Note 1. It is a serious mistake to regard all evangelicals as the same. Even at the very beginning, when the modern evangelical movement first began in the 1740's (in England and the Thirteen Colonies) there were two basic strands, which held many principles and practices in common, but nevertheless strongly disagreed on others. Jonathan Edwards, a Congregationalist pastor in colonial Massachusetts (who was elected president of Princeton University at the very end of his life), was the greatest early representative of the variety of evangelical thought which tended to be strongly Calvinist, and drew most of its fundamental assumptions from Augustine, the great African saint who wrote at the beginning of the middle ages.
John Wesley, a priest of the Church of England who taught Bible and classical Greek and Latin at Oxford University in England, was the greatest early representative of the other kind of evangelical thought. He was strongly anti-Calvinist, regarded himself as a member of the Anglo-Catholic tradition instead, and drew most of his fundamental theological assumptions not from Augustine, but from the Greek and Syriac fathers of the early church: Clement of Alexandria, Macarius the Egyptian, Ephraem Syrus, and so on. (John Wesley could read French, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Syriac, and Aramaic, as well as the classical Arabic of the Koran, a book which he greatly admired. He also learned Spanish at one point in order to learn about Judaism from a group of Spanish Jews whom he met while trying to do missionary work among the Native Americans in colonial Georgia.)
This Wesleyan tradition gave rise to the various Methodist denominations and influenced many other Protestant evangelical groups as well. This Wesleyan/Methodist tradition strongly rejected the Calvinist idea of predestination, and spoke instead of a synergistic (co-operative) relationship between God's grace and human will power, which was the doctrine one saw among the early Christian teachers from the eastern end of the Mediterranean in the first five or six centuries. We were healed by God's grace alone, but we human beings had to co-operate with God, and God gave us the power to reject his grace if we chose to do so, and go our own way. The Big Book characteristically speaks in this way, and Hoosier folks when talking to an A.A. group will often speak of being sober today due to "the grace of God, the help of you people, and a little bit of footwork on my part." The last phrase was the synergistic or co-operative element.
The Wesleyan/Methodist tradition also emphasized that true religion was "the religion of the heart," not "outward formal religion." Scrupulously and legalistically following church rules and rituals, and mechanically believing in all the officially enforced doctrines and dogmas which my own particular church taught, was not real spirituality. Real spirituality arose down in our hearts, at the level of our deepest feelings and desires. What God cared about was what was going on in our hearts. John Wesley insisted (on well-argued New Testament grounds) that Jews and Muslims, for example, who loved God in their hearts, and who not only treated the other human beings around them with love at all times, but also were able to teach other people to love, had clearly done so only by the help of God's greatest of all gifts of grace (see 1 Corinthians 13 in context), which meant not only that they were saved, but that God loved them fully and unequivocally. These kinds of assumptions also helped to fundamentally shape the Big Book.
The Upper Room came from this Wesleyan type of evangelicalism in its strongly Catholic-leaning old-time Southern Methodist variety, which celebrated sung eucharists every month with medieval chants, using Archbishop Cranmer's English translation of the medieval Catholic Latin mass. Their ordained clergy, who were called "traveling preachers in full connection" (from the old frontier days when they were sent out on horseback into the wilderness as "circuit riders" searching for little settlements where they could preach) were under the iron rule of the Southern Methodist bishops, who could appoint them to any church post or send them into any missionary situation which they chose, in any land or country, without respect to diocesan boundaries. They were expected to preach the gospel wherever they were sent, but these pastors were also informed quietly during their seminary training that they were priests, and that performing all the traditional priestly functions was also part of their duties.
They were an interesting combination of things. They saw no reason why one could not combine the best of the Catholic tradition with the best of the Protestant tradition, although they were extremely liberal on most theological and social issues of the period, and the Catholicism was fairly low-key. During the early twentieth century, some American Methodist conferences went through a period when they officially denounced the capitalist system as intrinsically un-Christian, and declared that socialism was the only political structure which true Christians could promote and defend.
Note 2. See "Pass It On," the story of Bill Wilson and How the A.A. Message Reached the World (New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, 1984), pp. 281-282 and 335.
Note 3. Richard M. Dubiel, The Road to Fellowship: The Role of the Emmanuel Movement and the Jacoby Club in the Development of Alcoholics Anonymous, Hindsfoot Foundation Series on the History of Alcoholism Treatment (New York: iUniverse, 2004), pp. 132-135.
Note 4. The two women who wrote God Calling had discovered that real spirituality is based on becoming aware of God's immediate presence at all times, in our hearts and all around us, and learning to call upon his love and help to obtain both inner peace and real strength of purpose. In the United States, God Calling is still one of the four or five best selling books in evangelical book stores. There are many editions, the original edited by the important Oxford Group author A. J. Russell, but one recent edition is God Calling by Two Listeners, ed. Bernard Koerselman (Uhrichsville, Ohio: Barbour and Company [Evangelical Christian Publishers Association], 1993).
Note 5. In the year 1944 "in New York City a few literary and newsminded A.A.'s began to issue a monthly publication. This original group consisted of Marty, Priscilla, Lois K., Abbott, Maeve, and Kay. Besides this, Grace O. and her husband turned up among its moving spirits." Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age (New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, 1957), p. 201.
Note 6. As quoted in Bill Pittman's Foreword to The Little Red Book: An Interpretation of the Twelve Steps of the Alcoholics Anonymous Program, 50th Anniversary Edition (Center City MN: Hazelden, 1996), pp. xiii-xiv.
Note 7. Ibid., pp. xvi-xvii.
Note 8. He died sober. His niece told me that a physician gave Ralph a shot for airsickness, and inadvertently used a contaminated needle. Father Ralph contracted hepatitis, and all the efforts made by the doctors at Our Lady of Mercy Hospital in Owensboro could not save him.
Note 9. Mel B. (ed.), Three Recovery Classics: As a Man Thinketh by James Allen, The Greatest Thing in the World by Henry Drummond, and An Instrument of Peace the St. Francis Prayer, Hindsfoot Foundation Series on Spirituality (New York: iUniverse, 2004).
Note 10. The best spokesman from the early days for this important strand of A.A. thought was Sgt. Bill S., a protege of Mrs. Marty Mann who got sober on Long Island in 1948. Bill was not an atheist or agnostic, but felt more comfortable talking about the principles of the program in psychological terms. See Sgt. Bill S., On the Military Firing Line in the Alcoholism Treatment Program, Hindsfoot Foundation Series on the History of Alcoholism Treatment (New York: iUniverse, 2003), which also describes how he and psychiatrist Louis Jolyon "Jolly" West, M.D., developed the Lackland Model for alcoholism treatment during the 1950's.
Note 11. Harry Stevens, who had been one of the first four members of the South Bend group, was the outside sponsor of the A.A. prison group at the Indiana state penitentiary at Michigan City during its early years. See Nick Kowalski's story in Volume 1 of this work.