Historians have traced the genesis of the 12 step programs in Alcoholics Anonymous back to the Oxford Group, an evangelistic movement from the early 1900s. Dr. Frank Buchman, a Lutheran minister from Pennsylvania Dutch heritage, was the founder of the Oxford Group. Dr. Buchman experienced a spiritual transformation in 1908 as he visited a small church in Cumberland. Envisioning the suffering face of the crucified Christ, he realized how his resentments had separated himself from God's unconditional love. He surrendered his will and willfulness to God and began to share his experience with others. His work and following grew, with groups eventually at Oxford, Princeton, Yale, Harvard, Williams, Smith and Vassar. Outreach was conducted through house meetings and members were encouraged to find and work with people who suffered from problems similar to their own.
Bill Wilson, one of the co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, traced his journey to sobriety through the Oxford group. After being visited by an old friend, Ebby Thatcher, who was restored to sobriety through the Oxford Group, Bill W. was told the principles of the Oxford Group. He described his conversion experience from that night 20 years after the event in Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age: A Brief History of A.A., p. 63:
"My depression deepened unbearably and finally it seemed to me as though I were at the very bottom of the pit. I still gagged badly at the notion of a Power greater than myself, but finally, just for the moment, the last vestige of my proud obstinacy was crushed. All at once I found myself crying out, 'If there is a God, let Him show Himself! I am ready to do anything, anything!'
Suddenly, the room lit up with a great white light. I was caught up into an ecstasy which there are no words to describe. It seemed to me, in the mind's eye, that I was on a mountain and that a wind not of air but of spirit was blowing. And then it burst upon me that I was a free man. Slowly the ecstasy subsided. I lay on the bed, but now for a time I was in another world, a new world of consciousness. All about me and through me there was a wonderful feeling of Presence, and I thought to myself, 'So this is the God of the preachers!' A great peace stole over me and I thought, 'No matter how wrong things seem to be, they are still all right. Things are all right with God and His world.'"
In the subsequent development of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson eventually distanced himself from the Oxford Group in order to reach out to Catholics and other groups who were uncomfortable with the evangelical emphasis. However, many of the traditions of the Oxford Group continue in the A.A. approach and the Bible remains a foundation for recovery for many of those in A.A. and other 12 Step groups.
Commentaries on the Bible are presented in this section of our web site in light of the 12 Step program. Please click on a link in the side panel to see Bible verses grouped according to a given step number. These comments are primarily the thoughts of one commentator from 12Step.org, so please take them with a grain of salt and, as the 12 step saying goes, "Take what you need and leave the rest". If you feel any of these commentaries need correction, please feel free to contact us.