By Bill W., General Service Conference, 1959
The Society of Alcoholics Anonymous cannot operate except in an atmosphere of trust of its "servants" at all levels of the movement, Bill W., co-founder, reminded Delegates to the Ninth General Service Conference at their opening dinner session.
"Trust has a pretty close kinship with love and it is the essence of love," Bill declared. "This society cannot operate without some kind of trust. Nor can we operate as individuals without some kind of trust. I think the degree of trust we have in God, in our principles and in each other as something for wonder."
"We trust because we must." Bill suggested. "And having done that, we trust because it is right. And, finally, we trust because we want to."
Bill noted that the word "trust" appears once in the Twelve Traditions. "We think of Tradition Two as having to do with the group conscience, our sole authority as God may speak through it. Too often, perhaps, we overlook that other reference which describes our leaders as "trusted servants."
"Process of Delegation"
"The sponsor talking with the new person on a basis of trust, the group that must trust the people it names to serve them, the GSRs, the Delegates, the Trustees and the Service Office people, all of them really have to operate, and to operate, on a basis of trust."
The co—founder of A.A. in a brief synopsis of the movement’s history, recalled that a "process of delegation" based on trust had been responsible for the creation and development of A.A.s movement-wide service facilities.
"The groups turned over to the care of the Fellowship’s public relations to the Trustees of the General Service Board (then The Alcoholic Foundation). The monthly magazine, The A.A. Grapevine, was made a part of the headquarters operation. The Service Office, the publications, group relations, foreign relations, preparation of literature —— all of the multitude of tasks you see being performed here now—were actually delegated from the founders to a Board of Trustees which was authorized to conduct A.A.’s world service affairs. These were successive acts of delegation, successive acts of trust based on Dr. Bob’s trust and my trust and yours in the Trustees and their trust and love of us."
Concern Over Linkage
Bill reminded his hearers of the days when Dr. Bob, the Akron surgeon who co—founded A.A. had become ill and fears had arisen concerning the linkage between the groups and the Board of Trustees. "After all, the Board was very anonymous, and more and more isolated as the movement grew larger and larger." Bill and Dr. Bob and "a couple of gals in the service office" were the only widely known links, he said.
This concern over the future relationship of the movement to its Trustees led to the long debate over whether to convene a Conference. The Traditions, meanwhile, had been reduced to writing. It was recognized that the authority for service came from the groups themselves. "They named their servants. The responsibility for service belonged to the groups."
In the matter of world service, however, another relationship prevailed at the time, Bill pointed out. "A group of elders" was providing the leadership and their was need for linkage to be forged between the Trustees and the movement." The problem, he said, was: "How could a body of advisors to the Board of Trustees be created to take the place of Dr. Bob and me and the other old-timers."
Failure to create linkage of this type presented the risk of "collapse in the middle of the movement," Bill said. "One big blunder and confidence would be lost, and it would be very difficult to restore."
Bill recalled that there had been some "very good" objections to the idea of establishing the Conference. These, he said, had been based largely on the fear of "politicking" and on a desire to "keep things simple."
Five Year Experiment
It was finally realized that "collapse would not mean simplicity, it would mean confusion. The awful risk was that the whole structure which had accounted for spreading A.A. across the world, which had accounted for much of our growth and unity might just simply collapse - or might dry up gradually as less and less became known of the Trustees."
"We also realized," Bill declared, "that this Society was entitled to come in here and take a look at the people operating its services, to look at the assets that were in trust for them." The Conference was set up originally on a five-year experimental basis. Bill said, "because ‘we finally saw that it would be better than no Conference at all." Even had it failed, a method of assembling it would have been created, he noted.
Bill said he was "supremely confident that this magnificent structure can endure and rise above any future trials or perils that may be thrust upon it. We will build this service and maintain it because we must, because we ought to and, as we know more about it, because we shall dearly want to."
"There are students of these matters who have at times predicted to me that our present structure of service cannot endure; that when the old timers are gone and the strain of living in this perilous world are thrust upon us in full force, we shall not be able to ‘take it’. They say that one of the reasons we shall not be able to do this is because we are flying in the face of much of human experience and all of present day trends."
We Require No Government
The present day trends are towards centralized and personalized leadership. These trends center around greater and greater power in the few. The need, of the times, people say, require it.
A.A. says No! For your purposes, yes; but for our purposes, No! We do not require concentrated power any place. We do not require a government. We do not require any government agency. Barleycorn will kill us if we don’t behave, as individuals and as groups. Barleycorn is our dictator and he is enough, provided that we have rightly structured our functional and service efforts.
As my own term of service with respect to world affairs is drawing to an end, I would like to be sure that we had rid ourselves of every structural defect and developed every aspect of our experience to perfect our structure of service to make sure that it will endure in a spirit of faith, based on trust.