The Break From The Oxford Group
He who would accomplish little
must sacrifice little; he who would achieve much must sacrifice
much; he who would attain highly must sacrifice greatly.
James Allen, As A Man Thinketh
(Toronto: The Musson Book Company, Ltd.) p. 57
The dreamers are the saviours of the world.
[Ibidem p. 58]
of 1939, the Cleveland contingent had grown to eleven and then
fourteen "rummies" and also included some of their spouses.
All traveled back and forth to the T. Henry and Clarace Williams'
home at Akron every Wednesday night.
New York which had only one Roman Catholic member, the majority
of Cleveland contingent was Roman Catholic. And it was said
the Catholic Church did not want its members participating in
open confession. Clarence remembered that these Catholic members
had been warned against confessing their sins, "One to another"
without a confession to a priest. Clarence was told by these
alcoholics that they were about to be excommunicated from their
Roman Catholic Church if they continued to attend Oxford Group
book, Sister Ignatia: Angel of Alcoholics Anonymous,
Mary C. Darrah wrote the following as to how these men were
discouraged from attending the Oxford Group meetings:
"They returned home and told their parish priest that
they had finally found the answer to their drinking problems
at a meeting in Akron. But when the priest learned of the Alcoholic
Squadron's alignment with the Oxford Group, he forbade the men
to return because of the group's suspected Protestant overtones."
on the way back from the Akron meetings the "boys" would stop
off for ice cream or coffee. They would engage in a critique of
that night's meeting and what had transpired there. They expressed
to Clarence, with growing concern that they may not be able to
continue with going to the meetings due to their Church's objections.
And they also feared that without the fellowship afforded to them
at the weekly meetings, they might resume their drinking. Probably
sooner than later.
problem caused on-going discussion between Clarence and Doc.
Clarence was insisting something had to be done. Doc, however,
did not wish to be disrespectful to the very Oxford Group people
who had saved his life and stated that nothing at all could,
or would be done.
this same time, Clarence had arranged for Albert R. "Abby" G.
to be placed in Akron City Hospital for his alcoholism. Because
Clarence had to go to work the next day and couldn't take the
day off, he asked Bill Wilson if Bill could drive Abby down
from Cleveland to meet Doc at the hospital. As Clarence remembered
it, Bill and Dorothy (Clarence's wife) "packed Abby into a car
and hauled him off to meet Doc in Akron."
with the newly established custom in those early days, when
a "rummy" was in the hospital, the members of the group not
only visited with the patient, they also visited with his spouse
and family members. They took the family member to the Oxford
Group meeting in Akron while the alcoholic was still in the
night, during Abby's hospitalization, as Clarence remembered
it, Clarence was visiting with Grace G., Abby's wife. Clarence
told Grace he was about to lose all of the Catholic members
because they could no longer attend the Oxford Group meetings.
Clarence told her their parish priest forbade it.
said to Grace: "Now that we've got this book here, the Twelve
Steps and the Four Absolutes, there was no need to go to the
Oxford Group any longer." But the problem was, Clarence told
Grace, that Doc refused to leave the Oxford Group and Clarence
was in a dilemma about disobeying his sponsor.
added that many of the early members didn't have jobs or were
just beginning to pay off old drinking-induced debts. They couldn't
afford to rent any hall or room in Cleveland in which to hold
their own and separate meetings. Grace looked at him with a
shocked expression on her face. She told Clarence that the Cleveland
Group could meet at Abby and Grace's house, free of charge,
for as long as they wanted to.
was a prominent Patent Attorney in Cleveland. He represented
people who held patents; and he held the rights to numerous
patents himself. The G.'s had a very large house; and, ever
since their children moved out, the house had seemed empty to
them. They would both enjoy having the people around and it
would be good to hear the sounds of laughter within its walls
once again, Grace told Clarence. She also said that many meetings
in their home would be a good way to help insure that her alcoholic
husband would remain sober.
G. was beginning to set the stage for a new meeting in Cleveland
even while Abby was still "fogged up" and in the hospital. Clarence,
through what he felt was an act of Divine intervention, had
just found a home for his "boys."
story ("HE THOUGHT HE COULD DRINK LIKE A GENTLEMAN"), appears
in the Second and Third Edition of the Big Book, and Abby recalled,
in that story, some of his memories concerning Clarence. He
felt Clarence was "touched." He also wrote he had felt that
way because Clarence was always chasing him around the place
to "fix" him. Clarence often related the story of how Abby was
to come into what was to be A.A.
sister-in-law, Thalia, a local beautician, was the wife of the
man who had thrown Clarence out on the docks in New York. Grace
G. was one of Thalia's best clients. One day, Grace appeared
to "fall apart" in the beauty shop. In the midst of the hysterics,
Grace told Thalia about Abby's drinking and about how it was
driving them further apart. Grace told Thalia that Abby's being
constantly drunk was going to drive her crazy. Grace continued
telling Thalia that Abby's drinking was also hurting his law
practice. Grace said that at fifty years old, Abby was acting
like a helpless child when he was drunk. At this point, Grace
began to sob uncontrollably. She couldn't go on with her story.
