THE CHRISTIAN CENTURY, February 22, 1950
ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS SPURN A TRAP
How many churchmen noticed an inconspicuous item in the press the other day which reported that Alcoholics Anonymous of New York had turned down a bequest? A “grateful woman member,” according to the story in the New York Times, had bequeathed the organization $10,000. A spokesman for A.A., in explaining why it refused the money, said that “members have discovered they cannot mix money and its management with the spiritual nature of the work they are trying to do.” The newspaper added that “acquisition of property or money other than that raised by passing the hat at their own meeting” is feared by A.A. because it “tends to divert members from their primary task of helping drunkards.”
This will probably sound quixotic to many a hard-pressed parson or finance committee chairman. Yet there is something involved in this A.A. decision which churches and church organizations can wisely ponder. Endowments always look good at the start, but the late Julius Rosenwald knew their stultifying long-range effects when he provided that his great Rosenwald Fund must be liquidated, principal and income, in less than a generation. Nothing can take the crusading zeal out of a congregation or an organization faster than knowing that all the bills have been paid in advance and will continue to be paid whether or not anyone lifts a finger. Endowments can do as much damage to the vitality of churches and reform bodies as doting parents generally do the sons and daughters of the rich.
Alcoholics Anonymous undoubtedly could have made good use of that $10,000. But we have far more confidence in its future now that it has showed wisdom enough to turn it down.