WAFT Fellowship Choice

Facing Our Fears

The AA program teaches us to face our fears in order to work through them. As we have worked to spread the word about the convention, we have discovered an overwhelming fear many WAFTs have with respect to traditional AAers. For many it is a fear born out of harassment, isolation, and god bullying which has caused many WAFTs to feel the entire AA world is against them. This is just not true.

Many AAers are committed to saving all alcoholics and are not aware of the damage they are doing to non-believers when non-believers leave the rooms and don’t return. The fact is we have many friends inside and outside of the program and as a fellowship we need to embrace them and not allow our fears to overrun us.

We Asked For Your Suggestions

The WAFT fellowship made the choice of our two keynote speakers, Ward Ewing and Marya H. The Steering Committee did not seek out Ward Ewing as a keynote speaker. From the beginning we asked the fellowship for suggestions as to who should be the keynote speakers as was stated in our August 31, 2013 announcement:

“Do you know of notable speakers you would like to hear at the convention, whose stories reflect those of the WAFT fellowship or are sensitive to the unity concept in AA’s fellowship? Someone who can speak to the theme of the convention, ‘Many Paths to Recovery?’ Can you also provide contact information for those individuals? We are very aware of the anonymity issue, so please know that we will respect that in the way of AA traditions.”

You Spoke, We Listened

In private emails and personal conversations we constantly heard the Reverend’s name. Thomas B. of Seaside, Oregon, who recently formed a group in Portland, suggested Reverend Ewing. He wrote:

(Reverend Ewing) “strongly advocates that AA cannot become religiously dogmatic and ritualized. He has stated he was ‘shocked’ when the San Antonio World Conference in 2010 was closed with the Lord’s Prayer.”

Sasha, founder of the Happy Heathens group in Colorado Springs, Colorado, wrote and described the Reverend ‘s talk at Unity Day 2011 as:

“(A) very inspiring and heart-warming talk on (the) need for AA to be in Unity rather than Uniformity.”

Joe C., the webmaster of Rebellion Dogs Publishing and one of the founders of Beyond Belief in Toronto, Canada, recommended Ward Ewing as a speaker whom he knows personally and has interviewed several times.

Curtis C. in Kalamazoo, Michigan, the founder of the Atheist AA Google Group, told us this story and would later rewrite it for his Google group:

“I had the chance to hear Ward Ewing blast some “in-your-face Christians” at a forum. The local group working the registrations desk are avowed Christians. They wore their printed T-shirts with God slogans on them, and many people, not knowing the men were local, thought they had come from New York with these T-shirts! One man got up to complain that he didn’t like the “in-your-face” religion at the forum, that if he wanted it, he would go to a religious meeting or to church. Ewing stood up and said he didn’t like to see it either, that it bothered him, that such attitudes had no place in a “spiritual” AA but he admitted that every AA group has the right to be wrong.

We Listened To Your Concerns

Initially there was concern that people might take issue with Ward Ewing’s title of Reverend. Yet in looking for speakers and listening to others we kept hearing people with long time sobriety within AA who are also atheist / agnostic / freethinkers endorse Reverend Ewing. It was clear to us that the fellowship wanted Ewing to speak. When we announced our first keynote speaker Marya H. who is an open atheist, accomplished author and educator, people were upset because they thought Marya H. broke her anonymity in one of her books for the sake of her career. There were demands for the steering committee to un-invite her. We were reluctant to do this but believed it was important to hear peoples’ concerns. The people who were most concerned about Marya H., approached Reverend Ewing to ask his opinion. The Reverend’s response was this:

“I can see why she is an appropriate speaker for this Convention. At least online I did not find any reference to AA – 12 Steps – but not AA directly. One thing I have learned in my association with the Fellowship is to trust the group conscience. As you know, it takes time and lots of discussion to reach an informed decision, and decisions about anonymity must be made in the context of Traditions 4 and 5. So, whatever you decide I believe it will be the right decision for this convention at this time, and I will be honored to participate in the convention with any other speakers you invite. Sorry I cannot be of more help, but I really do trust the planning committee, and I know you will work this out.”
Sincerely, Ward

Some Responses

Reverend Ewing’s humility and faith in the WAFT fellowship and his gratefulness to be asked to be a part of this convention were inspiring. Since the announcement of Ewing as a keynote speaker there have been responses like these:

“We are real AA. Agnostics and atheists in AA can’t be the only ones saying we are a part of and not separate from AA. Choosing Reverend Ewing as a speaker can reinforce that reality.”
Roger C. of AA Agnostica

and

“Having Reverend Ewing, as former member of GSO speak, gives us credibility.”
Rich, co-founder of the Maui We Agnostics Meetings

Many Paths to Recovery

AA’s inverted pyramid style of governance has helped AA to avoid many of the pitfalls that political and religious institutions have encountered. We are committed to hearing the voices of every WAFT and making our decisions based on your governance. Our decision to ask Reverend Ewing to speak was based on listening to the fellowship. Not everyone will agree with our decisions; yet if we tried to please everyone there would be no convention. We believe that these debates demonstrate in real terms that there are “Many Paths to Recovery.”

