Friday, December 7, 2012

Letters re A.A. applicability to business today

Dear Greg: Ken read me your email during dinner this evening. And I was ecstatic.


I want to tell you three stories that illustrate how important your modification of the businessman’s writing ideas is:


Initially,  I want to mention Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr. And there are several parts to this story.


a)      First of all, when Shoemaker was rector at Calvary Episcopal Church in New York, he headed up an Oxford Group businessmen’s team. And Bill Wilson not only belonged to it, but it is discussed by Lois Wilson; and Bill’s role with businessmen is mentioned in Shoemaker’s personal journals.


b)      Far more important is what  happened when Shoemaker was called to be rector of Calvary Episcopal Church in  Pittsburgh. Sam left New Y ork and took over the huge cathedral in Pittsburgh. And he came into that city like a cyclone. (1) First he took a Pittsburgh businessman and church leader  up on Mount Washington, had him get on his knees, and made the well-known statement: This city is your parish; and I want you to make it as famous for God as it is for steel. (2) Second, Shoemaker courted the “golf club crowd” which consisted of some of the wealthiest business families in Pittsburgh; and I met with them and particularly with the billionaire woman who financed many of my research days on Shoemaker. Sam took those people and would go to their door, tell them to get their coats on, and tell them they were going out door to door witnessing. You’ll find the details in the Pittsburgh Edition of my book, New Light on Alcoholism: God, Sam Shoemaker, and A.A.


c)       More important by far is what Shoemaker did with the business community: (1) He formed what he called “The Pittsburgh Experiment;” and it still exists to this day. I met with its board at one of their meetings and came to know their Executive Director quite well. (2) Correlated was what Shoemaker finally put in a later book called “The Experiment of Faith.” (3) News articles spoke of it as “businessmen on their knees.” (4) There were regular prayer groups of business people who carried the Gospel of Jesus Christ into the business life of Pittsburgh. (5) To me, this shows the merit of the proposal you mentioned – when it comes to applying A.A. and Twelve Step principles of change. (6) As you probably know, the Oxford Group people were known as “life changers’” and their program was called “a design for living that works.”—a phrase that made its way into the Big Book. (7) And a discipline for life-changing per Oxford Group ideas was codified into the Twelve Step program Wilson published in the 1939 Big Book.


Second, when I was a  young attorney practicing in San Francisco, there was a very prominent realtor. I can’t recall his name, but he was a leading businessman and was head of the Real Estate Association. He formed a morning Bible study group of businessmen; and it was widely known and publicized in San Francisco papers and the business community.


Third, Ken and I were astonished during our research of A.A.’s Vermont roots and St. Johnsbury by the facts of “The Great Awakening of  1875. Some 1500 in a village with a population of 5000 were converted to God through Jesus Christ in a matter of a few months. The entire community was transformed. The events were and are widely known and reported even today. The Fairbanks Scales Plant—the mainstay of St. Johnsbury Academy—shut down during the lunch hour to enable the revival meetings to be held. They were held in six  churches. They were held in St. Johnsbury Academy. They were fostered by the YMCA brethren. And they sparked the building of the wonderful architectural buildings donated in large part by the Fairbanks family.


Finally, the relevance: While many an A.A. might want to argue over whether A.A. came from the Bible, the fellowship cannot dispute the fact. They also cannot dispute the fact that Bill W wrote an article published today in The Language of the Heart . It  attributes  10 of the 12 Steps to the ideas that came from the Oxford Group as led in America by Sam Shoemaker. And if one looks at Steps 10 and 11, he will see the emphasis on “change.” The first steps laid out the formula for taking steps (experimental in nature) suggested for “finding” God. But Steps 10 and 11 talk about CONTINUING the change process on a daily basis through continuing to take inventory and continuing to seek God’s guidance in all affairs. The idea came from the Oxford Group’s 5 C’s—Confidence, Confession, Conviction, Conversion, and CONTINUANCE—CONTINUING THE CHANGE THAT THE EARLY STEPS TAUGHT AAS TO PRACTICE.


With the Oxford Group’s emphasis on Twice Born Men and Life Changers, there can be little doubt that changing lives was the thrust of Frank Buchman’s entire world-wide program.


There is lots more, but your idea has great  merit ; and it is certainly time for America’s businesses, labor forces, teachers, military, students, and families to get on their knees, seeking through the power of God and his forgiveness and guidance to CHANGE our society into one which returns to the concept on our currency and coins: “In God we trust.” Let me know how we can help. Christian Endeavor (whose offices are in Michigan now) is much involved in getting youth to pray. And the previous Hawaii Lt. Governor here was backing “Transformation Hawaii” which was aimed at bringing people to God for the appropriate transformation of the Hawaii business and community ideas. We like this idea.



God bless,


Dick B.

Author, 46 titles & over 1,200 articles on A.A. History and the Christian Recovery Movement
Exec. Dir., International Christian Recovery Coalition

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