Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Heart of the AA Steps - Oxford Group 5 C's Confidence-Confession-Conviction-Conversion-Continuance

The 5 C's of the Oxford Group became the heart of A.A.'s Twelve Step progression. Depending on which source you choose, the five C's were Confidence-Confession-Conviction-Conversion-Continuance. For the last one, some sources us "Conservation." But the A.A. ideas for Steps 10, 11, 12 set forth the ideas of continuing what was learned from the first nine. More on the content of each of the five to come shortly.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Two Major Sources of A.A. Basic Ideas

A.A.’s Two Major Sources of Ideas

Some Brief Points on the Bible and on A First Century Christian Fellowship

Dick B.

© 2014 Anonymous. All Rights Reserved

For reasons not very clear to me today, those who write and speak on A.A. sources seldom focus on the Bible. And that is wrong. They also frequently focus on, but denigrate, the “Oxford Group” (first known as A First Century Christian Fellowship). That is not wrong; but, if the historical context and disassociation with the Oxford Group are ignored, it is very wrong. So in this brief starting point, let’s look at the two identifiable major sources of A.A. ideas. And where they can be found manifested.

The Bible is the Number One Sourc

The Bible (also called the Good Book by most early AAs) was clearly stated as the major source of A.A. program ideas starting in 1935. The best and most reliable authority that confirms this source is in A.A. General Service Conference-approved literature. And the succinct summaries are in The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous: Biographical Sketches Their Last Major Talks and in DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, page 131—where the Akron Christian Fellowship program is summarized in seven points.

In The Co-Founders, Dr. Bob’s remarks in his last major talk are these:

I had refreshed my memory of the Good Book, and I had had excellent training in that as a youngster (pp. 11-12) . . . I felt that I should continue to increase my familiarity with the Good Book (p. 13)

. . . we were convinced that the answer to our problems was in the Good Book. To some of us older ones, the parts that we found absolutely essential were the Sermon on the Mount [Matthew Chapters 5-7], the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, and the Book of James (p. 13)

It wasn’t until 1938 that the teachings and efforts and studies that had been going on were crystallized in the form of the Twelve Steps. I didn’t write the Twelve Steps. I had nothing to do with the writing of them. . . . We already had the basic ideas, though not in terse and tangible form. We got them, as I said, as a result of our study of the Good Book (p. 14)


The “Oxford Group” Was a Detoured Source

In succession, the names for the group founded by Dr. Frank Buchman about 1922 were: (1) A First Century Christian Fellowship. (2) the Oxford Group—about 1928. (3) Moral Re-Armament—about 1938; and Initiatives of Change—long after AAs had left the Oxford Group.

This A First Century Christian Fellowship source of A.A. ideas can be summarized in three groups:

(1)   The twenty-eight Oxford Group ideas that constituted their original life-changing art. See Dick B., The Oxford Group & Alcoholics Anonymous: A Design for Living That Works! (pp. 249-297)


(2)   The more than 187 parallels between Oxford Group and Big Book Language, which we will detail in the next article. And see Dick B., The Oxford Group & Alcoholics Anonymous (pp. 340-364)


(3)   The period which Dr. Bob described as follows:


Now the interesting part of all this is not the sordid details, but the situation that we two fellows were in. We had both been associated with the Oxford Group, Bill in New York, for five months, and I in Akron, for two and a half years. Bill had acquired their idea of service. I had not, but I had done an immense amount of reading they had recommended. See The Co-Founders (p. 11).


In Akron A.A., the meetings at T. Henry Williams’s house on Wednesday were regarded as a “clandestine lodge of the Oxford Group.” We believe it was for two reasons: (1) The once-a-week gatherings were not at all like Oxford Group meetings being held world-wide. (2) Many of the Akron AAs did not like them; and sometimes held meetings in separate rooms—one for the Oxford Group people, and one for the drunks and their families.


This period ended in 1939 when the Akron people left the Oxford Group meetings.


(4)   The association between A.A. and the Group in New York was quite different: (a) Bill Wilson had received some indoctrination in Oxford Group ideas from Oxford Groupers Rowland Hazard, F. Shepard Cornell, Cebra Graves, and Ebby Thacher (b) Both Bill and his wife attended Oxford Group meetings very frequently from the date of Bill’s discharge from Towns Hospital in 1934 until—as Lois Wilson described it—“they kind of kicked us out.” And that was in August of 1937 (c) After he received authorization from Akronites to write a book, Bill worked with Rev. Sam Shoemaker on the manuscripts and later asked Sam to write the Twelve Steps, but Shoemaker declined. Nonetheless, Shoemaker—who distanced himself totally from the Oxford Group in 1941—continued as a friend, adviser, speaker, and “co-founder” of A.A. through his friendship with Wilson. See Dick B., New Light on Alcoholism: God, Sam Shoemaker, and A.A., Pittsburgh ed.

In short, the Bible influence on A.A. ideas was frequently acknowledged by Dr. Bob, Bill W., Anne Smith, and Henrietta Seiberling. And the practices of early Akron A.A. Group Number One were Bible to the core. On the other hand, the Oxford Group influence was very much confined to the Oxford Group language and Shoemaker language that Bill used in the “new version of the program the Twelve Steps”—which were not published until 1939. That situation itself also changed when Bill and the “committee of four” gave in to atheists and agnostics and opened the “Broad Highway” of membership for all—regardless of their belief or lack thereof.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Bill Wilson seveal times referred to Jesus Christ as the worker of miracles in .A.A.

There are many references by Bill Wilson as to the role played by Jesus Christ in recovery. One can be found on pages 216-217 of the 3rd edition of Alcoholics Anonymous. There, Abby G. in Cleveland asked Bill what this was that worked so many miracles. Hanging over the mantel was a picture of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. Bill pointed to it and said: "There it is."

