personal Life.” Below is his talk.
This report has been a privilege and a re-discovery process for me.
In re-reading A.A.s history of Service in the Service Manual and in A.A. Comes of Age I’ve learned there is more to treasure than I have ever before realized. I recommend all trusted servants invest more time reading about A.A. history.
Concept 12, The General Warranties were originally presented to A.A. in Article 12 of the Original Conference Charter. The original charter for the General Service conference is found on S94 of the A.A. Service Manual. Article 12 of the Charter, The General Warranties of the Conference, were presented to the A.A. International Convention in St. Louis in 1955. For details read pages 223–234 in A.A. Comes of Age.
The General Warranties are the final understanding in the resolution that A.A.s in St. Louis passed by acclamation, July 3, 1955. And I once again implore you, if you read nothing else, read pages S99–S100 in the A.A. Service Manual and pages 226 & 227 of A.A. Comes of Age.
These are the Warranties as taken from the resolution and as incorporated in the Twelfth Concept:
The Conference binds itself to the society of Alcoholics Anonymous by the following means: That in all its proceedings, the General Service Conference shall observe the spirit of the A.A. Tradition, taking great care that the Conference never becomes the seat of perilous wealth or power; that sufficient operating funds, plus an ample reserve, be its prudent financial principle; that none of the Conference Members shall ever be placed in a position of unqualified authority over any of the others: that all important decisions be reached by discussion vote and whenever possible, by substantial unanimity; that no Conference action ever be personally punitive or an incitement to public controversy; that though the Conference may act for the service of Alcoholics Anonymous, it shall never perform any acts of government; and that, like the Society of Alcoholics Anonymous which it serves, the Conference itself will always remaindemocratic in thought and action.
I have always felt emotional whenever these Warranties are read. I am in awe of the spiritual power and practical usefulness of the principles. Is not the phrase — never becomes the seat of perilous wealth or power — a powerful reminder. Who is the ultimate Authority – is not God speaking through our informed group conscience the ultimate authority. Am I not reminded of the danger there is of too much money and, how easy it can be to misuse voluntary contributions for non A.A. purposes as our Seventh Tradition warns?
In studying the 2nd warranty — that sufficient operating funds, plus an ample reserve, be its prudent financial principle — am I not being reminded that trusted servants forever are called on to be both prudent with 7th tradition contributions and prudent as leaders and servants. The Sixth Tradition warns that problems of money, property and authority may easily divert us.
When I hear — that none of the Conference Members shall ever be placed in a position of unqualified authority over any of the others — I ask myself isn’t this the Ninth Tradition in the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions? It specifically says the ,’General Service Conference, the board of trustees, and group committees cannot issue directives to A.A. members or groups. A.A.s can’t be dictated to – individually or collectively. Suffering and love are A.A. disciplinarians.
When I read the next warranty — that all important decisions be reached by discussion vote and whenever possible, by substantial unanimity — I’m reminded of the Third Legacy process of deliberation and unfettered inquiry and debate. Aren’t we talking about the Fourth Tradition and Ninth Tradition of consultation and, the search for the greatest consensus possible. Isn’t it possible that maybe the best ideas often come from unelected individuals, from the smallest of groups ,
representing the smallest of minorities?
The Fifth warranty is one of great personal value to my sobriety. It reads that no Conference action ever be personally punitive or an incitement to public controversy — I can still hear this principle being recited to me over and over by Panel 41 Delegate Glenn W. Doesn’t this Warranty remind me of the freedoms the Traditions give A.A. members, including the freedom to make errors, to disagree and even be disagreeable. Does not this warranty protect us from vendettas
or inflamed majorities? I don’t have to look too deeply here to find the spirit of Tradition Three and Tradition Six, Eleven and Twelve. Am I not being asked to think about the danger that comes from my anger and ego and instincts, especially those related to power and prestige?
And the final warranty: that though the Conference may act for the service of Alcoholics Anonymous, it shall never perform any acts of government; and that, like the Society of Alcoholics Anonymous which it serves, the Conference itself will always remain democratic in thought and action. When I reflect on this principle I’m reminded that the Conference is a service body that is called upon to live by a set of principles both spiritual and practical. And so also should my Area Assembly, and my District Committee and my individual Group.
In the Service Manual at the conclusion of the 12 Concepts, I found this reading on pg 74 & 75 greatly inspirational. It says:
“In preceding concepts, much attention has been drawn to the extraordinary liberties which the AA Traditions accord to the individual member and to his group; no penalties to be inflicted for nonconformity to A.A. principles; no fees or dues to be levied – voluntary contributions only; no member to be expelled from A.A. – membership always to be the choice of the individual; each A.A. group to conduct its internal affairs as it wishes – it being merely requested to abstain from acts that might injure A.A. as a whole; and finally that any group of alcoholics gathered together for sobriety may call themselves an AA group provided that as a group they have no other purpose or affiliation.
We expect that our conferences will always try to act in the spirit of mutual respect and love – one member for another. In turn, this sign signifies that mutual trust should prevail; that no action ought to be taken in anger, haste, or recklessness; that care will be observed to respect and protect all minorities; that no action should ever be personally punitive; that whenever possible, important actions will be taken in substantial unanimity; and that our conference will ever be prudently on guard against tyrannies, great or small, whether these be found in the majority or in the minority.
The sum of these several attitudes and practices is, in our view, the very essences of democracy – in action and spirit.
Freedom under God to grow in His likeness and image will ever be the quest of the Alcoholics Anonymous. May our general service conference be always seen as a chief symbol of this cherished liberty. We of Alcoholics Anonymous believe that our freedom to serve is truly the freedom by which we live – the freedom in which we have our being.”
My conclusion is that A.A.’s struggle to survive 75 years and become a world-wide movement was born out of complete defeat – mental spiritual and physical. In A.A.s adolescent years this fledgling society’s unity was nearly destroyed by power drives, and false pride. A.A.s continued existence will always be threatened by complacency and ignorance. Especially when these attitudes come from self-centered fear which our literature says is the root of my alcoholism.
My readings and reflections have renewed my enthusiasm for the Miracle of A. A. principles and I’m more convinced than ever that the 12th Concept expresses spiritual principles I want to challenge myself to live up to together with you.
In Love and Service,
Dave C., Alternate Delegate
Panel 61 Area 53