The General Service Conference
“In July of 1950, at the First International Convention in Cleveland, Ohio it was decided to try this General Service Conference idea. There were six basic reasons underlying this proposal by our cofounders. These reasons were:
- Realization that Dr. Bob and Bill ‘could not last forever.’
- The fact that the trustees were generally unknown to the movement.
- Recognition that the trustees would need future guidance from the movement itself.
- Appreciation that A.A. was ‘growing up’ and was able to assume rightful responsibility for its Headquarters (now the General Service Board of Alcoholics Anonymous) and services.
- The importance of bringing the trustees into closer contact with the movement.
- The need to be as completely prepared as possible to face some potentially grave crisis with action in the best interest of all A.A.s
In April 1951 the First General Service Conference met, beginning a five-year experimental period to link the A.A. trustees with the entire Fellowship. We are now at the 72nd Conference point.
This is my report.
My journey started this year at the General Service Board Weekend in Brooklyn. All of the Delegate Committee Chairs met with the Staff, The Board Members, AAWS, and The Trustees. We had joint meetings and discussed the agenda items for the conference (more about that in a minute). It was very exciting and I felt as though I was given a gift.
On Saturday the 23rd we all attended the 1728 Meeting. 1728 is 12x12x12 Steps, concepts and Traditions or…whatever order you might chose. There was a presentation on Concept III and then sharing. Later, the remote Communities report regarding AK & NW Territories/Alberta/Ninavut- Who have Extreme Remote Conditions and from NM with 19 unique languages including Navajo, and then The opening session! This is where we meet the chair of the General Service Board Linda Chezem and the General Manager of GSO Bob W. Things are starting to get real and I am so down for whatever happens. I must admit I am a little giddy. At lunch we have a Delegate Orientation for the Pacific Region and elect the new PRAASA Advisory board Chair and alternate. At 3:00 we have our Joint Meeting with the Trustee for P.I. Beau B. I am more than excited because….dang …..the work has begun! It’s a good meeting and we are well informed by Beau.
Also on the Saturday before the conference started Kathi our outgoing Pacific Region Trustee planned a little bus trip around Brooklyn so we could see some of what I’ll call “The Bill Wilson Stuff” We went to Clinton Street where Bill and Lois lived and took pictures making all kinds of noise. We were told that the owner sometimes comes out because they know it’s “Conference Time of the Year” but we did not see them. Onward to The Calgary Episcopal Church where Bill first said he was an alcoholic, then to Townes hospital, a stop at Central Park for a few minutes and then a drive by of GSO again. The city was blocking off streets for something so we got a iittle stuck in Little Italy (That would have been nice) and then back to the hotel. These sights were very inspiring but….the next Saturday after all the work was done, many delegates and Trustees piled into three buses and headed over for a visit to GSO! Now, I say many delegates. There were some like me and my alternate who took a Lyft instead and I’ll get to why in a bit.
I want to now tell you about Covid-19 and the General Service Conference. Last year the pacific region dubbed the conference the “Poo” Panel because on Zoom we used the poo emoji as our mascot and this year – “The Covid Conference” You may have heard about this but I’d like to tell you what it was like, what happened and what it’s like now. And BTW, the last two panels – Panel 70 and our panel 71 have made history and have shared experience in being entirely virtual at least once. I am so grateful I was able to attend this year in-person. GSO is compiling information and history regarding virtual experiences and using virtual tech to support the work and staff at the office as well as thinking forward to AAs future as a whole. I found that there is no reason to think that the members of the conference think about anything but about protecting our movement and moving in the right direction which is the direction you and I propose. SO – Everyone at the conference was told to be vaccinated against Covid-19 before coming to the conference. I am vexed and double boosted. There were buttons o the tables outside the Ballroom in different colors to place on your badge indicating your level of comfort in contact from others. – Red – Stay away, Yellow – Perhaps a Handshake, Green – Anything goes. I forgot to get one. I just kept met distance anyway. On Wednesday, we received the news that one of the Pacific region Delegates Covid and was in her room quarantined, then a staff person and then another Pacific Region Delegate and her husband…more delegates and staff….it was outrageous and frankly a little terrifying. On the Sunday evening before, we had a banquet and an AA Meeting. We were all un-masked and sitting closely together, you know, like at PRAASA. I felt a little uneasy about that and finally put my mask on but…I am thinking it was too late for most. I was also unmasked during our 9 person committee meetings and I regret that too but did not get