then took Grace into the back room and related to her the story
of what had happened to Clarence and told her Clarence could
"fix" her husband. Grace stopped crying. She thought that this
could possibly be the answer to all of her prayers. She invited
Thalia over to her home. She asked if Thalia could also bring
Clarence with her so that he could speak with her husband about
disliked Clarence right from the start. As soon as Clarence
and Thalia walked through the door of the G. home, Abby developed
a definite attitude. Abby was a college graduate and a well
known and formerly respected lawyer. Clarence was a high school
dropout and a car salesperson. Clarence said of Abby, "He looked
down his nose at me due to my lack of education."
felt that, even though he was still drinking and was about to
lose everything, including his marriage and his business, he
was still smarter and had "more on the ball" than Clarence.
being insulted and snubbed, much to the embarrassment of Grace,
Thalia and Clarence left. They departed after about spending
an hour at Abby's home trying to speak with Abby. Clarence and
Thalia made their apologies and told Grace that if she ever
needed them for anything she should call. Grace should call
they said, even if Abby never decided to get sober. They told
Grace they would pray continuously for the both of them. They
further explained that, with prayer, Abby didn't stand a chance
of staying with his old drinking ways.
Clarence left the house he was not discouraged about Abby's
eventual recovery or about the new meeting place. He had his
family, the other members of the Cleveland contingent, and Grace
on his side. He knew none of them would stop praying until Abby
began to chase Abby all over town. He would often show up at
the saloons where Abby frequented and "haul" him home. "We kept
selling this guy. We went after him constantly," Clarence said.
After pursuing this course of action for a period, Clarence
almost felt like giving up. But he didn't.
this period of time Bill Wilson was visiting Cleveland to promote
the Big Book. Clarence convinced Bill to go talk with Abby.
Clarence said Bill really "didn't want to go, but he did anyway."
Clarence knew, from experience, that Bill could throw around
a lot of four or five syllable words. He had "a different line
of B.S. than I did," said Clarence.
Bill and Clarence were at Abby's home, and during one particular
conversation, Abby challenged Bill "to tell me something about
A.A." Clarence recalled that Abby had actually challenged Bill
to talk about "this cure, this group of anonymous rummies."
story Abby said, "I do recall one other thing: I wanted to know
what this was that worked so many wonders, and hanging over
the mantel was a picture of Gethsemane; and Bill pointed to
it, and said, `There it is.' "
then agreed to go to the hospital the next morning. Clarence
had to go to work the next day; so Bill and Dorothy agreed to
take him there. They then called Doc on the phone to make arrangements
regarding the admission.
evening, while at Akron City Hospital, and after visiting with
Abby, Clarence held yet another conversation with Doc about
the Roman Catholic boys in the Cleveland contingent. Clarence
I says, "Doc you know these fellows can't come." I says,
"They can't belong to an Oxford Group." I says, "We don't need
all this folderol of the Oxford Group. We can eliminate a lot
of this stuff. We have a book now with these Twelve Steps, and
we have the Four Absolutes, and anyone can live with that."
He says, "Well you can't do that,' he says, `you can't break
this thing up."
"We're not breaking anything up. All I'm interested in is something
with more universality so that anybody can belong whether they
have a religion or believe in anything or not. They can come."
He says, "Well you can't do that." I says, "We're gonna do something."
he says, "Like what?"
I says, "Well we'll see like what!"
point in time Clarence was almost fifteen months sober and was
telling Doc, his sponsor what to do.
way back to Cleveland that night, Clarence and the Cleveland
contingent stopped off for another of their critiques. Clarence
informed them that Grace G. had offered them the use of her
home as a meeting place. He then reviewed why they had to make
a break with the Oxford Group so the Roman Catholic members
could continue to attend and still stay on good terms with their
went on to say that since they had the book, the Twelve Steps,
and even a name - the name from the book - they could do this.
There was further discussion, some of it heated.
though a few of those present disagreed, the majority was for
Clarence's idea. Lloyd T., Charlie J. and Bill J. were the most
outspoken against Clarence's idea; and they refused to budge
from their position. Even when the break did finally come, these
three still considered themselves Oxford Group members. Yet
all, except for Bill J., eventually left the Oxford Group and
came into A.A.
May 10, 1939, the Clevelander's went to the Oxford Group meeting
at T. Henry and Clarace Williams' home. At the end of the meeting,
Clarence announced that this would be "the last time the Cleveland
contingent would be down to the Oxford Group as a whole."
the Cleveland Group was going to meet the following night, May
11th. He said, "We're gonna start our own group in
Cleveland." He told the Akron fellowship, "This is not gonna
be an Oxford Group. It's gonna be known as Alcoholics Anonymous.
We're taking the name from the book; and only alcoholics and
their families are welcome. Nobody else." He then told all present
where the new group - the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting - was
going to meet. Clarence announced "We're gonna meet at 2345
Stillman Road, Cleveland Heights at Al and Grace G.'s home."
up and said, "You can't do this."
replied, "There's nothing to talk about."
almost turned into a riot as the Cleveland Group got up as a
whole and walked out. But not as much of a riot as the one which
occurred the next day in Cleveland.