Vote to change the language ‘God’ to ‘Higher Power’ in the 12 Steps & 12 Traditions

Policies and Procedures Committee Contextual Statement:

At the 2021 MA World Service Conference, District 12 presented an Agenda Item to have a fellowship wide vote on whether or not to change the language in the short version of the 12 Steps to replace the word “God” with the words “Higher Power.” A formal amendment was passed to include changing “God” to “Higher Power” in the short version of the 12 Traditions as well. 

Final Motion, as passed by the 2021 Conference Body: 

That the Conference body sends the following changes to all registered MA groups for written consent, and after no less than 6 months, those ballots returned shall be counted. A yes vote of three-quarters of the returned ballots shall be sufficient to meet the requirement of the Conference Charter to approve the proposed change(s). These changes are to be applied to every instance where the Steps and Traditions are used in MA literature, including the Life with Hope book, Life with Hope workbook, Service Manual, all pamphlets, handouts, website, and the Marijuana Anonymous application.

Proposed changes:

    1.  Step Three: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God a Higher Power, as we understood God Higher Power.
    2.  Step Five: Admitted to God a Higher Power, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
    3.  Step Six: Were entirely ready to have God a Higher Power remove all these defects of character.
    4.  Step Seven: Humbly asked God a Higher Power to remove our shortcomings.
    5. Step Eleven: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God a Higher Power, as we understood God Higher Power, praying only for knowledge of God’s a Higher Power’s will for us and the power to carry that out.
    6. Tradition Two: For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority, a loving God Higher Power whose expression may come through in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.

District 12 Background/Origin Presented at 2021 Conference:

One question our district has discussed is why many people who initially come to MA don’t continue to attend meetings. We are concerned that some newcomers may be put off by how much the word ‘God’ is used in our books, literature, and meetings. … (more)

Many of our district’s members who have been sober for a while have no problem using the word ‘God’ as shorthand for ‘Higher Power’. We are fully onboard with the spiritual aspect of the program and the benefit and need of connecting with a higher power. However, we feel that the word ‘God’ may be causing some newcomers who otherwise might be open to the program to feel uncomfortable and to conclude that MA is not for them.

We believe that these proposed changes will help to bring the steps and the MA meetings into a more contemporary context and allow more newcomers to take advantage of the miraculous gift of recovery.

We do not undertake the suggestion of these proposed changes lightly. It seems to the members of District 12 that if we are to truly fulfill our primary purpose as stated in Tradition 5 – “Each group has but one primary purpose, to carry its message to the marijuana addict who still suffers,” that we need to make sure that we are not potentially alienating newcomers who may not feel comfortable with the repeated use of the word “God”. 

We believe that when a newcomer, after much struggle and heartache finally finds their way to an MA meeting, what that person hears during the course of that meeting has the potential to shape the trajectory of the rest of that person’s life. We are concerned that there may be a percentage of newcomers who feel that the repeated use of the word ‘God’ during the meeting creates a barrier to them feeling at ease about returning to meetings.

The Twelve Steps were conceived and written in the 1930’s at a time when religion was a much more prevalent part of most people’s lives.

The current data indicates that people in general and especially younger people are way less religious than previous generations. According to the data from the American Family Survey in the article cited below – 44% of Americans aged 18 to 29 identify as having no religious affiliation.

In District 12, we have an MA member who is a Marriage and Family Therapist. She has stated that she has had numerous clients who have balked at attending 12 Step groups due to the mentions of God. There is also a young woman in her twenties in our district who has stated that she has had numerous friends who have not returned to 12 Step meetings after initially attending, due to the repeated use of the word ‘God’.

We are concerned that all of the references to ‘God’ may be interfering with some newcomers feeling that MA is a good fit for them. If this is the case, and we are convinced that it is, then MA is failing to help as many newcomers as we potentially could. Given the miraculous transformations we have experienced ourselves through working the program of MA, we want to be sure that the MA program is as inclusive as possible and that we are not limiting the program to people who self select by their level of comfort with the word ‘God’.

Following are two articles that illustrate the decline in religious affiliation internationally and in the U.S.

The information below is from an online article in –Foreign Affairs Magazine titled-  “Giving Up on God – The Global Decline of Religion” – dated September/October 2020

 https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/world/2020-08-11/religion-giving-god?utm_medium=email_notifications&utm_source=reg_confirmation&utm_campaign=reg_guestpass

“From about 2007 to 2019, the overwhelming majority of the countries we studied—43 out of 49—became less religious. The decline in belief was not confined to high-income countries and appeared across most of the world.

“Growing numbers of people no longer find religion a necessary source of support and meaning in their lives. Even the United States—long cited as proof that an economically advanced society can be strongly religious—has now joined other wealthy countries in moving away from religion.”

The paragraph below is from a Wall Street Journal article titled, “Can Religion Still Speak to Younger Americans”- dated November 2019
https://www.wsj.com/articles/can-religion-still-speak-to-younger-americans-11573747161

“The fastest-growing population on the American religious landscape today is
“Nones”—people who don’t identify with any religion. Recent data from the American Family Survey indicates that their numbers increased from 16% in 2007 to 35% in 2018. Over the same period, there has been a dramatic decline in the share of the population who identify as Christian, from 78% of Americans in 2007 to 65% in 2018 according to a report by the Pew Research Center released this month. The rise of Nones is even more dramatic among younger people: 44% of Americans aged 18 to 29 are Nones.”

As stated in the MAWS Service Manual: The Conference Charter of Marijuana Anonymous 
Originally adopted at MA World Service Conference, 1989 (p64 Maws Service Manual v7.0)

3) CONFERENCE RELATION TO MA: The Conference will act for MA in the perpetuation and guidance of its world services and it will also be the vehicle by which MA can express its views upon all matters of vital MA policy and all deviations from our Traditions. Delegates, Trustees and Service Committee Heads should be free to vote as their conscience dictates and decide what questions should be taken to the group level, for information, discussion, or their own direct instruction. 

Any change in Article Twelve of The Charter, The Twelve Traditions of MA, or The Twelve Steps of MA must be made with the written consent of three-quarters of the MA groups, as defined in the resolution adopted by the October, 1989 Conference*. 


Fellowship-wide Vote

These changes are to be applied to every instance where the Steps and Traditions are used in MA literature, including the Life with Hope book, Life with Hope workbook, Service Manual, all pamphlets, handouts, website, and the Marijuana Anonymous application.

Proposed changes:

    1.  Step Three: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God a Higher Power, as we understood God Higher Power.
    2.  Step Five: Admitted to God a Higher Power, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
    3.  Step Six: Were entirely ready to have God a Higher Power remove all these defects of character.
    4.  Step Seven: Humbly asked God a Higher Power to remove our shortcomings.
    5. Step Eleven: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God a Higher Power, as we understood God Higher Power, praying only for knowledge of God’s a Higher Power’s will for us and the power to carry that out.
    6. Tradition Two: For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority, a loving God Higher Power whose expression may come through in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.

If you have questions contact fellowship.vote@marijuana-anonymous.org