In A.A.'s "Benign Anarchy" Informed Group Conscience
Is Our Ultimate Anthority
Box 459, News&Notes From the General Service Office of A.A. VOL 35, NO 1, FEB/MARCH 1989

  Co-founder BillW liked to call A.A. a "benign anarchy," and for good reason. A.A. is a spiritual movement, and as Tradition Two clearly states, our sole authority "is a loving God as He may express Himself in the group consclence."  But what exactly is the group conscience? How does it differ from a group opinion or a majority vote? And what is the best way to get there?   
  It is generally agreed that the group conscience strives for unanimity through enlightenment, spirituality and adherence to our Steps, Traditions and Concepts. On sensitive issues, the group works slowly - discouraging formal motions until a clear sense of its collective view emerges. Placing principles before personalities, the group is wary of dominant opinions. Its voice is heard when a well-informed group arrives at a decision. The result rests on more than a "yes" or "no" count - precisely because it is the spiritual expression of the group conscience.
   The late Dean K., who served a term as delegate, California/Northern Interior,and then managed the Seattle Central Office for a time, said that there are two ways to arrive at a group conscience: "The competitive way permits the person with the loudest voice to push his idea across, take a vote and come up with a majority decision. This is not informed group conscience. 1n the cooperative way, group members come together in mutual trust to arrive at a qroup decision, not one individual's personal triumph .
  Dean's formula for a cooperative and informed group conscience calls for facts (or presentations) on both sides of a question. "The meeting is not thrown open for general discussion," he stressed. "This would allow the more vocal members to set the debate. It is suggested that the chairperson call on each member in turn, allowing two minutes for each to speak. No member should speak a second time until all have had their turns; this gives even the quietest person an equal chance.
  The chairperson expresses his or her opinions only after all the others have spoken."
   "It is important," Dean noted,"that the minority voice always be heard; but it should be born in mind that while the minority voice sometime is right, it is just as often wrong. Unless the minority voice is decidedly persuasive, it should be considered in its proper light - as a minority voice. To permit the minority always to influence the majority is to permit the tail to wag the dog."
  Beyond the group level, the A.A. General Service Conference has the responsibility of acting as the collective group conscience of the Fellowship. About the closest thing to a collective voice that A.A.has, the Conference produces statements on important matters of policy that affect A.A. as a whole; approves the choice of some trustee nominees for the General Service Board and directly elects others. But neither the Conference nor the board can dictate to any A.A. group or member.
  Not always understood, group conscience as expressed in Tradition Two is a powerful spiritual concept that makes it possible for people of diverse backgrounds and temperament to rise above personal ambition and unite in our common purpose: to stay sober and extend the hand of A.A. to the alcoholic who still suffers.
  Has your group had an experience with group conscience that you would like to share? GSO welcomes your input.