An affiliated Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) group has been removed from the organisation’s online directory and ‘separated’ for saying the Lord’s Prayer and including some Christian content in their meetings.
The group, which was hosting the meetings in a church in Yeovil, Somerset, was told that it would be removed from AA’s register because a new member of the group felt ‘uncomfortable’.
AA was formed in 1935 through the inspiration of an American Lutheran Minister, Frank Buchman. Buchman had suffered from alcoholism before a dramatic conversion to Christianity in Keswick which transformed his life.
Buchman went on to co-found the Oxford Group and launched the ’12 steps programme’, which was based on his Christian spiritual awakening. This has acted as a template for recovering from alcoholism by AA worldwide ever since.
‘Must be kept separate’
However, minutes from a Somerset Intergroup (SIG), which oversees AA groups in the region, has revealed a unanimous vote to remove this AA group from the register saying that they “must be kept separate.”
The minutes expose that the group’s meetings had been observed and said that it was a: “Christian based meeting, lovely meeting but not along AA guidelines,” and concerns were raised that it was “announced ‘the only way to recovery is through Jesus’.”
The minutes state that “there is nothing wrong with talking about Jesus but it is not AA,” and they discuss that a pamphlet that the group share at the meetings, ‘Came to Believe’ “has its place, but not within AA.”
The pamphlet is recognised AA literature written by 75 AA members from across the world who discuss “what the terms ‘spiritual awakening’, ‘Higher Power’ and ‘God as we understood Him’ mean to them” and “offers a range of perspectives on what spirituality can look like in the context of Alcoholics.”
SIG members state that when the group was challenged on the inclusion of Christian content they said: “they were not going to change.” The SIG minutes state that this is “not acceptable.”
A unanimous vote was then taken, and it was agreed that the group would be removed from the ‘Where to Find’ register and that “they must be kept separate.”
Being removed from the list essentially makes the group invisible and will make it very difficult for them to recruit new members.
Treasurer of the group, Mr Palmer, 69, branded the move ‘shocking’, but has vowed to continue and now calls their group ‘The Real AA.’
Mr Palmer first attended AA in the 1980s describing himself as an ‘addicted wreck’ after struggling with alcoholism for many years. He says he was introduced to the Christian faith at the meetings and that AA was his ‘lifeline’ and that he has not touched alcohol since.
Mr Palmer, who now helps run the group, says that he began introducing ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ over a year ago and believes this has led to the complaint.
The Lord’s Prayer is the quintessential Christian prayer that Jesus taught his disciples when they asked him how they should pray.
Saying it is common practice in AA meetings in the US, and Mr Palmer says he introduced it to try and get back to the organisation’s Christian roots, which he says have been “slowly eroded.”
Mr Palmer said: “AA was founded by Christians to save and transform lives. Over the years I have seen Christianity being eroded and marginalised from the organisation as a whole. It is sad to see, and I think AA is having less of an impact on people’s lives as a result.
“Of course you don’t have to be a Christian to be part of an AA group, but if you cannot say the Lord’s Prayer in a church without being treated like this, what are we coming to?
“We were shocked when we found out about the action being taken against us, but we are determined to carry on.”
Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, said: “The message of the gospel is of a saviour Jesus who came to bring hope to every one of us. The power of the gospel message is what inspired the setting up of AA following the radical transformation alcoholics experienced after encountering the hope and healing found in Jesus Christ.
“Separating and punishing Christians so that they cannot attract new members for sharing the gospel message of hope is disturbing and ludicrous. Is now saying the Lord’s Prayer in a church offensive and not appropriate?
“It is sad, but not surprising in our world of cancel culture, to hear from this group that the gospel message is no longer appropriate for AA and must be kept ‘separate.’
“We call on the AA to reinstate this group to the online directory and to recognise the crucial role Christian faith plays in transforming lives.”