The Charter and Bylaws of the General Service board are legal instruments, empowering the trustees to manage and conduct world service affairs. The Conference Charter is not a legal document; it relies upon tradition and the AA purse for final effectiveness.
The Conference recognizes that the Charter and the Bylaws of the General Service Board are legal instruments: that the Trustees are thereby fully empowered to manage and conduct all of the world service affairs of Alcoholics Anonymous. It is further understood that the Conference Charter itself is not a legal document: that it relies instead upon the force of tradition and the power of the AA purse for its final effectiveness.
Questions in service
· Do I discharge my duties as an AA member, making sure I am fully informed for group consciences about matters affecting AA as a whole (e.g. questions for Conference)?
· In service, do I actively listen to the guidance, experience, and observation of the group conscience?
Questions in life
· Do I take responsibility for the decisions in my life or do I try and get others to take responsibility for my decisions?
· Do I actively listen to the guidance, experience, and observation of others—colleagues, bosses, partners or spouse, friends, etc.—to determine where I am going wrong or what direction I should move in?
· Do I place any one person on a pedestal and disregard the guidance, experience, and observation of the group in favour of that one person?
· How do I handle situations where I have the technical, legal, or official power (e.g. as a homeowner, teacher, boss) but need the backing of others (e.g. in the home, classroom, workplace) to be effective?
· When the situation is reversed, do I take responsibility for expressing my views where relevant for the benefit of everyone, even where I am not practically in charge?
· Has there ever been a time where I have to exercise my power in a trustee-like fashion, for the good of all, against the direct wishes of others?
· The reason Conference effectively represents AA as a whole is that the majority of its members are Delegates, and thus chosen by groups.
· As Conference can withhold funds, it has ultimate power over the Board, even though the Board technically has the power to take whatever action it sees fit.
· The Trustees are not salaried, which means that they have no financial interest in resisting the conscience of AA as a whole.
· The Trustees cannot have complete and final authority over AA's funds and services—they cannot have an unqualified right to appoint their own successors.
· The Trustees are, however, best place to appoint their successors, although these may be rejected by Conference.
· Because the 'legal buck' stops with the Trustees, they have a technical right of veto over any Conference action—this should be used sparingly, however.
'This means that the practical power of the Conference will nearly always be superior to the legal power of the Trustees. This superior power in the Conference flows from the powerful traditional influence of the Charter itself. It derives from the large majority of group-chosen Delegates in the Conference. And finally, in any great extremity, it would rest upon the undoubted ability of the Delegates to deny the General Service Board the monies with which to operate—viz., the voluntary contributions of the AA groups themselves. Theoretically, the Conference is an advisory body only, but practically speaking, it has all of the ultimate rights and powers that it may ever need.'
'By then we knew for sure that complete and final authority over our funds and services should never continue to reside in an isolated Board of Trustees who had an unqualified right to appoint their own successors. This would be to leave AA world services in the hands of a paternalistic group, something entirely contradictory to the "group conscience" concept of Tradition Two. If the Trustees were to be our permanent service administrators and the guardians of AA's Twelve Traditions, it was evident that they must somehow be placed in a position where they would necessarily have to conform to our Traditions, and to the desires of our Fellowship.'
'It thus became obvious that new Trustee choices—subject to Conference approval—would still have to be left pretty much to the Trustees themselves. Only they would be capable of understanding what the Board needed. Except in a time of reorganization, this method of selection would have to continue—certainly as to the larger part of the Board's membership. Otherwise the Board could not be held accountable for management results. We might wind up with no effective management at all. For these reasons, the Conference was given the right to reject, but not to elect, new Trustee candidates.'
'Trusted servants at all AA levels are expected to exercise leadership, and leadership is not simply a matter of submissive housekeeping. Of course leadership cannot function if it is constantly subjected to a barrage of harassing directives.'
'Just as the Conference should avoid the overuse of its traditional authority, so should the Trustees avoid overuse of their legal rights.'
'Clearly, then, our Board of Trustees does reserve a veto power over any Conference action; this is legally necessary and right in principle, even though the veto will seldom be used.'
'No person can see his or her own shadow. I cannot correct myself as easily as others can. If I as to give good service, I need to be able to improve it. I cannot improve unless I become accountable to the group conscience. The group conscience most often speaks to me through my sponsor and my friends. Sometimes when I am hard of hearing, the group conscience has to get my attention more dramatically.' (Dennis F.)
'I have always resisted the group conscience. I have never had a trusting attitude toward it. I regarded the group as a threat to my liberty. I see now though, that I was wrong.' (Dennis F.)
'In fact, when I am unsure of the course I should take, I seek out the opinion of several people in order to hear the voice of the group conscience. I now regard the group conscience as my ally, not my enemy.' (Dennis F.)