Sunday, April 27, 2014

AA. Basic Ideas for 12 Steps Came from Bible

In his last major talk, Dr. Bob made several points clear (See The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous: Biographical Sketches Their Last Major Talks, pages 12-14

1. Dr. Bob: I didn't write the 12 Steps
2. Dr. Bob: I had nothing to do with the writing of the Steps
3. The writing of the Steps did not begin until 1938
4. Dr. Bob: Convinced that the studies, teachings, and efforts that had been going on in the Smith home with Wilson and others must have influenced the Steps.
5. These studies teachings and efforts had been in progress since the founding of A.A. in 1935
5 . Dr. Bob: We already had the basic ideas. We got them from the efforts from 1935-1938
6.  Dr. Bob: We got them as a result of our study of the Good Book [Bible]

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Are the Agnostica Writers Sore Loses or Real Fear Mongers

As one wades through this site of unbelievers who seemingly dedicate themselves to the proposition that A.A. is or might become or never was Christian, he or she finds that the unbelievers focus on defamation. The rants and raves of Kurtz and some others are regular fare. But all fail in one particular: A.A. is not monolithic. He who tries to win his point by trashing others or by characterizing A.A. as this or that group of cottage industry Bible thumpers just detours students from considering: (1) A.A. consists of about 2 million members passing in and out. (2) By reason of the great compromise of 1939 which opened the “broad highway” to atheists and agnostics, the atheists and agnostics seem determined to rest their position on a parade of horrors presentation rather than an admission that the “broad highway” was paved by the committee of four to invite Buddhists, Roman Catholics, Jews, Protestants, Muslims, Gays and Lesbians, Airline pilots, and even lawyers to come and overcome. Even if some didn’t or wouldn’t take literally the phrase: “There is One who has all power. That One is God. May you find Him now.” I hope the more the atheists and agnostics rant, the more the members of the recovery community will examine themselves and say: “I’m not one of those. I’m just a drunk who came to A.A. to get over the mess I created. I wasn’t looking for a church, an atheist, or a Bible. But I wound up relying on God; and it worked!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

What Dr. Bob Said in March of 1948 When He and Bill W. Were on the Stage Together at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles Before an Audience of 4,500

What Dr. Bob Said in March of 1948 When He and Bill W. Were on the Stage Together at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles Before an Audience of 4,500

Dick B.

© 2014 Anonymous. All rights reserved


In the March 26, 1948 issue of The Tidings magazine, there is an account of the appearance of both Bill W. and Dr. Bob on the stage of the Shrine Auditorium, in Los Angeles before some 4,500 alcoholics, their friends, and relatives. The magazine quotes Dr. Bob’s address;

Dr. Bob, another founder of A.A., also addressed the Shrine Assembly. As he was introduced, the audience rose to its feet in tribute. The fame of Dr. Bob is great in A.A. In soft, confident, and unhurried words, he too reiterated the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous: Read religious literature. Resume church attendance. Cultivate the habit of prayer and transmit the desires and principles of Alcoholics Anonymous to others. He particularly recommended reading the Bible.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The New “Anniversary Edition” of A.A.’s First Edition of Alcoholics Anonymous

The New “Anniversary Edition” of A.A.’s First Edition of Alcoholics Anonymous

Dick B.

© 2014 Anonymous. All rights reserved

I just received and answered an email from a long-time Christian AA who told me he had just received copies of A.A. General Service Conference-approved Anniversary Edition of the Big Book First Edition.

After all these years, I believe readers need to  understand what has come about in restoring to “official” view the stories of the A.A. pioneers whose personal stories are in the 1939 Big Book. I also believe, and point out, in the exchange of letters set forth below, the tools that will make the new edition of real importance and value to its readers.

The Correspondence (with full name removed for anonymity purposes)

My reply to the letter below “Dear J,. . . Thanks for the heads up on the new book. Our whole research on old school A.A. certainly includes the personal stories of the pioneers. It was they  who were NOT writing about Bill’s Twelve Step program. Bill’s 1939 Big Book chapters had not yet been completed as far as Bill’s chapters are concerned. The pioneers were writing primarily about how they practiced the Akron program set forth on page 131 of DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers. There is much more, and it will be covered in the video series and guidebook we have just about completed. May I suggest that those who want a full understanding of what the First Edition was all about need these following three additional tools:

1.         The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous: Biographical Sketches Their Last Major Talks (Pamphlet P-53). It will show you where the old school A.A. really began – 4 years before the Big Book was published.

2.         Our new book Dick B. and Ken B. Pioneer Stories in Alcoholics Anonymous: God’s Role in Recovery Confirmed. It will open your eyes to the pioneer stories’ real message.

3.         Alcoholics Anonymous; The Big Book The Original  1939 Edition Bill W. With a New Introduction By Dick B. (Dover Publications, Inc.). This edition may well have prompted the long overdue publication of the First Edition by A.A. itself. But my introduction to the Dover Publications edition is 27 pages and explains what the problem is.

Thanks again for writing, and don’t hesitate to give me a phone call if you wish to discuss all this further.

God bless,


Richard G. Burns, J.D., CDAAC

Author and A.A. historian, retired attorney, Bible student (pen name “Dick B.”)

46 published titles & over 1,450 articles on A.A. history and the Christian Recovery Movement

Exec. Dir., International Christian Recovery Coalition

Christian Recovery Resource Centers - Worldwide

Christian Recovery Radio

(808) 874-4876

PO Box 837, Kihei, HI 96753-0837

Facebook: DickBmauihistorian





Letter to Dick B. Received Today From: J. . . .

