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Bulletin #19


Gender-specific language and use 
of the word "God" in NA literature

The following is a February 1992 response to a motion committed to the World Service Board of Trustees by the World Service Conference. It reflects the views of the board at the time of writing.

During WSC '91, the following motion was committed to the World Service Board of Trustees for its consideration: That all subsequent literature that is to be revised and be produced to have non-gender-specific language and that all references to God be changed to "Higher Power" or "Power Greater than ourselves."

This motion was addressed at our June 1991, August 1991, and February 1992 meetings, with our discussions focusing on the following main issues.

First, and simplest, is the change to non-gender-specific language. Our perception is that the various committees involved in literature projects are already very sensitive to this issue. Changes of the type suggested by this motion are already being considered in the literature development and review process.

More complicated is the question of changing all references to "God." Our fellowship embraces the devoutly religious as well as the atheist. We experience a profound spiritual awakening as a result of actively applying the Twelve Steps in our lives. Most of us continue to experience change and growth in our spiritual orientation as we continue to live the program. We are faced with the dilemma of meaningfully addressing diverse and evolving personal spiritual orientations. This motion proposes replacing all references to God with the terms "Higher Power" or "Power Greater than ourselves." These substitutions would not resolve our dilemma since they still would not meet the needs of many members, particularly those who believe that the "Power greater than ourselves" in the Second Step is not equivalent to the "God, as we understood Him" in our Third Step. There have been numerous other alternatives suggested to the term "God." We feel that, prior to making a change which could profoundly impact our philosophy and interpretation of principles, significant discussion and agreement need to take place within the fellowship at large.

Both of these questions carry with them an additional consideration, since the word "God" and gender-specific language are used in our steps and traditions. We feel that any changes to our steps and traditions should not be considered in the same way we consider narrative portions of our literature. Once again, we feel that such changes and the possible ramifications of such changes need to have significant discussion and agreement prior to any implementation.

As a result of our discussions, it is the opinion of the World Service Board of Trustees that no formal action should be taken on this motion at this time. We do, however, believe that these topics should be widely discussed throughout the fellowship. We thank the conference for allowing us to serve.

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