"I'm reading the by-laws for our upcoming IG meeting and have questions:"
1. What is difference between affiliated and unaffiliated groups? Why would a group choose to be unaffiliated?
"Meeting affiliation" refers to affiliating with (being a voting member of) an Intergroup. To register with OA World Service as an OA group, a meeting must agree that they are affiliated with Overeaters Anonymous and only with Overeaters Anonymous.
A group can affiliate with an Intergroup or not - by group choice (Tradition 4 group autonomy). Reasons not to affiliate might be resentments or disagreements, too far from IG to go to IG meetings, desire to do their own thing, or other.
The reasons to affiliate are many. We can do together what we could never do alone such as: create websites and lists of meetings, speakers, or sponsors; organize OA events such as marathons and retreats with guest speakers; publish newsletters; provide literature for sale at IG meetings; work together on public and professional information campaigns; spread the news about world-wide OA happenings. Some Intergroups provide liability insurance for their meetings or events: more and more facilities are requiring this coverage.
2. Virtual meetings - who actually runs/chairs these meetings? Is there a chair and if so, how do they determine who will lead and choose the topic? What is meant by their meetings must be held in "real time"?
"Real time" means that the whole meeting is happening right now; for instance, 6PM on the East coast, 3PM on the West coast. It is not recorded or saved to be sent via email. Thus in a phone meeting it means-- I talk , you listen, right now in “real time.” For online meetings it means-- you type - I read (like in a chat room). To understand how they pick leaders and topics, I suggest people try them out and see how they do it. Hint - the same way as face-to-face meetings. To find virtual meetings go to: Find a Meeting on the OA.org website.
3) In the bylaws, why doesn't it specify that a candidate has to have a sponsor as a qualification for election (Article 5, Sec 3)?
This is an autonomy issue - each set of bylaws can specify the candidate's qualifications (Tradition 4). The Steps do not actually ask us to have a sponsor. I know at least one Intergroup’s bylaws (Oregon IG) suggest that nominees for officers have a sponsor and be a sponsor.
4) What does it signify when it says to hold office, we are to have 2 years of service "beyond the group level?" (I did not - mine was at the Intergroup level only.) Would this be allowed since our bylaws do not say we MUST have this service requirement?
OK – so think of service at 1) group level and 2) beyond the group level.
Here are examples service at the group level: lead a meeting, carry the key, carry the literature, come early and set up chairs, greeter, newcomer caller, etc.
Here are examples of service beyond the group level: be a group representative at the Intergroup, help put on a marathon for the whole Intergroup, put together a sponsor list for the area, be an IG officer or committee chair at Intergroup. Then if you do service at the Region level, you might be a Regional Representative at annual Assembly, serve on a Region committee. Being a delegate to the World Service Business Conference (WSBC) is service at the World Service level. I know of one person who recently qualified to be a Delegate because she had helped with lots of marathons over the years even though she did not regularly attend Intergroup.