Tradition Two tells us that “for our group purpose there is but one authority—a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants—they do not govern.” But what is a group conscience? How can it be achieved?
The booklet Al‑Anon and Alateen Groups at Work (P-24) explains on page 51 that “the group conscience is the will of the group” and is based on members’ use of the Twelve Traditions and Twelve Concepts of Service as guides, maintaining “principles above personalities,” and sharing information as equals. A group conscience determines in advance who votes and if decisions will be reached by a simple majority, two-thirds of the votes, or three-quarters of the votes. An informed group conscience is obtained when everybody has access to all the information before discussion. If someone disagrees with the decision, Concept Five reminds us that members have the right of appeal and can express their opinion, which members will consider before deciding whether to revote or proceed. Everybody supports the final decision.
Attended my first group conscience meeting and I was disappointed. A motion was made and someone said the motion couldn’t be made without changing an existing rule. They later made a different motion violating the reason they had earlier presented. After much debate no decisions were made and someone said too much time had been spent on the issue.
At our last group business meeting before a full discussion on a topic was (in my opinion) complete a member who was “in a hurry” said, “Let’s take a vote. Doesn’t anyone vote anymore?” I explained that it was important to get information from all concerned in order to work towards a group conscience, but I was not sure if once the group had come to an agreement whether the matter still required a vote and what that might look like. I love the idea that the group determines in advance who votes and how the decisions will be reached.… Read more »
I like this discussion and questions about supporting the group conscience decision. After discussion and the group conscience is taken my experience has been learning the topic is no longer about what my home group, commitee, district, area, WSC or I want…it is now about the spirituality of fully informed members, having respectfully listened to each other and working together, make a decision that is right for Al-Anon Family Groups as a whole. I have grown so much by … ‘not’ having the vote go ‘my way’ and still supporting the decision (ok…so my sponser made me do it) and… Read more »
Group Conscience means just that – any Al-Anon ‘group, district, area’ using this principle should result only after KBDM process was worked. I like the idea of paper ballet for any motions given specifically at the district level to prevent ‘personalities over principles’. On outside, cultural, faith-related, marital, or other issues not pertinent to the primary purpose and focus of Al-Anon principles must be fully thought out, and talked out with all members (not leaning on just the few who might make it to a district or group ‘business’ meeting, but whose voices of all group representatives reflect the views… Read more »
Our group has two meetings and until now we have had two separate business meetings. This was getting in the way of reaching unified group conscience, so a committee met outside the group to use KBDM to examine the issue. We used the Traditions and Concepts to guide our reflections and decisions. It was a great process! Tomorrow we present our findings to the group. I look forward to seeing how it goes.
We just did a group conscience at my home group this past week. A few people were interested in changing the time that our group meets, so they could get home earlier on a week night. We have an Alateen meeting that meets at the same time, so the Alateen’s joined us for the group conscience. There was great discussion about how the change would affect our newcomers group (it meets before our meeting) and the Alateen meeting. After a good discussion, we voted and decided to keep the same time, but it was a great exercise in hearing the… Read more »
The WSC now uses a Knowledge Based Decision Making Process. I believe our area is now using it also. It is also recommended for Group Conscience meetings. The process instead of the result is emphasized. Beginning with an open-ended question or statement leads to a discussion that promotes discussion instead of voting too soon. KBDM encourages everyone to be allowed to share their view with respect and without interruption. It brings about discussions on how different decisions are following or veering from guidelines, steps, traditions, and concepts or close to it, whether a change would affect our group format, safety,… Read more »
I love this discussion. Not everyone will agree with a possible change which may be needed. The ability to feel heard, understood and acknowledged is critical. The ability to let go and allow the group to decide is also critical. I have witnessed changes that left members feeling discouraged, myself included. This said, my need to be right, to control an outcome, to manage a situation, are all issues I faced before my membership in Al-Anon, and these same issues can be played out in the group, for myself and others. The practice of our principles help. I feel so… Read more »
I too would like to hear those “Not In Favor” of certain decisions. They should be heard as well. Their vote is important as well.
Every time I have been to a meeting where the group votes-Completely destructive-I do not bother anymore-People in al-anon need to respect one another, and very few do-I go to have a healthier lifestyle, not one that is unhealthy
I also think it’s important to understand the difference between a “Group Conscience’ meeting and a group business meeting as so many members do not differentiate between the two.
Would like to hear more about how important this concept is in District meetings? Sometimes a DR presumes the role to be that of driver instead of sharing information and decision making “as equals” which makes for an apathetic District.
Too much personalities over principals. Especially when new ideas are presented. Many long timers are not even open to new suggestions within the guidelines of our traditions. Sad. Would love to hear from others if this is happening in your area.
Is this process the same for an Area doing an inventory? Since the Area serves the groups would the group members be part of it?
Thanks for this article, and especially the comments. The Third General Warranty of the Conference found in our Twelfth Concept of Service states “that all decisions be reached by discussion vote and whenever possible by unanimity”. This calls us to very high ground indeed, and it is very different than a simple majority. A good question to ask ourselves during a vote is, “What would it take for us to reach unanimity?” This requires respectfully sharing our point of view, listening to each other, reasoning things out, patience and understanding. I’m grateful to have a safe environment in which I… Read more »
I like the idea of KBDM. Knowledge based decision making. Provide the whole group information on the subject. Any CAL that supports it or different views shared. This can help reach a place where all accept the final answer. Possibly. We know in Al-Anon it still may be divided.
I have always appreciated sharings on tradition 2. My first experience with this tradition above the group level floored me. I was serving as an Intergroup Representative when a very important issue was being discussed and voted upon. I reported to the group issues we were considering at the intergroup level, I ask for their opinions and that I would vote according to their wishes. Instead the group told me that they trusted me and my judgement to do a good job for them. I was so humbled, called my service sponsor and she reminded me of the importance of… Read more »
The group conscience in my home group includes a secret ballot at times of controversy. It we do not have substantial unanimity we do not move ahead with a change. 2/3 majority is almost all, so the group considers this substantial.
Consideration for who votes needs to be addressed when you have a number of dual members in the room. There is a conflict of interest with the way AA works and how Al-Anon works. Dual members need to consider Al-Anon as whole and leave the other affiliation outside in a group conscience or they should excuse themselves from the vote.
This was so enlightening. As a new DR there are several issues I want to address in our district and now I see the importance of using the traditions and concepts when having a group conscience. Most of the groups in our district read the traditions at the weekly meetings but only 1 group alternates reading traditions and concepts. I think the concepts are still the “best-kept secret” This inspired me to spend more time with the concepts and traditions before having a group conscience.