sick. At this point, Thursday evening one of the delegates from our committee went. Home. She was angry that nothing was being done to curb the spread and had a wife at home who is immune compromised. That was very upsetting and sad but I understood her wanting to leave. Now….more announcements of positive tests and people getting sick. By now, I am sitting in the back of the room by the door, masked and social distancing as are some of the other conference members but, not everyone. I later noticed that the people sitting up front closely together are all testing positive. We are now a spreader event. Masks and test kits are placed on the tables outside the ballroom. On Thursday evening between sessions after a break, I went to the mic and basically begged everyone to wear a mask and get tested, that we are spreading Covid-19 amongst ourselves and that we must take care of each other…not just think about ourselves. Most people started wearing masks and testing, some decided they would not and by the time I left the next Monday there were at least 30 members who were positive and some were sick. There was a total 0f 42 people who reported testing positive by the end of the conference. The delegates that quarantined did not leave until the Tuesday or Wednesday after the conference. The Pacific Region Delegates were hit hard. There were many members and staff who decided not to mask who became sick, who knows how long they spread the virus. I don’t know how many also made the decision not to test. There was a “Meal Train’ set up for the quarantined delivered by volunteers and the hotel helped set up box lunches and dinners. What is the hotel doing about this? Are they spraying the ballroom every night? Are the maids tested daily? Can’t get an answer.
I now have a headache, a pounding headache. I don’t get headaches. I think well…I am three times vaccinated and double boosted but here we go, this is the first sign. I finally get ahold of some Motrin and it helps but I have that headache for three days. I do not feel sick or like I have the flu, just a headache and I am testing negative – twice a day. By Friday, I am furious but I keep my cool…you know me. I have given my committee report, made the recommendations, answered questions and voted on the advisory actions, listened to every report from every committee, participated in the debate for some agenda items and for floor actions and now….well there have been at least 40 reports of positives out of 140ish people. Upon my return, my PCR test results to come back negative. I am still sick as are many of the conference members who test negative and so, by now – we are just considering that we have a different flu or that the new variant is not detectable or..? It is very confusing and yet, more and more people are testing positive. Some are saying they have heard that the new variant doesn’t register on the tests because the vaccine is waning and it doesn’t pick it up. I’m not Dr. Fauci….I just know I got pretty sick. The variant which is now called XE and is a combination of the last two Omicron variants is spreading and though from what I have read it is not as strong as the original Omicron, it is highly contagious. The General Service Office is compiling this data and thinking about all the regional forums coming up this year.
What is the solution? I don’t know. A mask and vaccine mandate I guess. At any rate, I am thankful that we are on Zoom right now and not having a spreader event, no matter the strength of the infection. This is not a justification of meeting virtually, It’s just a report on what happened. In Our first tradition it is stated “Each member of Alcoholics Anonymous is but a small part of a great whole. AA must continue to live or most of us will surely die. Hence our common welfare comes first.” I care about you all and your health and hopefully we will meet in person again at the ACM.
Who makes up the conference? This year there are 134 voting members of the General Service Conference acting together as Guardians of AA’s World Services and of the Steps and Traditions composed of: 93 Delegate’s at 69.4%, 27 Trustees at 20.2% and 14 General Service office and Grapevine Staff at 10.4%. Every conference member has not only a vote but a voice; not only a right but a responsibility to express their views.
the General Service Conference Structure. The groups are at the top in the center – that’s you. The GSRs, District Committees, Area Assemblies and the Delegates to the Conference are on the bottom. The Delegates are assigned to conference committee. There are Trustees both alcoholic and Nonalcoholic appointed to Conference, Finance, Corrections Literature, Nominating, CPC and Treatment Accessibilities, Public information, Archives, Intl. And Regional Forums and The employees. • A.A.W.S., Inc., which employs G.S.O. personnel, directs G.S.O. services, and is responsible for A.A.’s website (aa.org) and broad publishing efforts the AA Grapevine, Inc., which employs editorial and business personnel and publishes A.A.’s magazines, Grapevine and La Viña, and other related items across its digital platforms (aagrapevine.org). General Service Board consists of The AA Grapevine Board, AA World Services Board The Grapevine office and the General Service Office
Here is the data on our Delegates for the 72nd Conference.