Sent: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 8:28 AM


Subject: RE: Dick B. FYI Message: The Recovery Resources That Need a Boost in Recovery Content

Hello Dick I just got my copies of the 75th Anniversary of the Big Book first edition copy in the mail I am looking forward to reading the stories to see how much they enlighten me about the roots of early AA, the book looks great, it has thick pages and same look as the original first edition, did you order a bunch of copies to give away, from J. . . .canada

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

AA - A First Century Christian Fellowship - Temptation - the Book of James

A Tidbit on “Temptation” in the 24 Communications, Inc. Quarterly

Dick B., April,  2014

Dr. Bob said in The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous: Biographical Sketches Their Last Major Talks that older AAs believed the answers to their problem were in the Good Book. He then said they believed that the Book of James, Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, and 1 Corinthians were “absolutely essential” to their program.

In my early A.A. days, that sparked my interest in the Book of James. It caused some of our brothers across the country to form “James Clubs” which is what the old-timers wanted to call A.A. And it later prompted me to write The James Club: The Original A.A. Program’s Absolute Essentials

James 1:12-16 has always seemed to me to deal with “temptation” the recidivist alcoholic or addict lure—a topic Dr. Bob mentioned more than once. The James verses read:

Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:

But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.

Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

            Do not err, my beloved brethren

Dr. Bob and his wife Anne frequently mentioned and cited verses from James; and I think the foregoing verses, when coupled with James 4:7, can be particularly helpful to those AAs who consider the Bible the “main source book of all” as Anne put it.

Incidentally, James 4:7 says:

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

I was drawn to this subject by an article in the Spring 2014  AAA 24 Quarterly, on page 16. It was titled “Buchman’s Advice for Handling Temptation”

Buchman had learnt that temptation, of whatever kind, was best resisted at its earliest stage. It was easier, he sometimes said, to divert a small stream than to dam a river. He defined the progression of temptation as “the look, the thought, the fascination, the fall,’ and said that the time to deal with it was at the thought—“Tackle temptation well upstream.” This was not a new idea. Thomas a Kempis, whose writings he would not likely have encountered at Mount Airy but whose Imitation of Christ went with him everywhere during his adult life, describes the same progression. “The enemy is more easily overcome,” write a Kempis, “if he be not suffered in any wise to enter the door of our hearts” but be resisted without the gate at his first knock.”

Dr. Frank N. D. Buchman was the founder of A First Century Christian Fellowship later known as the Oxford Group.

If you are looking at a challenging study topic that is really related to the Bible, the Oxford Group, the Book of James, and a subject that will provide plenty of useful discussions by alcoholics and addicts, this tidbit may be something you can use in your James Club or in any discussion meeting.

Gloria Deo

Monday, April 14, 2014

History of Alcoholics Anonymous, 2005 Radio Series, Numbers One, Two, and Three

History of Alcoholics Anonymous, 2005 Radio Series


Dick B.

© 2014 Anonymous. All rights reserved





Number One – Dick B. A.A., Recovery and History Series – The Bible (called “Good Book”)


The Basic A.A. Ideas Came from the Teachings, Study, and Efforts in the Bible - 1935-1938



Hear the Bible and Alcoholics Anonymous.  Then see


Hear Studying A.A. History.  Then see   


Hear A.A. Successes.  Then see


Hear The James Club, 4th ed.  Then see




Number Two – Dick B. A.A., Recovery and History Series


The Ideas from Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker (“co-founder” of A.A.) and the Twenty-eight A First Century Christian Fellowship (later called the Oxford Group) that influenced A.A.


Go to  to hear these 11 radio shows


Hear the role of Reverend Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr. – the man Bill asked to write the Steps, and later named a cofounder -    4 parts.  Then see New Light on Alcoholism: God, Sam Shoemaker, and A.A.


Hear the twenty-eight ideas from A First Century Christian Fellowship (later called the “Oxford Group”) – 7 parts.  Then see The Oxford Group & Alcoholics Anonymous: A Design for Living That Works – 7 parts




Number Three – Dick B. A.A., Recovery and History Series


Alcoholics were cured; Quiet Time was a must; and Bible study—prayer—Quiet Time were “musts”



Hear alcoholism, Alcoholics Anonymous and Cures (early Akron AA Christian Fellowship members were cured of alcoholism, and said so.  Then see Cured!: Proven Help for Alcoholics and Addicts –


Hear the A.A. Meditation Series – Quiet Time was a “must” in the early Akron A.A. Christian Fellowship.  Then see The Akron Genesis of Alcoholics Anonymous.


Hear about Bible Study, Prayer, and Meditation – These were also “musts” in the early Akron A.A. Christian Fellowship. Then see Good Morning!: Quiet Time, Morning Watch, Meditation, and Early A.A.


More to Come


Gloria Deo

An Edited Response to a Query About A.A. Bashers

An Edited Response to a Query About A.A. Bashers

Dick B.

© 2014 Anonymous. All rights reserved

[A Christian physician sent me a letter this morning inquiring about a book by Lance Dodes, M.D., and the program of Smart Recovery as well. The real question is whether A.A. has a success rate as low as 5%. Since I have already written a book about Dodes and some of the other A.A. bashers, I declined to do so. My book is Dick B., God and Alcoholism: Our Growing Opportunity in the 21st Century, 2002. The comments about Dodes can be found on pages 31-33. Many other parts of the book talk about: (1) The Nonsense “gods” of recovery (2) “higher-power-ism” (3) The views of a good many M.D. writers who eschew A.A. (4) Anti-AA Christian writings by the Bobgans and also Dr. Playfair. (4) The substantial evidence of “cures.” (5) The detours presented by “new thought” and “spirituality” writings. (6) The real opportunity for looking at the heart of the A.A. program in the early years—abstinence, surrender to God, obedience of God, spiritual growth with the Bible and prayer, helping others get well, and fellowship with like-minded believers.]

