…is each meeting autonomous?

As sent to us in an e-mail:

Q: We are an AA fellowship with 21 meetings a week.  As a fellowship we are autonomous but is each meeting autonomous?  In our guidelines we state if any meeting wants to change their format for them to take a group conscious 3 weeks in a row and if positive for 3 weeks then come to the business meeting and present the changes.  We then vote on it as a fellowship and we can hear dissenting opinions.   [Our] guidelines also say that all meetings are autonomous.  We have a conflict and either way to be in unity we have to remove one of them…[and we are] looking for [any other] way to [possibly] stop the conflict.

A: First, it is virtually impossible for an A.A. fellowship group to have that many meetings per week since there is little chance of “Any two or three alcoholics…(calling) themselves an A.A. group” (Tradition Three) being able to actually do that.  So what you have there is more like some type of steering committee that would actually be an inter-group “Central Committee” calling itself an A.A. group and then “ruling over” other groups.

Is each meeting autonomous?  Not if any other entity has any say in the handling of the meeting/group’s affairs.  For example:

>> In our [committee’s] guidelines we state [how the meeting/group should conduct its affairs]…then [later] vote on it…
>> We have a conflict and either way to be in unity we have to remove one of them.

Exactly, and no Steering Committee should ever presume to tell any A.A. group how it must conduct its affairs.


Please send your question in an e-mail.


One thought on “…is each meeting autonomous?

  1. JoeO

    The above situation is exactly what I encountered when I first arrived at A.A. I was attending meetings in a single location every night of the week and with mostly the same people at every meeting…and I had begun considering that gathering my home group. But then one evening I arrived a little early as always and was quite surprised to see some kind of meeting was already taking place…and when I asked the people I knew about that — they were not in that meeting themselves — I was told that was a meeting of our group’s steering committee. Overall, that “steering committee” mistakenly calling itself an A.A. group at that time was controlling a total of thirty-five meetings per week in that town without ever actually attending many of them. Looking back, what we had there was the beginning of a so-called “A.A. Clubhouse”…and that committee eventually conceded its error and became the steering committee for the new clubhouse (bearing a similar name) after registering each meeting of their former “group” as an autonomous A.A. fellowship even though at least some of those new “groups” only had meeting attendees and no actual “two or three alcoholics gathered together…[calling] themselves an A.A. group” (Tradition Three).

    The confusion in a nearby town was a little different: Long-term A.A.s were starting new meetings in various locations, registering those meetings as “A.A. Groups”, putting one or two newcomers in charge and then moving along to start another new meeting somewhere else.

    In another town in another state a few years later, two of our eventual NoNameYet members and a third alcoholic seeking to recover also assumed responsibility for what was essentially an abandoned meeting they learned had been started in a similar manner…and then those three began calling themselves the “Keys To Recovery” A.A. Fellowship Group amidst the objections of others who only ever showed up once in a great while when “feeling they ‘needed a meeting'” or whatever. Then one evening some of those people showed up and declared they were “taking over”…and one of the newcomers amongst us looked at one of them and asked, “Excuse me, but who are you? These people are helping me and you are disrupting our meeting.” That man had just contributed to his group’s autonomy.

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