Average Age 57
Average Length of Sobriety 22
Longest Sobriety 43
Shortest Sobriety 8
Average Length of service 17
Longest Service 37
Shortest Service 6
he Finance committee reviews the budget and financial report of AAWS and GV, the conference, and stay abreast of the needs of the Fellowship. Finance – Some of these upcoming slides describe the financials. The presentation was given by the new non-alcoholic Class A Trustee and General Service Board Treasurer, Kevin Prior. These were only presented to us in English and French.
There is an annual audit of finances that was completed on schedule and with recommendations.
Finance 2021Highlights – 7th Tradition -Self Support = 10.78 Million set another record, up 5.07% from $10.26 million in 2020. Operating Expense – $15.28 million down 31.6% from $22.34 Million in 2020. Self support covered 70.5% of operating expense and 142.0% of program service exp. AAWS publishing gross profits were $6.30 Million down 4.3% from 6.58 million in 2020 with an operating surplus of $1,697,141 but an operating cash increase of only $53,177. One of the reasons gross profits are down in literature is due to high costs because of supply chain issues. Lack of paper etc.
GSO Savings Achieved in 2021 Compared to the budget were – Salaries and benefits $233,00 due to the retirement option many took compared to 2020 of $1.7 million. Professional Fees $345,000. Operating Expenses $207,000 compared to 2020 $1.6 million and the new Lockbox for mailing contributions which eliminated 3 Full Time Employees.
Grapevine Highlights include a drop of 11.5% in print subscriptions and an increase for online and mobile app subscriptions of 73.3% with a gross profit of $1.091 Million on the magazine and $411 Thousand on other published items books etc. General Fund support of LaViña service activity was $388,646 in 2021 almost the same as 385,771 in 2020. La Viña circulation decreased by 12.4% in 2021compared to a 36.6% decrease in 2020 after several years of growth. This is mostly attributed to the cancelation of many events where subscriptions are taken and started. Still, maybe you should be talking to your groups and districts about Grapevine and LaViña and the need for funds through subscriptions.
Record growth in 7th Tradition for the 3rd consecutive year!
Member Services statistics for 2021. 7th Tradition contributions $10,775,871, number of members – 1,475, 520, Contributions per member in 2021 – $7.30, Contributions per member in 2020 $6.81
Groups – 7th Tradition Self-Support Contributions $10,775,871, Number of Groups – 72,136, Contributions per group in 2021 $149.36, Contributions per Group 2020-$144.12.
AAs Prudent Reserve – Beginning balance on January 1, 2021 $12,449,464. Investments = 152,822, Drawdowns – 0, Additions 250,000 Ending balance 12,852,286
I want to mention the Equitable Distribution of Workload plan that came out of the 71st conference for a trial of three years. The EDW means that some committees with a lighter workload at the conference will receive agenda items to discuss and work on from other committees that have more agenda items. This year, some of the literature committee items were distributed to lighten their load. You will be hearing the results of these items while I report on the committees.
*Please see the Quick Reference Guide that will be published here for information on all of the Committees work at the Conference including Floor Actions (Motions.) There will also be an “official” report sent out later this year with the General Service Offices’ complete information.
“I do not think that any of us would presume Alcoholics Anonymous in its present form would necessarily last forever. We can only hope that it will lead to better things for those who suffer from alcoholism.” Bill W remarks at the 1956 GSC
Thank you Area 05 for electing me to be your delegate to the General Service Conference. I hope I have served you well so far. This experience has made me a different person…in a good way. As I said, participating in the conference was the most fun I have ever had in service to AA. meaning…it was exciting and thought provoking and a most spiritual look at AA around US and Canada. And I thank you for letting me experience it. I am looking forward to the District Visits coming up! I also want to thank you for all of your help, feedback and interest in what goes on in A.A. You are the top of the pyramid and in charge of what happens in General Service and AA as a whole. I am waaaaay at the bottom. I have no authority, only the job of attending the conference and participating in the work with your group consciouses and my own experience strength and hope. Without you, the conference fails and AA is left unprotected and stalled. I look forward to passing the reins to your next delegate whom you will elect in October. Until then, I remain your trusted servant and I am looking forward to visiting your districts for the rest of the year as well as participating in the conference which is a year long process. Thank you.
Delegate Area 05/Panel 71