Really sorry to hear of your sister. I have a similar situation w/ a brother that died a few yrs ago. I had tried to encourage him to explore AA. But, because we allow people to define, comprehend and understand "God as the individual understands God" -- my brother said "we're heathens" and he got his Bible tried the church routine and died drinking.
I had a personal spiritual experience of the religious type many years before I came to AA. It was one of those white light hot flash experiences much like Bill W. had. I got sober alright. Totally. And, I discovered what I later found to be 11 1/2 of the 12 Steps in the Bible and I started doing that. It worked for several months and it helped me to do some mostly controlled drinking for a few years -- until my bottom rose up to meet me again.
The two things that I've noticed that are different are "Primary Purpose" and "Singleness of Purpose."
In A.A., even though our solution is a spiritual solution -- we have but ONE Primary Purpose. To stay sober & help another alcoholic to achieve sobriety.
And, that is also our "Singleness of Purpose."
We're not here to lead people to God, to get them saved or born-again, to join a church, or to be God's Agent's to lead them to the Lord. However, we do become God's Agent's (at least there is a reference to it, in Step 3, Big Book, I believe it's on pg 62 or 63) "to help them achieve sobriety."
I recently listened to an old talk by Bill Dotson, AA #3, who explained that "this is what AA was when it was only him, Bill W. and Dr. Bob" and that he prayed it never changed!
Most alcoholics do get square w/ God and establish a relationship w/ God, because of their activity and actions in AA and the 12 Steps. Not all. But, most do. And, I've seen those that do and those that don't -- stay sober.
We don't try to teach about God, or push what we believe God wants for others and we don't tell anyone how to believe or instruct them in religious matters. We simply pass on our experience of "how we have learned to live sober and productive lives."
THE DIFFERENCE IN CHURCH & RELIGION:
Church & Religion -- as I understand it -- is to lead people to God. That, I would consider as their "Singleness of Purpose" and "Primary Purpose". And, to "teach people about God" and "instruct people in God's ways -- as their religion understands it."
They help alcoholics to achieve sobriety and I've known of some alcoholics dating all the way back to my childhood -- that did get sober in church. (My dad had been the preacher, pastor and evangelist -- that led them through their conversions) and I knew the people personally -- many years before I even had a thought of my first drink!
I believe that's the primary difference -- as I understand it.
Dr. Silkworth, who was Bill Wilson's doctor -- knew what our problem was. It was a physical abnormal reaction (allergy?) to the substance alcohol. (Just like I'm allergic to chicken and to peanut butter!). If I eat chicken or peanut butter -- I can die from it because my body doesn't process it like a person that's non-allergic. And, it's a condition that center's in the mind -- the sub-conscious -- that to the alcoholic, the solution is alcohol and the problem is sobriety.
Dr. Carl Jung, knew what the solution was. A conversion experience (similar to what he had witnessed in churches) that would transform the thoughts and attitudes of the alcoholic. But, he didn't know how to produce one. Bill Wilson, later considered Jung, as a Co-Founder of AA, because it was Jung's work on Roland Hazard, his patient -- who eventually joined a religious movement and got help for his drinking problem -- and then later carried "his testimony" to Ebby Thatcher -- who later became Bill Wilson's sponsor. Ebby didn't stay sober. He did, they say achieve about two years of sobriety at the end of his life, and most of that was, as I've read, spent being locked up sober. Roland H., never did become an AA and remained w/ the original religious movement where he got his conversion that kept him sober.
In around 1901, the American Psychologist, William James, was giving lectures in Scotland -- on studies that he had conducted of "the not so normal" religious experiences of extreme religious movements -- that was, in essence, creating psychological transformations -- through religious conversions. William James -- had figured out "the components of the formula" to produce a "religious conversion."
A book was later published of William James, lectures, and it was titled: "Varieties of Religious Experience".
Bill Wilson read that book, after his own conversion experience and discovered that the same formula that he had used to experience a "religious conversion" was what James had written about.
So, now in the early 1930's -- we have knowledge of what the problem is, knowledge of what the solution is -- and a formula to produce the solution. Bill mixed these together and it was eventually what became known as "the 12 Steps" The first Step being: awareness, acceptance, admitance, and convinced -- to the innermost self -- that the individual has an abnormal reaction to alcohol and is therefore an alcoholic.
The early AA's left the religious movements because there was a conflict of purpose. And, it was the Singleness of Purpose and Primary Purpose that I mentioned above.
Please look over my typos! I haven't spell checked or proof read any of this as I typed! I've got my day job waiting for me!