An Alcoholics Anonymous group is facing internal scrutiny after being caught reciting the Lord’s Prayer at the start of their meetings.
Higher-ups in AA reportedly told the leaders of the group in Yeovil, Somerset, their meetings were becoming too Christian-focused and, as a result, the group was removed from the organization’s online directory of AA locations, according to the Daily Mail.
John Palmer, treasurer for the Somerset AA group condemned the organization’s decision as “shocking” and “ridiculous,” per a press release from the U.K.-based Christian Concern.
“AA was founded by Christians to save and transform lives,” said the 69-year-old Palmer, who attended his first meeting in the 1980s, when he was an “addicted wreck” who’d spent years struggling with alcoholism. “Over the years, I have seen Christianity being eroded and marginalized from the organization as a whole. It is sad to see, and I think AA is having less of an impact on people’s lives as a result.”
Like many AA groups in the U.S. and around the world, the Somerset group held its meetings in a church.
“Of course, you don’t have to be a Christian to be part of an AA group, but if you cannot say the Lord’s Prayer in a church without being treated like this, what are we coming to?” Palmer asked. “We were shocked when we found out about the action being taken against us, but we are determined to carry on.”
The Daily Mail reported concerns about the group in question were raised during a meeting between AA administrators in Somerset. Critics described the group as “lovely but not [run] along AA guidelines,” with some allegedly voicing their disapproval after someone supposedly claimed the “only way to recovery is through Jesus.”
“They have gone against the traditions,” one person purportedly said. “[There’s] nothing wrong with talking about Jesus, but this is not AA.”
It was determined by the administrators the group “must be kept separate” from AA.
Palmer, it should be noted, has vowed to keep the group active, now calling the gathering “The Real AA,” a nod to AA’s roots as a faith-based organization.
Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, condemned AA administrators for “separating and punishing” the Christians in the Somerset group.
“The message of the Gospel is of a Savior Jesus who came to bring hope to every one of us,” Williams said. “The power of the Gospel message is what inspired the setting up of AA following the radical transformation alcoholics experienced after encountering the hope and healing found in Jesus Christ.”
“Separating and punishing Christians so that they cannot attract new members for sharing the Gospel message of hope is disturbing and ludicrous,” she continued. “Is now saying the Lord’s Prayer in a church offensive and not appropriate? It is sad, but not surprising in our world of cancel culture, to hear from this group that the Gospel message is no longer appropriate for AA and must be kept ‘separate.’”
Christian Concern is calling on the leaders of AA to reinstate the group and “recognize the crucial role Christian faith plays in transforming lives.”
The principles of AA were born out of the Oxford Group, a Christian organization founded in the early 1900s by Frank Buchman, a Lutheran minister working as a missionary.
Bill Wilson, one of the founders of AA, credited Sam Shoemaker, the U.S. leader of the Oxford Group, as a key figure in the establishment of the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous.
“The early AA got its ideas of self-examination, acknowledgment of character defects, restitution for harm done, and working with others straight from the Oxford Group and directly from Sam Shoemaker, their former leader in America, and from nowhere else,” he said.