Sam Shoemaker

Sam Shoemaker always knew he could be influential and change the world and yet out of the 30 something books he wrote, it was Bill Wilson’s, a book he edited and advised on, which changed the world the most. This irony has not gone without notice in A.A. and 12 Step circles. They frequently make reference to Wilson’s 1955 quote:

“It was from Sam Shoemaker, that we absorbed most of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, steps that express the heart of A.A.’s way of life. Sam Shoemaker had given us the concrete knowledge of what we could do about it, he passed on the spiritual keys by which we were liberated. The early AA got its ideas of self-examination, acknowledgment of character defects, restitution for harm done, and working with others straight from the Oxford Group and directly from Sam Shoemaker, their former leader in America, and from nowhere else.”

Head of Oxford Groups in America

Sam Shoemaker was the rector of Calvary Church in New York City, where he also functioned as Frank Buchman’s partner as the head of Oxford Groups in America. With this position of religious influence he helped many come closer to a moral and religious life, most notably Bill Wilson. It was at Calvary Church in meetings run by Sam Shoemaker that Bill Wilson got the idea and was influenced to write down the 12 Steps. In fact it was actually Shoemaker who encouraged Bill Wilson to to write the steps himself, believing that an alcoholic was better suited to write the Steps. This of course became an important part of A.A. ideology by insisting that only alcoholics and other addicts have the experience to help others overcome their addiction.

His Own Man

There has been a lot of material written on Frank Buchman’s influence on A.A. and 12 Step in general, but this is more to do with 12 Step’s connection to the Oxford Goup in it’s infancy. Most of the influence from the Oxford Group came by way of Sam Shoemaker, not Buchman. It is Sam’s influence and ideas that dot the “Big Book” and the 12 Steps. Sam Shoemaker eventually split from Frank Buchman and the Oxford Group due to the fear that Buchman was more interested in forming a new sect and not pure spiritual issues. Bill Wilson eventually listed Sam Shoemaker as one of the co-founders of A.A.

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