For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority–a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
The text of this tradition goes on to explain how when AA was forming, those who started the very first groups had, by necessity, to lead them. The founder of any given group and the other first members would then often want to “govern” the groups and control what went on to a large extent. Of course, their motive was to preserve and protect AA and make sure it went on as it should.
I guess there are places in the world where this still may go on, but it is far removed from anything I have ever experienced. Throughout my AA life meetings have been plentiful, established, well-attended and often very old. I’ve also had the good fortune to attend meetings in large metropolitan areas, spread around the United States, some very close to where AA actually began.
Aside from the particulars that belong to another time and place, some of the spirit of this tradition applies loosely to the AA I know today. I have heard people refer to themselves as “bleeding deacons” when they still try, now, to tell the group how it ought to be run. But this is rare, in my experience. The AA I know is such that is someone strongly objects to some procedural something, the group splits, or dies, or they start an alternate group. And AA life goes on. It’s not as if these things have the power, in suburban America right now, to deprive East Any Town of AA and so to doom the drunks therein.
The marvel that the tradition describes, that so loose an organization can function and thrive, still lives in my heart, when I think about it. I am truly amazed, and grateful beyond words, that this tradition along with the others results in such a widespread, long-lasting, healthy organization that was there when I needed it, and will be there today for all those who today will experience their first meeting, and who will go on to recover.