Now for the Edited Response About the Anti-AA Folks and How I Answered My Physician Friend – a Christian and an AA

“I am quite familiar with the writing of James Dodes, M.D. You will find a discussion of him and his position and a critique thereof on pages 31-33 of my book God and Alcoholism: Our Growing Opportunity in the 21st Century.

First of all, Dodes never mentions God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, A.A. History, the early A.A. Christian Fellowship, or the distinction between the today’s widely varied A.A. membership composition and the Akron A.A. program laid out in DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers at page 131 and also the book by my son and me--Stick with the Winners.

Second, take God out of A.A., and what have you? Nothing. Nothing that resembles the method by which the first three got sober; the Akron A.A. Christian Fellowship program succeeded so well; Bill Wilson’s “new version” of the program the Twelve Steps which was filled with mention of God, the Creator, Maker, Heavenly Father, Lord; or the great compromise which took God out of Steps Two, Three, and Eleven just before the Big Book went to the printer in 1939.

Third, he, who endeavors to analyze what A.A. is, needs to be examined as to what he knows about the nature of A.A. itself, namely that: (a) A.A. is not monolithic. (b) A.A. has about two million members who come and go with the wind, are not identified, and who flip from meeting to meeting. (c) Today there is no “qualification” of newcomers and therefore A.A. is filled with passers-through, “be-backs,” and “compulsory attenders.” The latter include those ordered to go to A.A. by courts, parole officers, and probation officials. They include those who are bussed to meetings by treatment programs. They include those who are “dumped” into A.A. without any orientation by their counselors or pastors or physicians or family or by people who make no investment in the A.A.’s program and often have little or no knowledge of what A.A. is about. (d) A.A. wears a coat of many colors—Unbelievers, atheists, agnostics, humanists, Buddhists, Hindus, Roman Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, and some very very very sick people who don’t know what they are, where they are, how they are to beging,  or who God is. (e) Moreover, he who writes about A.A. and fails to distinguish between the various epochs in its development and diverse program is writing about something that doesn’t exist.

One epoch involves how the first three got sober, were cured, and said so. The second epoch concerns the bible-oriented program that WAS A.A. from at least 1935 to 1938 and just seldom if ever gets mentioned today. The third consists of the “new version” where Bill put together a polyglot book.

The first part of the “first edition” of that basic text talks about a program that didn’t yet exist—the Twelve Steps and all the other chapters. It repeatedly uses the word “God” and is thoroughly discussed in Stick with the Winners!  It deceptively talks about a program that was Oxford Group in character, non-biblical in content, and sports higher powers, new thought, and Bible ideas that are not identified as such.

As to the second part of the “first edition,” it contains the personal stories of pioneers. Most were from Akron or the Midwest area. Almost all, if not all, the stories were written before Bill completed putting his part, his chapters, and his program together. Though intended to be testimonials as to how and why Bill’s Twelve Steps worked the personal testimonials don’t mention his program, the Steps, or the Big Book.

The personal stories in the “first edition” are testimonials primarily by those who followed Dr. Bob’s Akron program. See Dick B. and Ken B., Pioneer Stories in Alcoholics Anonymous: God’s Role in Recovery Confirmed, 2012. Sad yet significant it is, that for over 50 years the personal stories were, one by one, almost all removed from later editions of the Big Book. Why? Because they depicted some personal viewpoint and experience that some dude in NY didn’t like! And there and elsewhere excused the obliteration justifying it by the age of the drunks, the outrageous behavior supposedly exceeding that of the younger wrongdoers, and the lack of relevance, time-wise, in the accounts of how the really successful pioneers applied the principles of their Akron Christian Fellowship program.

The well-known failure rate of those who come to A.A. (not the A.A. Society itself but those drunks who participate in it) has been reliably estimated by men that I personally know and who are scientists.

One was the head of a major governmental alcoholism effort. One is a professor at University of New Mexico, J. Scott Tonigan, Ph.D. who is a statistician, and a psychologist. One is Joan Matthews Larson, Ph.D. who favors vitamins but who lays out the sad success rate. Again, I would say that most of these are right if you just look at statistics instead of people, if you just talk about science instead of God, and if you just talk about A.A. as if it has some special kind of deity which can be a tree, a door knob, a light bulb, the Big Dipper, Ralph, Gertrude, and the back end of a city bus.

I discuss all these writers in my God and Alcoholism book, and I strongly suggest that you read it thoroughly so that you will know the dramatis personae when you see the remarks of this or that pro-AA, self-proclaimed Christian A.A., Big Book thumper, agnostic, atheist, unbeliever, or raging bleeding deacon

Not that it is earth-shaking in importance,  but my own observation as an active AA for 28 continuous years of membership and sobriety is that most AAs fail—possibly as many as 95%. Its archivist told me about 1991 that one-third were out the door in their first 90 days and that 50% were gone by the end of their first year.

The question is: Who are they? Did the failed ones dive into the program, turn to God for help, and then help others! Did they believe in God, Jesus Christ, and the Bible! Do they know the slightest thing about the progression of A.A. history! Had they gotten tangled up with members of the opposite or same sex or unsupportive wives! If you think the 12 Steps really have an impact, have they studied them in the Big Book, the instructions for taking them, and in fact taken them! Do they even know that all those in early A.A. who made the grade almost uniformly said publically that they were cured! Do they have a common agreement on what “cured” and “recovered” and “in recovery” mean from a Conference-approved literature viewpoint or even from a “wisdom of the rooms” viewpoint.

