At our Sunday meeting a question came up. Multiple area meetings have 5 1/2” x 4” white cards, laminated, with four “prayers” typed out on them: the Serenity Prayer, 3rd Step Prayer, 7th Step Prayer, and “I put my hand in yours”. There is no other information or writing on the cards. The secretary typically passes them out at the end of the meeting when we “close with a prayer”, so people can read off them if they don’t know them by heart.
One person says we are breaking OA rules by doing this. Specifically, she believes that the two prayers that originate in AA literature (3rd Step and 7th Step prayers) may not be typed out, only read from the original text.
She referenced this article from “A Step Ahead”: (See article below:)
This is a matter of respecting the source of the material. And we have been asked by the AA General Service Office to use the source material when we read from the book and not change the words AA to OA, etc. I have not been completely successful without being really pushy - at getting some of the meetings I attend to make these changes.
There are several of ways of looking at this.
First is to comply as much as possible with the guidelines and suggestions given us by various sources and do so with joy and acceptance in our hearts.
Second is to absolutely follow all of the "rules" and be good little OAers. And worry about every little infraction. To be very legalistic and make sure that everyone knows we are following all the rules. And make sure to let everyone else know what the rules are. (Although some of us do this with much more grace than others.)
Third is to present guidelines and encourage people to follow them but have a live and let live attitude. And then come back to the topic again.
I have recently realized that when we are too legalistic we are not very sane spiritually and not happy, joyous and free. I heard once that when presented with a problem someone was sure NEEDED to be solved - the sanest answer was to "let them whirl".
To me when we stop and hold hands at the end of a meeting we all say a prayer together. We don't read it, we say it. But we might provide written copies for those who don't know it. And encourage everyone to memorize the prayers so they can be said together. Perhaps the leader could be holding the source book for whatever the prayer is or know at least the first couple of words by heart.
I have heard of one group which has adopted the practice of reading the prayer from the source book one line at a time- in a call and response way. So the person leading reads – from the Big Book – “God, I offer myself to Thee…” and the group repeats that line; then the leader reads the next line and it is repeated. This seems like a very simple solution. I am always pleased when I find simple solutions.
Reading Literature Aloud at OA Meetings (reprinted from A Step Ahead newsletter, Fourth Quarter 2011)
OA’s group conscience has decided we should display, sell, use and read aloud only OA approved literature at OA meetings. This includes OA Conference- and board-approved literature and AA conference-approved literature.*
Although OA has not reviewed and approved AA literature, we deem their group conscience approved its contents. When we read AA literature and change the words, neither OA nor AA has approved that literature.
At OA’s founding, members asked permission from AA to modify its Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions for use in OA. AA graciously granted that permission. Those are the only things we have the authority to change. At OA’s inception, no OA literature existed, so the Fellowship used AA’s Big Book and Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. To better understand how the AA concepts could apply to compulsive eating, members would often change the words when reading aloud from AA literature during meetings.
Today AA World Service asks that we respect their literature and group conscience by reading their literature, such as the Big Book, as written, without changing the words. AA also asks that we read excerpts from their literature in context, which means to read it from the actual literature as printed, not from a typed sheet of paper. Of course, when we share in meetings about the passages we read, we are free to share our experience, strength and hope in our own terms related to compulsive eating. If we want to read only literature that uses terms related to food and compulsive eating, we have a wealth of OA literature from which to choose that doesn’t require changing the words.
It is also a common practice in OA meetings to change the words of OA’s Twelve Steps when reading them aloud. People replace “God” with “Higher Power” and “him” with gender-neutral terms, and they add “we” at the beginning of all the Steps. When we make those changes, we are amending the Steps. Our OA, Inc. Bylaws, Subpart B, Article XIV, Section 1 clearly spell out the amendment process. Amendments to the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions must be adopted by two-thirds of the delegates at the World Service Business Conference, and that vote must be ratified by three-fourths of the registered Overeaters Anonymous groups responding within six months of notification, provided at least 55 percent of the registered groups have responded.
Clearly, no individual member, group or OA service body can amend the Twelve Steps or Twelve Traditions by themselves because the Steps and Traditions “belong” to all of us. One could argue Tradition Four allows each group to do what it wants, as long as it doesn’t affect other groups or OA as a whole. True, but we also have Tradition One: “Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon OA unity.” We have Tradition Two: “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.”
Concept Two states, in part, “World Service Business Conference is the voice, authority and effective conscience of OA as a whole.” If I insist upon changing the wording of OA or AA literature to suit myself, I am displaying the same selfishness and self-will that landed me in OA in the first place! As one trustee wrote, “From my vantage point and experience, there is a tendency to mold the OA program of recovery to the molds of individual members and their ways of doing things. I am reminded that if my way worked, I would not be in OA or need to be. Obviously, my way did not work. So I am quite willing to work on changing me, which is a challenge, and not try to revamp OA or
AA to suit me. When a physician gives me a prescription for treatment of an illness, I am well advised not to make any attempts to rewrite it.”
If I believe OA’s literature needs to be amended, I am encouraged to participate in our collective group conscience by serving as a delegate to the World Service Business Conference. Service bodies may submit motions to amend OA, Inc. Bylaws, change our policies, or revise our literature. Failing that, I am committed to respecting the group conscience of both OA and AA by reading the literature as it is written, from the original source, without any creative editing on my part.
Yours in service,
Teresa K., Region IV Trustee and Chair of the Board of Trustees
*Editor’s Note: The 2012 World Service Business Conference adopted a policy that OA approved literature includes AA books and booklets with original copyright of 2010 and earlier.