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July 1988

PO Box 1980


One of the definitions for fellowship is "a union of individuals who share similar interests and experiences." We have all heard the word fellowship mentioned in our AA Preamble at the beginning of every meeting. Only rarely does it become a topic for discussion at an AA meeting. The visible sign of any union is unity itself. Unity is so important to AA that it was established as our First Tradition: "Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon AA unity."

Within the past few months the issue of the presence of people at AA closed meetings who are addicted to substances other than alcohol has been written about, discussed, and within some groups, acted upon according to the group conscience. It started me thinking about some of the basic ideas of AA such as: 1) personal recovery depends upon AA unity; 2) the ultimate authority of God as he may express himself through the group conscience; 3) the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking; and 4) the inviolate right of the individual AA member to hold whatever opinion he or she truly feels is right and therefore promotes sobriety.

The one concern I have for all this is that unity is so important to our welfare both as individual AA members and as a Fellowship that I hope we in AA can disagree with each other honestly without it becoming divisive enough to weaken the unity of our Fellowship. This can only be done by respecting each other as persons, as fellow alcoholics, and by carrying out our responsibility to each other by being supportive.

AA really requires very little for membership, i.e., a desire to stop drinking. Anyone addicted to other substances and alcohol has no problem at an AA meeting. They merely need to limit their discussions to alcoholism. Some groups through their respective group consciences have correctly requested nonalcoholic substance abusers to stay out of the discussions and have kindly suggested they attend a more appropriate Twelve Step support group where they will be better understood and more effectively helped.

But--let's not weaken our Fellowship with uncharitable name-calling, or by labeling or judging anyone, but rather let us continue to support each other as brothers and sisters in our common battle with alcoholism. Remember, too, that our public relations policy is based on attraction. Let's continue to show the world our indivisible unity and attractive fellowship. We will then be better able to get on with our primary purpose.

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