My suggestion is that many of the bashers and doubters and revisionists have a bone to pick with A.A. But it is a bone that is bare when they learn or concede why many winners and successes have renounced alcohol and drugs for good, professed belief in God and accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Who actually asked God for deliverance, and then grew spiritually through prayer and Bible study and reading. Who  fellowshipped with like-minded believers, started helping others as soon as possible, and isolated themselves from the losers who have a grudge against A.A. Or those who have failed in A.A., or dislike A.A., or want to judge it only by evidence-based tests instead of the truth in God’s Word. Or who are atheists or agnostics or unbelievers, are really concerned that they might lose a client, a patient, a newcomer, or a member if they discuss God, or are grinding the axe of some particular denomination or facility.

Fortunately, I can introduce you to hundreds, probably thousands, across the nation and the world who satisfy the believer criteria above and who have been clean and sober for many years. In fact, I was writing books about them even before so many began writing, emailing, and phoning me—saying “I never knew” and “I want to know more.”

God bless,

Richard, J.D., CDAAC

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Alcoholics Anonymous History Radio Series 2005 by Dick B., # 1

History of Alcoholics Anonymous, 2005 Radio Series

Dick B.

© 2014 Anonymous. All rights reserved

Number One  Dick B. A.A., Recovery, and History Series

Hear the Bible and Alcoholics Anonymous

Hear Studying A.A. History

Hear A.A. Successes

Hear The James Club, 4th ed.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Bible and Christianity in A.A.


Bible and Christian Roots of A.A.

Dick B.

© 2014 Anonymous. All rights reserved

Outline of Important Bible and Christian Roots of Early A.A. Do you know them?


Early Akron Alcoholics Anonymous called itself a “Christian Fellowship.”

Observers frequently said that early A.A. was “First Century Christianity” at work.

Bill W. specifically said that Dr. Bob had reminded a group of AAs, including Bill, that most of them were practicing Christians. And then Dr. Bob asked them what the “Master” would do

A.A. Cofounder Dr. Bob had a deep and meaningful Christian upbringing as a youngster in St. Johnsbury, Vermont.

A.A. Cofounder Bill W. also had a deep and meaningful Christian upbringing as a youngster in East Dorset, Rutland, Manchester, and Northfield, Vermont.

There were a number of Christian organizations and people who were helping drunks long before A.A. was founded. Some said they were offering “soup, soap, and salvation.” And these impacted on the lives of the Cofounders  in their days in Vermont. They also impacted on the ideas adopted by A.A.

These organizations and people included Young Men’s Christian Association, Gospel Rescue Missions, Salvation Army, Evangelists (Moody, Sankey, Meyer, Moore, Drummond, and Folger—to mention some),  Congregationalism, and Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor.

Bill W. said that the ideas in his new version of the program (and specifically the First Step came from Dr. William D. Silkworth, who was a devoted Christian, a member of Rev. Sam Shoemaker’s Calvary Church in New York, and was the one who first told Bill that Jesus Christ, the Great Physician could cure Bill of his alcoholism).

A.A.’s connection with the Oxford Group at the beginning was mentioned by both Bill W. and Dr. Bob. And the Oxford Group was at first called “A First Century Christian Fellowship.”

Dr. Bob’s wife recommended to early AAs that they read books on the life of Jesus Christ and that they read the Bible every single day. She said it was the main “Source Book.”

The daily devotionals that early Akron AAs used in their prayer, Bible study, and meditation sessions were uniformly Christian. Examples were The Runner’s  Bible, Upper Room, My Utmost for His Highest, Abundant Living, Victorious Living, Daily Strength for Daily Needs

All AAs in the Akron Number One Group who were hospitalized read the Bible and prayed with Dr. Bob during their stay. They then professed their belief in God and made a decision for Christ.

All early Akron AAs were required to make a “regular surrender” in which they accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and asked God to take alcohol out of their lives.

The books that Dr. Bob read and circulated among early AAs were primarily Christian and numbered in the dozens. Examples of Christian books on healing were James Moore Hickson, Heal the Sick, and Ethel Willits, Healing in Jesus Name. The books were circulated among the pioneers by Dr. Bob.

Bill Wilson’s friend Ebby Thacher was lodged at Calvary Mission  in New York; accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior; got sober; visited Bill at his home; and convinced Bill that Ebby had been born again and that he (Bill) might be helped out of his alcoholism at the same place and in the same way

Bill Wilson then went to Calvary Mission himself; accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior at Calvary Mission; and wrote in his autobiography, “For sure, I’d been born again.”

Bill went on the Towns Hospital, decided he should call for help from the Great Physician; cried out to God for help; underwent a vital religious experience in which Bill sensed the presence of God in his hospital room; and thought to himself: “Bill, you are a free man. This is the God of the Scriptures.” Bill was cured of his alcoholism, said so on numerous occasions, and never drank again.

The family of Dr. Bob—parents and grandparents—were very active in the North Congregational Church of St. Johnsbury. Bob’s father was a Deacon and taught Sunday school. Bob’s mother was in charge of church education, sang in the choir, and was church historian. The Smiths attended church with frequency 5 days each week.

The family of Bill W.—parents and grandparents—were very active in the East Dorset Congregational Church in Vermont.  The Wilsons were among the founders and held office in the church. They owned Pew 15. The Griffiths were regular attenders. Bill’s parents were married in the church and lived in its parsonage for a time.

Both Dr. Bob and Bill W. were raised in Congregational churches and Sunday schools in Vermont--all attended by their parents and grandparents. They both attended Academies run by Congregationalists and which required attendance at Daily Chapel with Sermons, Hymns, Prayers, and reading of Scripture. Bill later attended daily chapel at Norwich University where Bill was a cadet.

