The Story of
The Recovered Alcoholic
The Recovered Alcoholic Clergy Association
The Rev. Peter Courtney
Director and President
Home: 127 Inverness Road
Athens, GA 30606
706-546-5281 (home) 706-338-3246 (cell only)
The Recovered Alcoholic Clergy Association (RACA) is a working fellowship of the clergy of the Episcopal Church. Its membership includes bishops, priests, deacons, members of religious orders, and seminarians who have made successful recoveries from the disease of addiction. Its members are found in almost every diocese of the United States and in several others churches of the Anglican Communion.
RACA came into being as the result of a letter written in the summer of 1968 to "The Living Church" magazine by the Rev. James T. Golder, Rector of the Church of the Advent of Christ the King, San Francisco, California. A recovering alcoholic for ten years, Fr. Golder had conducted seminars on alcoholism in some of the Church's theological seminaries and for several years had been a member of the Executive Council's Advisory Committee on Alcoholism. Repeated attempts by the Committee to persuade General Convention to establish a Church-wide alcoholism program had ended in failure. The Advisory Committee was dissolved following the General Convention in Seattle. Fr. Golder tried a different, personal approach, and his letter appealed to other recovering alcoholic clergy to communicate with him. The response was immediate.
On 24 October 1968, six of the twenty-two clergy who had replied to the letter came to San Francisco from Arizona, British Colombia, California, Colorado, and Montana to share their experience, strength, and hope. After two days of discussion it was decided to form an association with the name RACA—chosen because of its Biblical connotations (see Matthew 5:22). Each of the priests acknowledged the appropriate name of the organization for each admitted their past behavior was "empty-headed." RACA'S membership has grown from the original six to 269 in 2015.
RACA'S purpose is three-fold:
- mutual self-help
- pastoral concern for clergy with a drinking problem and their families
Members are ready at all times to support each other and to respond to calls from those who seek their help. Strict anonymity is observed outside the ranks of RACA.
RACA's membership represents a sizable reservoir of knowledge and expertise in the field of addiction. Many of its members are employed full time as professional therapists, counselors and teachers. They are available to the Church as resource persons, advisors, and leaders of educational conferences. Some theological seminaries look to RACA to assist in the training of future clergy. A huge percenetage of the pastoral problems encountered in the church are related to someone’s abuse of alcohol. RACA believes that clergy of the Church must be prepared to meet such problems with professional skill and pastoral know-how.
RACA also endeavors to promote the tremendous advantages available to parishes and dioceses from having a recovering priest or bishop at the helm. As one bishop recently put it: "(Recovering clergy) are profoundly gifted. They know first hand of their powerlessness, and bring an incredible reservoir of self-knowledge which can help others with the impulsiveness that undermines spiritual freedom. The living of the Paschal mystery appropriated through their recovery is a gift to the Church and the world."
Members across the country have volunteered their home phones so that calls can be referred to members for follow through. Callers are asked to identify their call as a "RACA call" so that a prompt response can be made.
People are no longer surprised to discover that alcoholism and drug addiction exist in the Episcopal Church and among its clergy. The problem is no longer hidden, but faced realistically and constructively. Alcoholism is a progressive, chronic, and fatal disease which can be arrested at any stage in its development. It is not a moral problem to be punished. RACA intends to bear witness to this truth at every level in the Church.
RACA's special ministry is supported solely by the voluntary contributions of its members and other concerned persons; it requires no dues or fees of its members. RACA is registered in the State of California as a non-profit private foundation and all gifts and contributions to the association are tax deductible.
RACA solicits your prayers that God will continue to bless and prosper its efforts to serve Christ and His Church through its special kind of ministry. Should you wish to receive RACA's newsletter, make a contribution, or acquire further information, we invite you to contact our office.