In the end our only goal is “to assure suffering alcoholics that they can find sobriety in AA without having to accept anyone else’s beliefs or deny their own.”

WAFT IAAC Steering Committee
Pam W.
Jonathon G.
Dorothy H.

Your Convention

Steering-Committee-Statement

Seven Months From Now

The year 2014 is moving fast and the We Agnostics & Freethinkers International AA Convention is just seven months away. The program has taken on a strong and well-defined shape — a program anchored by not one, but two remarkable keynote speakers, each with a thoughtful and provocative message. We want to take a minute to underline the importance of this accomplishment.

Ward Ewing

Ward Ewing, our first keynoter, brings to the Convention the unique perspective of a long-serving AA trustee who has consistently and forcefully articulated an inclusive vision for the Fellowship, one that would make it a welcoming place for people of all beliefs or none. We are convinced that his singular knowledge and passionate conviction will bring great value to the proceedings.

Mayra H.

Our second keynoter, Mayra H., is a brilliant writer who has mastered the art of ruthless self-examination. As anyone who has spent time in AA knows, few experiences are as beautiful or as enriching as the opportunity to truly listen to a person courageous enough to stand up and present his or her life as an open book. We know that Marya will give us a fitting and memorable coda.

It’s Your Convention

With the bookends established, it is now time to complete the development of the rest of the program. To accomplish this, we need your help. Grassroots suggestions shaped the choice of keynoters. They should also shape the panels, workshops, and discussion groups needed to complete the convention and make it a great event. Please let us know what you want to hear and who you want to hear it from. You or your group might suggest a topic to lead. Reply in the comments or contact us by email and help us make this an event that none of us will ever forget.

Ewing A Great Choice

From Linda R., Minnesota

I want to congratulate the WAFT IAAC steering committee for selecting Rev. Ward Ewing, a Former Class A GSO Trustee, as one of the keynote speakers to open the convention. I understand that Ewing has spoken at various A.A. events and people who have heard him speak at these locations i.e. Colorado Springs, CO, Washington, Oregon, Toronto, Canada, etc. asked the committee to ask Ewing to speak at the conference.

Fundamental Issues

I have not heard Rev. Ewing speak in person, but I have had a chance to read his 2010 article Spirituality and God-Talk in the 2010 A.A. Grapevine. After reading it, I thought here is someone who understands the fundamental issues facing A.A. In particular, his comments on the issue of religion representing “boundaries that define who the members are–who is in and who is out” were spot on. He says:

“Organized or ‘institutionalized’ religion has a set of beliefs that form a core theology. Most churches codify these beliefs into some kind of dogma or creed, even if they do not use the word “dogma.” There is an organizational structure, often hierarchical, dominated by the ordained clergy; a regular, even regulated, style of worship; and ethical implications based on the belief system–some “don’ts” and some “do’s.” Sometimes this ethic seems to represent a program for perfection. Generally these aspects of religion represent boundaries that define who the members are–who is in and who is out.”

Spirituality, Not Religion

Unfortunately, many A.A. meetings resemble the religion Ewing is describing: the core “theology” codified in the books; a ritual reading of the creed (How It Works) at the beginning; a ritual prayer circle at the end; self-appointed “clergy” who preach “don’ts” and “do’s.” Ewing says “I have difficulty with the idea of defining who’s in and who’s out; we can’t see into the soul of any human being.” He goes on to distinguish spirituality from religion by pointing out how spirituality doesn’t have boundaries that define who the members are–who is in and who is out. He says:

“’Spiritual,’ on the other hand, is broad and inclusive. ‘Spiritual realities’ represent all those things that affect our lives but which we cannot see or touch–things like love, resentment, hope, anger, peace, anxiety or serenity. Spiritual realities are present for all human beings. Spirituality has nothing to do with boundaries or with “in groups” and “out groups.”

Ewing Knows The Difference

I am impressed with Ewing’s ability to zero in on this issue facing A.A. – the issue of creating boundaries and defining who is in and who is out, based on religious dogma. Perhaps he’s able to do it so articulately because he’s an ordained Episcopal priest and head of one of that denomination’s theological seminaries. It’s been his “business” to know the difference between religion and spirituality. I want to hear more from Ward Ewing. Luckily for me Ewing agreed to speak at the conference and I’m going to be there.