Bill was president of the Burr and Burton Seminary Young Men’s Christian Association; and Bill took a four year Bible study course at the Seminary. Bill attended services and events at Manchester Congregational Church during Bill’s matriculation at Burr and Burton Seminary.

The early A.A. program in Akron, Ohio was founded primarily on Christian principles and practices laid down by the Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor, in which Dr. Bob and his family were active in Vermont.  It also incorporated the requirement that all members become Christians.

The first three AAs had no Steps, no Traditions, no Big Books, no “War Stories,” and no meetings like those held today. They believed the answers to their problems were in the Bible. And they also believed and studied as “absolutely essential” to their program the Book of James, Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, and 1 Corinthians 13. They had daily meetings.

Bill W.’s “new version” of the program embodied in his Big Book and 12 Steps four years later was, according to Bill, based primarily on the teachings of Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr., Rector of the Calvary Episcopal Church in New York, who was called a “Bible Christian,” and whom Bill called a “cofounder of A.A.” Bill worked on the text of the new version with Shoemaker; asked Shoemaker to write the Twelve Steps; but Shoemaker declined, suggesting that Bill should write them.

Dr. Bob’s wife kept a journal from 1933-1939 from which she read each morning to AAs and their families; and in it, she spoke frequently of the Bible, Christian literature, Jesus Christ, God, and the Holy Spirit. At the morning Quiet Times, Anne led with a prayer, reading from Scripture, a Quiet Time session, and a discussion session.

Both Bill and Bob had extensive involvement with the Young Men’s Christian Association. Bill as President, and Dr. Bob’s father as President.






















Thursday, April 10, 2014


PASS IT ON: In "Remaking the World" by Frank N.D. Buchman (founder of A First Century Christian Fellowship, later known as the Oxford Group) Dr. Buchman is quoted on page 29: "The best way to keep an experience of Christ is to pass it on." Dick B., The Oxford Group & Alcoholics Anonymous.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Is Dick B. still alive?

Is Dick B. Still Alive!

You bet!

About to celebrate 28 years of continuous sobriety. About to celebrate 89 years of age. And about to enjoy the best years of his life—serving God and helping others recover from alcohol and drug addiction with God’s help!

Why this brief message?

The internet has suddenly come alive with the question: “Is Dick B. still alive?” It mentions Dick Van Dyke, Dick Cheney, Dick Butkus, even the mighty, modest Dick B., and assorted other Richards who are still kicking up a storm.

But I just wanted you to know that while others are asking questions, we are still eagerly fielding answers, producing videos, penning articles, publishing books, conducting radio interviews, and answering questions by phone from all over the world.

Yep. Still alive. Still looking forward to your communications.

God Bless,

Dick B.,;; 808 874 4876; PO Box 837, Kihei, HI 96753-0837.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Christians with Faith in A.A.

Faith of Christians in A.A., N.A., and Recovery Today

By Dick B.

© 2014 Anonymous. All rights reserved.

The Doctor’s Opinion: The Great Physician Can Cure You

Dr. William D. Silkworth advised Bill Wilson that Jesus Christ, the Great Physician, could cure Bill of his alcoholism. At the time of Bill Wilson’s third hospitalization in Towns Hospital, Bill had a discussion with his physician, Dr. William D. Silkworth, on the subject of the “Great Physician.” And Silkworth’s biographer Dale Mitchel wrote in Silkworth: The Little Doctor Who Loved Drunks:

Silkworth has not been given the appropriate credit for his position on a spiritual conversion, particularly as it may relate to true Christian benefits. Several sources,        including Norman Vincent Peale in his book The Positive Power of Jesus Christ, agree that it was Dr. Silkworth who used the term ‘The Great Physician’ to explain the need in recovery for a relationship with Jesus Christ. . . . In the formation of AA, Wilson initially insisted on references to God and Jesus, as well as the Great Physician. . .  . Silkworth challenged the alcoholic with an ultimatum. Once hopeless, the alcoholic would grasp hold of any chance of sobriety. Silkworth, a medical doctor, challenged the alcoholic with a spiritual conversion and a  relationship with God as part of a program of recovery. His approach with Bill Wilson was no different. . . Wilson did often confirm Silkworth as ‘very much a founder of AA.’ . . . . [Bill wrote:] “I was in black despair. And in the midst of this I remembered about this God business. . . and I rose up in bed and said, “If there be a God, let him show himself now! All of a sudden there was a light. . .a blinding white light that filled the whole room. A tremendous wind seemed to be blowing all around me and right through me. I felt as if I were standing on a high mountain top. . . I felt that I stood in the presence of God.” [In Norman Vincent Peale, The Art of Living] The Silkworth copy of this book inscribed by Peale is available at the Silkworth Collection Archives. . .  . In this book in particular he describes the need for surrender (p.105), he uses the term ‘The Great Physician’ (later used by Bill Wilson) as a methaphor for Jesus Christ (pp. 123 -26, and 151), and the details of an act of making amends, the AA Ninth Step, (pp. 128-31), all of which are cornerstones of spiritual living ripe within the Alcoholics Anonymous program and that of Dr. Silkworth.”[1]

Ebby Thacher’s New Birth

Ebby Thacher visited his old school friend and companion Bill Wilson shortly after this third hospitalization. Ebby told Bill that he (Ebby) had been lodging at Calvary Rescue Mission,[2] had “got religion,”[3] and that “God had done for him what he could not do for himself.”[4] Ebby had there made a decision for Christ.[5] In a manuscript I found at Stepping Stones, titled, “Bill Wilson’s Original Story,” every line was numbered. The numbers ran from 1 to 1180; and here is how Bill there described Ebby’s approach and Bill’s observation that Ebby had been born again at the Mission:

Nevertheless here I was sitting opposite a man who talked about a personal God, who told me how he had found Him, who described to me how I might do the same thing and   who convinced me utterly that something had come into his life which had accomplished a miracle. The man was transformed; there was no denying he had been reborn. (lines 935-42).[6]

Bill Wilson Hands His Life Over to Christ at Calvary Mission – Just as Ebby Thacher Did

Bill Wilson shortly set out for Calvary Mission to receive what his friend Ebby had received.[7] Upon his arrival at Calvary Mission, Bill went to the altar just as Ebby had done.[8] And just as Ebby had done, Bill made a decision for Christ.[9] Rev. Sam Shoemaker’s wife was present. She told me on the telephone from her home in Burnside very explicitly that she was present at the Mission and that Bill there “made a decision for Christ.”[10]

In a recorded talk at Dallas, Texas, Bill Wilson’s wife Lois Wilson described the events that took place at Bill’s conversion:

Well, people got up and went to the altar and gave themselves to Christ. And the leader of the meeting asked if there was anybody that wanted to come up. And Bill started up. . . .  And he went up to the front and really, in very great sincerity, did hand over his life to Christ.[11]

Rev. Shoemaker’s Assistant Minister Attests to Bill W.’s Rebirth at the Mission

The Rev. W. Irving Harris was Dr. Shoemaker’s Assistant Minister. Harris and his wife Julia lived in Calvary House where Shoemaker lived, and knew Bill Wilson quite well. Rev. Harris typed a memorandum which his wife Julia gave to me, which said of the Mission Conversion:

. . . it was at a meeting at Calvary Mission that Bill himself was moved to declare that he had decided to launch out as a follower of Jesus Christ.[12]

Bill Wilson Declares “For sure I’d been born again.”

Then, it was Bill Wilson himself who began to describe his own conversion to Christ at the Calvary Mission altar.. First, while drunk, Bill wrote a letter to his brother-in-law Dr. Leonard Strong, using the same description that Ebby had used regarding his own conversion. Bill said, “I’ve got religion.”[13]

Of far greater importance are the remarks that I found twice in Bill’s manuscripts at Stepping Stones and which are now recorded in his own autobiography published by Hazelden. Bill wrote:

For sure I’d been born again.[14]

Lois Wilson Confirms Her Husband’s New  Birth

Even Bill’s wife Lois, having seemingly become resentful of Bill’s victory, wrote: Although my joy and faith in his rebirth continued, I missed our companionship. We were seldom alone now.”[15]

Bill Wilson Seeks Help From the Great Physician at Towns Hospital

The decision at the altar did not, at first, produce sobriety. Bill had not yet had quite enough to drink. After his conversion, he wandered drunk in despair and dark depression to Towns Hospital one more time. He was, he said, still pondering “that mission experience.”[16]

Concluding he could no longer defeat alcoholism on his own and still remembering Dr. Silkworth’s assurance that Jesus Christ the Great Physician could cure him, Bill thought:

Yes, if there was any great physician that could cure the alcohol sickness, I’d better seek him now, at once. I’d better find what my friend [Ebby] had found.[17]

Bill arrived at Towns Hospital for his last visit as a patient. For Bill, “The terrifying darkness had become complete.” Then he thought, “But what of the Great Physician? For a brief moment, I suppose, the last trace of my obstinacy was crushed out as the abyss yawned. I remember saying to myself,

‘I’ll do anything, anything at all. If there be a Great Physician, I’ll call on him.’”[18]

And here are a few of Bill’s comments about what happened when he “made the call,” cried out to God for help, and had his ensuing “white light experience”—an experience that changed his life forever, an experience that dominated the early A.A. thinking about the importance of Jesus Christ, and an experience that may give strength to the faith of Christians in A.A. today:

Then, with neither faith, nor hope, I cried out, ‘If there be a God, let him show himself.’ The effect was instant, electric. Suddenly my room blazed with an indescribably white light. I was seized with an ecstasy beyond description. I have no words for this. Every joy I had known was pale by comparison. The light, the ecstasy, I was conscious of nothing else. Then, seen in the mind’s eye, there was a mountain. I stood upon its summit where a great wind blew. A wind, not of air, but of spirit. In great, clean strength it blew right through me.[19]

And then the great thought burst upon me: ‘Bill, you are a free man! This is the God of the Scriptures.’ [In his article in The Language of the Heart, Bill rephrased this thought and said: “Bill, you are a free man. This is the God of the Scriptures.] And then I was filled with a consciousness of a presence. A great peace fell over me, and I was with this I don’t know how long. But then the dark side put in an appearance, and it said to me, ‘Perhaps, Bill, you are hallucinating. You better call in the doctor.’ So the doctor came, and haltingly I told him of the experience. Then came great words for Alcoholics Anonymous. The little man had listened, looking at me so benignly with those blue eyes of his, and at length he said to me, ‘Bill you are not crazy. I have read about this sort of thing in books but I have never seen it first hand. . . .’

