A.A. Tradition Nine

A.A., as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve. (“Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions“, Tradition Nine)

Each A.A. group needs the least possible organization. Rotating leadership is best. The small group may elect its secretary, the large group its rotating committee, and the groups of a large metropolitan area their central or intergroup committee, which often employs a full-time secretary. The trustees of the General Service Board are, in effect, our A.A. General Service Committee. They are the custodians of our A.A. Tradition and the receivers of voluntary A.A. contributions by which we maintain our A.A. General Service Office at New York. They are authorized by the groups to handle our over-all public relations and they guarantee the integrity of our principal newspaper, the A.A. Grapevine. All such representatives are to be guided in the spirit of service, for true leaders in A.A. are but trusted and experienced servants of the whole. They derive no real authority from their titles; they do not govern. Universal respect is the key to their usefulness. (long form)


Tradition Nine (as from Appendix I in “Alcoholics Anonymous”)

“A.A., as such…”

Here we are talking primarily about each and every “any two or three alcoholics calling themselves an A.A. group” (Tradition Three, long form). And so…
“‘Any two or three alcoholics calling themselves an A.A. group’ ought never be organized…”

note: In relation to A.A.’s “Service Structure”, “General Service Structure”, “General Service Conference Service Structure” or however we might perceive or word any type of “A.A. Service”, we have this related “insight update” published in “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions”:
“When Tradition Nine was first written, it said ‘…least possible organization’…we have [since] changed our minds…able to say with assurance…never be organized at all.” So, and having thus seen the same principle ultimately applied to “A.A. as a whole”, we are now back at our beginning:
“‘Any two or three alcoholics calling themselves an A.A. group’ ought never be organized…”
“…but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.”

At our individual-group or combined-inter-group level, one example of that might be something like hiring an outside, 24/7/365 answering service…and then also being certain its staff is well-informed as to exactly how we want our incoming calls re-directed to us.

From Tradition Nine – the long form (Appendix I):

“Rotating leadership is best. The small group may elect its secretary, the large group its rotating committee…”

How that is handled in each individual group will vary greatly from one to the next. The smallest of groups might not have anyone else available at one time or another where the largest of groups might need to rotate even the members of its nominating committee. But the bottom line is always the same: “Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern…” (Tradition Two)
“…authorized by the groups…guided in the spirit of service…trusted and experienced servants…derive no real authority from their titles; they do not govern.” (Tradition Nine, long form)

More from “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions”:

“Did anyone ever hear of…even a benevolent association that had no membership rules?
“…a society which couldn’t somehow discipline its members and enforce obedience…?
“Doesn’t nearly every society on earth give authority to some of its members [– cops have guns, judges have gavels –] to impose obedience upon the rest and to punish or expel offenders?”
“…Alcoholics Anonymous is an exception…does not conform to this pattern…[cannot] issue a single directive…mete out any punishment…utter failure is always the result.”

In summary:
“…we [autonomous A.A. fellowship groups] shall always need to authorize workers to serve us…
“If nobody does the group’s chores, if the [community’s] telephone rings unanswered, if we do not reply to our mail, then A.A. as we know it would stop…
“…Though Tradition Nine at first sight seems to deal with a purely practical matter, in its actual operation it discloses a society without organization, animated only by the spirit of service—a true fellowship.”

From “The Doctor’s Opinion”:
“…we work out our solution on the spiritual as well as an altruistic plane…”
“We [doctors]…have found nothing which has contributed more to the rehabilitation of these men than the altruistic movement now growing up among them.”


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