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 .
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."