“So I hung on, and then I knew there was a God and I knew there was grace. And through it all I have continued to feel, and if I may presume to say it, that I do know these things.”[20]

A.A.’s official biography of Bill Wilson summarized the results of Bill’s white light experience:

Bill Wilson had just had his 39th birthday, and he still had half his life ahead of him. He always said that after that experience, he never again doubted the existence of God. He never took another drink.[21]

Not only had he quit drinking for good, but he set about feverishly witnessing to anyone who would listen. Dr. Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr., to whose church the Calvary Mission belonged, encouraged Bill to spread the message of change and spiritual recovery to others like himself. William G. Borchert reports the events as follows:

Bill took the preacher at his word. With Lois’s full support, he was soon walking through the gutters of the Bowery, into the nut ward at Bellevue Hospital, down the slimy corridors of fleabag hotels, and into the detox unit at Towns with a Bible under his arm.  He was promising sobriety to every drunk he could corner if they, like he, would only turn their lives over to God.[22]

Yet, as Dr. Bob put it, “Time went by, and he [Bill Wilson] had not created a single convert, not one. As we express it, no one had jelled. He worked tirelessly with no thought of saving his own strength or time, but nothing seemed to register.”[23] But the message was carried to Dr. Bob and simmered to its essence by three months of Bible study and discussion by Bill and Bob in the summer of 1935.[24] The simple Original program, founded in Akron on June 10, 1935, developed by the Akron Christian Fellowship, and incorporating the basic ideas taken from the study of the Good Book, achieved astonishing success by November of 1937.

Bill Wilson’s message, incorporating his view of the importance of Jesus Christ, is recorded in two places in A.A.’s subsequent literature.

On page 191 of the latest edition of A.A.’s Big Book, Bill is quoted as saying:

“The Lord has been so wonderful to me, curing me of this terrible disease that I just want to keep talking about it and telling people.”[25]

And, in earlier A.A. years continued to express this basic idea to others still in need of help. One account begins with a visit by Dr. Bob’s sponsee, Clarence H. Snyder, with a Cleveland man:

[Said this Cleveland man:] “One evening I had gone out after dinner to take on a couple of double-headers and stayed a little later than usual, and when I came home Clarence [Snyder] was sitting on the davenport with Bill W. [Bill Wilson]. I do not recollect the specific conversation that went on but I believe I did challenge Bill to tell me something about A.A., and I do recall one another thing: I wanted to know what it was that worked so many wonders, and hanging over the mantel was a picture of Gethsemane and Bill pointed to it and said, “There it is,” which didn’t make much sense to me.”[26]

And this was it. For those in early A.A. who thoroughly followed the path that began with belief in God and surrender to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, the path was a path to success. And Bill’s message for those who wanted to hear it was that the Lord had cured him. Dr. Bob confirmed Bill’s message with the last line of Bob’s own personal story when he said, “Your Heavenly Father will never let you down!”[27]

Gloria Deo



 [1] Dale Mitchel, Silkworth The Little Doctor Who Loved Drunks: The Biography of William Duncan Silkworth, M.D. (Center City, MN: Hazelden, 2002), 33-34, 44-52, 63, 65, 78, 96, 100=01, 106-09,  121-22, 151, 159-61, 193-99, 225.

 [2] Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age: A Brief History of A.A. (New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1957),  58-9; Bill Wilson: Bill W. My First 40 Years: An Autobiography By the CoFounder of Alcoholics Anonymous (Center City, MN: Hazelden, 2000),  132.

 [3] Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, 58.

 [4] Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed. (New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 2001),

 [5] T. Willard Hunter, “It Started Right There”: Behind the Twelve Steps and the Self-help Movement, Rev. ed. (Claremont, California: Ives Community Office, 2006), 6.

 [6] Dick B., Turning Point: A History of Early A.A.’s Spiritual Roots and Successes (San Rafael, CA: Paradise Research Publications, 1997). Note: This and other such manuscripts will shortly be published in Dick B.’s latest book with the working title, The Early Manuscripts and Papers I Was Allowed to See and Copy at Stepping Stones Archives.

 [7] Bill W., My First 40 Years 135-37.,

 [8] Bill W., My First 40 Years, 137

 [9] Dick B., The Conversion of Bill W.: More on the Creator’s Role in Early A.A. (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 2006), 92-94

 [10] Dick B., The Conversion of Bill W., 94

 [11] This quote was discovered by A.A. historian Richard K., who listened to the Lois Wilson recording, wrote down the “Christ” remark, and provided the information to me. See Dick B.,  When Early AAs Were Cured and Why, 3rd ed. (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 2006), 11

 [12] Dick B., New Light on Alcoholism: God, Sam Shoemaker, and A.A., Pittsburgh ed. (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 1999), 533.

 [13] Dick B., When Early AAs Were Cured and Why, 12


 [14] Bill W. My First 40 Years, 147; See Dick B., The Conversion of Bill W., 110, reporting the two places (pp. 130 and 103) of the  manuscript titled “Wilson, W. G. Wilson Recollections,” dated September 1, 1954, that I personally inspected and was permitted to copy of Stepping Stones Archives in 1991.

 [15] Lois Remembers, 98.

 [16] Bill W. My First 40 Years, 138.

 [17] Bill W. My First 40 Years, 139.

 [18] Bill W., My First 40 Years, 145

 [19] Bill W., My First 40 Years, 145-46.

 [20] The Language of the Heart: Bill W.’s Grapevine Writings (New York: The AA Grapevine, Inc., 1988), 284.

 [21] “Pass It On,” 121.

 [22] William G. Borchert, The Lois Wilson Story When Love is Not Enough: A Biography of the Cofounder of Al-Anon   (Center City, MN: Hazelden, 2005), 170.

 [23] The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous: Biographical Sketches Their Last Major Talks [Pamphlet P-53] (New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1972, 1976), 10.

 [24] The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous,  13-14

 [25] Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., 191

 [26] This account was included in the third edition of Alcoholics Anonymous (New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, 1976), 216-17. It has now been removed from the subsequent edition. The picture to which Bill W. pointed was a well-known depiction of “a place called Gethsemane” where Jesus had gone to prayer and “saith unto his disciples, sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. . .  . And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”

[27] Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., 181.