Friday, January 17, 2014

Alcoholics Anonymous History: Bill Wilson's Conversion

The Conversion of Bill W.
More on the Creator’s Role in Early A.A.
Dick B.
© 2014 Anonymous. All rights reserved

How many times have you heard that the program of Alcoholics Anonymous is God-given, was divinely-inspired, or was accurately characterized in the article by a Chicago judge: “Why We Were Chosen?” Or that Bill Wilson was guided by God when he penned the famous “Twelve Steps?”
On the other hand, how many times have you heard the expression: “A.A. is spiritual, but not religious?” Or heard that A.A. requires a belief in a “higher power?” Or heard that A.A. is about “not- god-ness?” Or is an “any god will do” program?

This book doesn’t address those questions. It is not about the nature of A.A. Nor about the place of the Creator in today’s program. Nor about whether AAs are a chosen bunch. It’s an account of the many ways the Creator seems to have touched the life of Bill W. and, through him, the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. Did He impact Bill W.’s life and hence A.A. itself? You will meet a Bill W. you haven’t met in the dozen or so biographies of his life. You’ll look at events in Bill’s life you’ve probably never heard of— whether inside or outside of A.A. You will see how many times Bill seemingly had a conversion or religious experience, whether he called it that or not. You will see how many times religion and church and clergy impacted on Bill’s activities, whether or not he impacted on theirs. You’ll note the details about Bill’s decision for Christ at the Calvary Rescue Mission and his belief he had been born again. You will see the many examples of conversion experiences that Bill might have run across, just following his own “extraordinary white light” vital religious experience—the event resulting from his call for help to the “Great Physician” and his vision that he had been in the presence of “the God of the Scriptures.”

Was Bill Wilson saved when he attended the East Dorset Congregational Church and Sunday school, which both the Wilson and the Griffith families were regular members and much involved—their homes being right next door to the church? Was Bill Wilson saved when he was enrolled in the Burr and Burton Seminary in Manchester, Vermont? Where he was President of the Young Men’s Christian Association? Where he went to daily chapel where he heard reading of Scripture, hymns, prayers, and sermons? Where he joined other Burr and Burton scholars when they attended Manchester Congregational Church? When he took his four year Bible study course?
Was Bill Wilson converted? Did Bill Wilson ever become a born-again Christian? Did Bill Wilson truly believe in the one, true, living God? Were all of Bill’s frequent references to Almighty God, to the Creator, to the Maker, to his Heavenly Father a manifestation of what he really believed? God knows the answers. They’re His special province. Not mine.

But you will have the opportunity to focus on a new question about the part our Creator may really have played in the life of Bill Wilson and in the worldwide Fellowship which began in Akron in 1935 and of which Bill was co-founder. For Bill, as a youth, had had abundant Bible study, exposure to sermons and hymns and Scripture reading, prayer meetings, Sunday school and church teachings, and YMCA requirements. In other words, Bill had had abundant exposure in his family to Vermont Congregationalism, Vermont Congregational academies (Burr and Burton Seminary and possibly Norwich Military Academy), revivals, temperance meetings, conversion meetings, Bible study at the Seminary and with his grandfather Griffith, and in company with his lady love Bertha Bamford—YWCA president and daughter of an Episcopal rector. Until Bertha’s unexpected and tragic death from surgery just before the two were to graduate. Bill turned his back on God, blamed God, became depressed for months and months, and could not finish his Seminary graduation.

Yes. And this is just a part of the Christian upbringing in Vermont and elsewhere that his friends Ebby Thacher, Mark Whalon, and his family members had heard about salvation, the Bible, and Jesus Christ.

 Ch. 1:   “The Wind Bloweth Where It Listeth”
Ch. 2:   The God of the Preachers
 Ch. 3:   Two Heralds of Divine Help on Its Way for Alcoholics
 Ch. 4:   The Turning Point: Bill’s Decision for Christ
 Ch. 5:   “For Sure I’d Been Born Again”
Ch. 6:   Repent, and Be Converted
 Ch. 7:   “If There Be a Great Physician, I’ll Call on Him”
Ch. 8:   “Ye Shall Know Them by Their Fruits”
Ch. 9:   Open Their Eyes That They May See: Manna from Heaven
 Ch. 10: The Touch of the Master’s Hand
 Ch. 11: “With a Mighty Hand, and with an Outstretched Arm”
Ch. 12: As Bill Saw It: “Thy Will Be Done”
 Appendix: “Conversion” in the Bible
Paradise Research Publications, Inc.; 249 pp.; 6 x 9; perfect bound; 2006; $23.95; ISBN 1-885803-90-7

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