Greetings, Salt Lake Central Office. After a brief hiatus, the Lifeline is running again. All Standing Committee positions are now filled, with the exception of the Volunteer Chair. Yay Central Office! Thanks to those of you who have stepped up to be of service to your fellows.
As the Chair of the Board, my participation at the Central Office Committee meeting is limited by our Bylaws to facilitation of the meeting. I have no vote except in a tie, and I attempt to keep my opinion out of the discussion. This Newsletter is my opportunity to share with you my perceptions.
The Board has been elected to “Oversee the operation of Central Office and its functions in accordance with 1) the A.A. Guidelines – Central or Intergroup Offices published by the General Service Office (GSO) of Alcoholics Anonymous; and 2) the Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous.” Copies of these documents are available at the Central Office and online at www.aa.org. I am very proud to serve an all-volunteer Central Office, which keeps our 36 spiritual principles, the 12 Steps, 12 Traditions and 12 Concepts, in the forefront.
The Volunteer Chair vacancy prompted a special meeting between the Board and the Volunteer Coordinators, where it became evident that the authority and responsibilities of the volunteers needed clarification. An ad hoc committee was formed at the February business meeting to discuss and document the operation of the Central Office. A report or recommendation will be given at the March business meeting.
In addition to questions of authority and responsibility, an issue has been forced to the front that is in direct conflict with our principles, our practice of selling coins, or chips or medallions, whatever you want to call them. This practice was approved by the Salt Lake Central Office Committee at some time in the past and in recent times, the Volunteer Chair has purchased coins, but the provision for purchasing and selling coins was never included in our Bylaws, past or present. The selling of coins at a Central Office does not appear in either of the documents the Board references in the overseeing of the operations.
…Continued on Pg. 8
In the May 1948 Grapevine, Bill W. wrote: “…Tradition 6 also enjoins the group never to go into business nor ever to lend the A.A. name or money credit to any “outside” enterprise, no matter how good.”
The selling of coins is currently at a profit at the Central Office, a profit we don’t need. We have reduced our literature prices to the fellowship in an effort to maintain our Bylaws’ financial prudent reserve. From the same Grapevine article, Bill states “…But money is not the life blood of A.A. With us, it is very secondary. Even in small quantities, it is scarcely more than a necessary nuisance, something we wish we could do without entirely. Why is that so? We explain this easily enough; we don’t need money. The core of our A.A. procedure is “one alcoholic talking to another,” whether that be sitting on a curbstone, in a home, or at a meeting. It’s the message, not the place; it’s the talk, not the alms. That does our work. Just places to meet and talk, that’s about all A.A. needs.”
But the real problem with selling coins at the Central Office lies not in the money, but in the rest of the 6th Tradition, which states in the Long Form, “…While an A.A. group may cooperate with anyone, such cooperation ought never to go so far as affiliation or endorsement, actual or implied. [my emphasis] An A.A. group can bind itself to no one.” By selling items from a for-profit company, (or non-profit, for that matter) we are affiliating with a company and endorsing the product it makes. Even if we sold the coins at cost, we would still be affiliating with and endorsing an outside enterprise.
Alcoholics Anonymous does not sell non-conference approved items or anything the AAWS, Inc. or the Grapevine, Inc. doesn’t produce. Why would a Central Office do that? A Central Office is part of A.A., not the Conference structure, but it is more purely A.A. for the fellowship. There is no need for the Salt Lake Central Office to sell coins, in terms of availability. There is a shop located two miles away which sells coins, literature and a large array of other recovery related items. Google returns 13.4 million results from a “recovery coin” search, most of which are retail outlets. There is no lack of availability.
One of the more popular rationalizations for selling coins is that “We’ve always sold coins.” It brings to mind something I heard Madeline P., past Pacific Region Trustee, say from the podium about certain A.A. practices, “Just because we’ve always done something doesn’t mean it’s not incredibly stupid.” The Salt Lake Central Office has no opinion on the use or efficacy of coins, they are an outside issue, just as any other type of merchandise or product would be. Our Bylaws have provision for the purchase and sale of AAWS, Inc. and Grapevine, Inc. literature, nothing else.
We are extremely good at justifying behavior that is not in accordance with our principles. Drinking the way I drank was not in accordance with my principles, but I found a reason to do so. It is a slippery slope that leads to further rationalizing until we’re just doing what we want, when we want it, principles be damned. Which Step would you not take, based on your own desires? Why would not adhering to Traditions be any different? This is dangerous for us individually, and to the fellowship of A.A. as a whole. We are the protectors of our integrity, our actions are our legacy.
Ask yourself these questions, “Are these coins an outside enterprise? Is selling them at the Central Office in conflict with our 6th Tradition?”
This program is simple, but not easy. We can change. We can improve. We can grow in effectiveness and understanding. We demonstrate over and over with each step we take in creating a Central Office that serves the fellowship better by following our principles ever more closely.
I don’t expect to make any friends by making these statements. As Joe Hawk used to say, “The 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous are not popular in A.A.” I’m well aware of the passion this particular topic arouses. My passion is aroused as well. I was elected to uphold our principles, I’m doing that to the very best of my ability.
In loving service,