I am on the train heading home after my first AA conference. It’s not very comfortable as I don’t fit the seat very well. This is due to me not being very standard. It’s a long journey and I am looking forward to getting home. Before I left, I was asked to write an article about Concept 7. I started it and while I could understand what the words meant I could think of nothing interesting to say about it. I was far too busy worrying about going to Conference for the first time! So I had to leave it.
I went to conference despite how I felt about it, as I normally do with Service. Everyone was friendly and welcoming, not unlike my first meeting of AA. On the first day of Conference we were in committee wrestling with the details of our Question. Someone mentioned a particular response and someone else agreed and began to develop it further. Each Committee has a board trustee allocated to it. Ours, at this point, said, ‘oh, I don’t think you can answer it this way, Conference can’t do that’. Straight away I knew that wasn’t quite right. ‘Conference is not going to do it‘, I said. ’In the response we’re asking the GSB to do it. Of course, they may not be able to for one reason or another but that’s not up to us. They can report back that it can’t be done, and that’s fine. But if delegates say we want you to do this, you have to look into it.’
It was only later I thought about the piece I had to write and how this was the ideal illustration for it. I had not been thinking specifically about Concept 7 but had applied it because I had read it before. I mentioned before about not being standard for train seats but I am a pretty standard alcoholic. I don’t think anything will change because I am the way I am and that’s it. I will be no use at Conference if I can’t make sense of the Concepts.
But I have a standard recovery and do what I am asked to do without too much grumbling and often a degree of gratitude. As a result I have been a part of Conference and have even started to look forward to next year!
To explain more about our topic, Concept 7 (with strong reference to Concept 6) defines the balance of power between the AA Conference and the General Service Board, our legal and business department if you like. It also gives practical illustration of how the upside down triangle works. GSB is dependent on AA money to operate so if it is not operating in the way the membership wants, then we would not give them any money. This and all the principles of the Concepts can be rightly applied at all levels of Service.
On the other hand, the GSB is given a lot of power to operate as it sees fit, using the Concepts in particular relating to the rights of decision. It chooses its own Trustees for instance. If Conference chose and elected all the people it would not be very efficient or effective. But GSB knows what it needs to do the job and is in the best position to decide. Conference does however ratify the selections.
Another seeming contradiction to the idea that the AA membership is in charge is that GSB can veto an instruction from conference if perhaps there was not enough money or maybe the idea was a bit hasty and could be harmful to AA or contravene Traditions. GSB has its legal powers to administrate all the practical parts of AA like the GSO, literature production, the website, Share magazine and Service News.
The reason that the GSB is given all this power is that Conference itself, comprised as it is of delegates from all over the country rotating in and out regularly, could hardly be a legal body without a vast amount of administration, and would be unworkable in day to day business. So the power of Conference is held in our 12 Traditions particularly Tradition 7. Taken further the final and financial power is held entirely in the membership of AA. Through the Group, the Intergroup and the Region to Conference. AA is in charge of its own future and any failure is down to all of us.
Chris S., Road to Recovery Group Plymouth