Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Oxford Group and A.A. - Answers to Two Recent Inquiries

The first inquiry had to do with Oxford Group "pamphlets" and how many were used in early A.A.
Here is my reply:

Dear R: Thank you very much for writing and for the question. There are several answers that could help you.
First, the answer about many “Oxford Group” pamphlets before the Big Book publication is not even close to accurate.
Second, Dr. Bob pointed out in Pamphlet P-53 that the early pioneers felt the answers to their questions were in the “Good Book” and that the parts they considered absolutely essential were The Book of James, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and 1 Corinthians 13. DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers pointed out that every meeting opened with a reading from the Bible and that Bible study was stressed. See The Good Book and the Big Book, and The James Club,
Third, there was only one Oxford Group meeting each week on Wednesday; and often the AAs were in a separate room from the Oxford People. There were seldom more than 6 of them including Henrietta Seiberling and her three kids, T. Henry and Clarace Williams, and at most two or three others. By contrast, there were daily meetings – fellowships of likeminded Believers in the alcoholics’ own homes- particularly that of Dr. Bob. These are mentioned in Pamphlet P-53 – conference approved biographical sketches of Bob and Bill.
Fourth, every morning, Anne Smith held a quiet time on the porch of their home, and AAs, their families and kids attended – no particular mention of Oxford Group people.
Anne read from the Bible and from her own journal; and the group often studied The Upper Room which was NOT an Oxford Group pamphlet, but a quarterly from the Southern Methodist church that was distributed by Mother G. (mother of Sue’s first husband Ernie G.)
Fifth, at the meetings, several devotionals where used by the group for discussion and also by the individuals in their homes. None was an Oxford Group pamphlet.
These included The Runner’s Bible (written in 1915 long before there was an Oxford Group), the Upper Room, My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers (and not An Oxford Group pamphlet), and Daily Strength for Daily Needs by Mary Wileston (and not an Oxford Group pamphlet).
Sixth, the “Books Early AAs Read for Spiritual Growth” and “Dr. Bob and His Library” ( tell you precisely what was read; and these included books and pamphlets on healing, prayer, guidance, the Bible, the Father’s of the Church, life-changing stories, and many others by Henry Drummond, Toyohiko Kagawa, and Sam Shoemaker.
Seventh, such Oxford Group books and pamphlets as there were, were used primarily on the New York scene; and Bill Wilson and his wife left the Oxford Group in August of 1937. There were more than 500 Oxford Group books and pamphlets, and the best source material is my own book “The Oxford Group and Alcoholics Anonymous”
Finally, so much of the gossip about the Oxford Group has been written by “historians” or lay people who don’t know the difference between the Akron Christian Fellowship and the Big Book program obtained largely through Rev. Sam Shoemaker of the Oxford Group when he worked with Bill in 1938 and early l939. Also by critics who try to paint A.A. with an Oxford Group tilt and ignore The major influence of the Bible and the substantial material and evidence about it Dr. Bob of Alcoholics Anonymous
I hope you will pursue your interest, and you may find all that you need in my books above, plus one or two others.
The second question was about the supposed Oxford Group's (but non-existent) 6th Step.
Here is my answer:
Dear K:

Thank you very much for writing. Several comments:
  1. You need to obtain and read Pamphlet P53—the Cofounders last major speeches and biographies. Dr. Bob tells you explicitly what they did and didn’t have. The had no Steps, no Traditions, no Big Book, no drunkalogs, and no meetings as we know them today.
  2. They used the Bible and particularly studied and stressed the Book of James, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and 1 Corinthians 13.
3.  The Oxford Group had no steps – ever. Not six, not twelve, none! You can find that in Pass It On. To find out what the Oxford Group’s 28 principles were (reviewed and endorsed by many Oxford Group people who read my work, read Dick B. “The Oxford Group and Alcoholics Anonymous, 2d ed. See Buy it there or on Amazon.
  1. Dr. Bob explicitly said that all the basic ideas for the Steps came from the Bible. See Dick B., The Good Book and The Big Book and The James Club: The Original A.A. Program’s Absolute Essentials.
  2. A.A. never had any six steps, nor did the Oxford Group – no matter what you may read. Bill’s own invention was that there were six word-of-mouth ideas from which he expanded to the Twelve Steps. Different folks, he said, differed about what they were and how they were used. See Dick B. The Akron Genesis of Alcoholics Anonymous
  1. The original Akron Christian Fellowship program founded by Bill W. and Dr. Bob in Akron in June, 1935, was summarized by Frank Amos as having 7 points – five required and two Recommended. See DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, 13. And we have identified fourteen practices they used to implement the 7 principles. It is all laid out in The Dick B. Christian Recovery Guide, 3rd ed., 2010. See order form on first page of my main website..
  1. Many A.A. critics—a few Christian and many others in and out of A.A.—violently oppose the Oxford Group, not realizing that Bill and Lois left it in August of 1937; and Bill began work on his Big Book in 1938 obtaining the Step and Big Book ideas largely from 3 sources: William James, Dr. Silkworth, and Rev. Sam Shoemaker of Calvary Church in New York. Akron’s onl significant connection with the Oxford Group there was in holding a Wednesday nite meeting at the home of T. Henry Williams. Even there, the alkies often held their group meeting in a different room from the Oxford Group’s meeting.
  1. Students of the Big Book and those who read my book Turning Point ( can learn that Bill was informed of all twelve step ideas by his friend Ebby Thacher.
You can find the summary on pages 12-14 of the 4th edition Big Book; and you can find the full details of what Bill related about Ebby and the Steps in Turning Point.
  1. I hasten to point out that A.A. has drifted so far from God and the Bible and also from the Oxford Group that you will hear more phony stories about these subjects than you will the truth.
Please favor me with your name, mail address, phone, and email. And do keep in touch. Thanks again. You are the second in a day or so to raise Oxford Group questions, and this is healthy!

In conclusion, readers looking for proper and complete information on the Oxford Group and A.A. as differing from the Bible and A.A. can do no better than obtain and read three of my books: (1) The Good Book and The Big Book: A.A.'s Roots in the Bible, (2) The Oxford Group and Alcoholics Anonymous (3) The Dick B. Christian Recovery Guide, 3rd ed., 2010 See/the front page of my main website

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