Is your group adhering to Traditions? Review the Traditions Tune-Up Here

Traditions Tune Up April 2019

Written by the Region 6 Trustee

A trustee is specifically given the role of being the custodian of the OA 12 Steps, 12 Traditions, and 12 Concepts of OA service. In my first 8 months as a trustee, I’ve received dozens of inquiries from members, many of them about actions in OA meetings and how they align with traditions and concepts. As a trustee, I answer the questions as well as I can, always running my answers by at least one other trustee to make sure I’m on the right track. Usually when someone breaks a tradition, it’s because of lack of knowledge, understanding, or experience with it. But it’s not only trustees who are the custodian’s of OA’s legacies – as Tradition 2 states on page 102 of our new OA 12& 12, ”All OA members share a responsibility for the operation of OA.” And in Tradition 9 on page 147 it says, “When Traditions are not honored, individuals have a responsibility to speak up – lovingly and clearly…. By speaking up when a Tradition is not honored, we help other OA members learn about these spiritual principles.”

As registered OA groups we have an obligation to adhere to all guidelines, traditions, and OA policies and by-laws. We agree to it when we register our meetings. These guidelines, policies and by-laws are determined at the World Service Business Conference which is the group conscience of OA as a whole, according to Concept 2. We, as members and groups, make the decisions. You’ve all seen the upside-down pyramid that represents OA’s service structure – the members in groups are at the top – they’re in charge. Intergroups and service boards serve the groups through group reps, regions serve the intergroups through their representatives at the 11 Region Assemblies, and World Service serves the Regions through the Board of Trustees, with the World Service Office serving all of us as paid employees.

These are the points that define an Overeaters Anonymous group:

  1. As a group, they meet to practice the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous, guided by the 12 Concepts of Service to OA.

  2. All who have the desire to stop eating compulsively are welcome in the group.

  3. No member is required to practice any actions in order to remain a member or to have a voice (which means to share at a meeting).

  4. As a group they have no affiliation other than OA.

  5. It has affiliated as an OA group by registering with the World Service Office.

The definition of an OA group clearly states that all members should have a voice in meetings, and Tradition 3 reinforces that by reminding us that the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop eating compulsively. Yes, groups are autonomous as long as their actions do not affect OA as a whole. Restricting someone from sharing is not in harmony with the definition of a group or Tradition 3. Newcomers or members in relapse may feel unwelcome, or may feel that they are not part of a meeting, if they’re asked not to share. They may leave OA. A group conscience can decide to have a suggested requirement for sharing, but it can only be a suggestion, and they should consider the effect of that decision on newcomers and others, even if the intent is to share the strongest recovery message possible.

Another question that’s come up a number of times is how old you have to be to be in an OA meeting. This is interesting, since Tradition 3 tells us that anyone with the desire to stop eating compulsively is welcome at an OA meeting. But because of liability issues, OA suggests that any person under 18 years old be accompanied by an adult, though not necessarily in the meeting room. In fact, OA now considers Young Persons to be between the ages of 18 and 30. The other thing we emphasize, since this question frequently comes from a parent, is that if someone younger than 18 comes to an OA meeting, they will need to decide for themselves that they have a desire to stop eating compulsively.

I had a couple of questions about mentioning outside literature in OA meetings. In a Feb. 8, 2019, letter describing OA’s trademark, under the signature of the Board of Trustees, the following was stated:

“LITERATURE In order to maintain unity and honor our Traditions, it is suggested that only OA- approved literature be read at OA meetings. (See OA’s Statement on Approved Literature, Business Conference Policy Manual, 2010a [Amended 2012].) OA’s members and groups may speak of outside literature in nonspecific terms, but it is recommended that neither the title nor the author be named.”

Based on this, if I were to reference a short quote when sharing in a meeting or in a shared writing, I would paraphrase it rather than repeat it word for word, and I might say that it helped me immensely, but I would not mention where I read it or the program or philosophy it espouses. Anything other than OA would be an outside issue. We learn from the world around us, but we need to ensure that we're sharing our OA recovery in OA meetings.

I was recently asked about saying the Lord’s Prayer as the closing prayer for a meeting. In this specific instance, two old-timers felt passionately that the meeting should continue using the Lord’s Prayer. It is, of course, group autonomy that decides what a meeting’s closing prayer will be. However, the 1993 WSBC, which is the group conscience of OA as a whole, voted as follows:

We, the 1993 Business Conference of Overeaters Anonymous, suggest that OA meetings and events be closed with one of the following: the Serenity Prayer, the Seventh-Step Prayer, the Third-Step Prayer, or the OA Promise I Put My Hand in Yours.

So the Lord’s Prayer is not one of the closings suggested by the World Service Business Conference. The person that called me said that some people in the meeting, and some newcomers, were uncomfortable with the Lord’s Prayer. Then she mentioned that someone had given her an article from the AA monthly magazine that explained that the Lord’s Prayer wasn’t really a Christian prayer but had originally come from Judaism, so she wanted to bring that article to the business meeting because AA literature is approved in OA, right? Actually, no, not all AA literature is OA approved.

2010a Amended 2012. The following policy statement was adopted:

Statement on Approved Literature

In accordance with our Traditions, we suggest that OA groups maintain unity and honor our Traditions by using, selling, and displaying only approved books and pamphlets at their meetings. This includes OA Conference- and board-approved literature; AA Conference- approved books, booklets, and all future editions thereof, with original edition copyright 2010 or earlier; and locally produced OA literature.

So the AA literature must be conference approved and with an original copyright earlier than 2010 – so that excludes this Grapevine article. Besides, Tradition 10 reminds us that OA has no opinion on outside issues – and both Christianity and Judaism are outside issues, as is non-conference approved AA literature!

This one wonderful phone call added another traditions tidbit. One of the old-timers that pushed for the Lord’s Prayer had actually moved away and no longer attended the meeting in question – but she came back to add her voice and vote when the Lord’s Prayer issue came up again. Obviously, Tradition 2 comes to mind: “For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority – a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.” And what about Tradition 3, “The only requirement for OA membership is a desire to stop eating compulsively.” Should this person who no longer attends the group be part of the group conscience? Concept Four tells us that “The right of participation ensures equality of opportunity for all in the decision-making process.” The concept goes on to explain that each member has a voice on all issues, and every member has the right and responsibility to participate in the decision-making process, the group conscience, at business meetings. But it goes on to say “the extent of participation may be limited by established guidelines for a particular meeting. Every OA member can attend any OA business meeting as a visitor, but that does not automatically give them the right to vote. Voting may be limited by ground rules or bylaws to members who regularly attend the meeting.