|Here’s something I wrote a couple of weeks after Alison was removed from membership in the New Zealand Baha’i community. I’ve blanked out some names, although I probably didn’t need to, because each one has since resigned from membership in the Bahai community.
Ta’wil Discussion Group
Re: removal from membership
Hi Xxxx and Xxxx,
I think it takes great courage to speak up on this list, when it’s a local Baha’i list and you don’t know who’s on it. I’ve been speaking up on Talisman, and it feels safer there, despite the likelihood that Alison was expelled from the Baha’i Community as a result of expressing herself there.
I’m getting used to expressing myself within my local community because it has begun to have meetings where the 7 April Letter is discussed and where Alison’s expulsion is a topic. Until then, my Internet Baha’i life and my Dunedin Baha’i life have co-existed relatively harmoniously. In fact, the community and the local and national Baha’i administrative bodies have tolerated me remarkably well.
As you say, Xxxx, Alison’s expulsion has come from the top. It appears that the National Spiritual Assembly was just the messenger boy. Unless Alison has been hiding letters from me, she’s had no warning of the House’s 2-3 year period of concern. Given Mina’s assurances and the Dunedin assembly’s assurances that the 7 April letter wasn’t directed at anything going on in Dunedin, it appears that the institutions weren’t involved in any investigation/counselling.
As Xxxx has commented, the rules seem to have changed. Except there don’t seem to be any written rules for this stuff. When Michael McKenny of Canada was expelled a few years ago I sought answers and all I got was something from Counsellor Heather Simpson indicating that the action was rarely used and the cases generally turned on their own facts (whatever that means).
Well, there are plenty of questions to be asked and it’s pretty unsafe to be asking them, but my opinion of late 20th century Baha’i administrative culture has been eroded so much over the years that I really don’t care what it comes up with. In my opinion, the administration has asked for a greater devotional life, for transformation and for initiative. It’s got it, but it doesn’t seem to know what to do with it. People will just go off on a tangent if they’re not accommodated, and I think we’re seeing that.
The local community has been a good model, I think, of accommodating diversity. We have open assembly meetings, the fortnightly study runs as a self-managing group, and there’s generally a vibrant youth thing going. I’m sure there’s other stuff too. I hope this co-existence and accommodation doesn’t fall apart as a result of Alison being freed from having a relationship with the Baha’i administration by the House. There’s no need for Dunedin’s harmony to be upset. Nothing really needs to change.
I predict we’ll see a growth in the category of Baha’is-who-opt-out-of-the-administration. …Although it’s always been with us, so perhaps it’s just that it’s now more visible because of the Internet. Yes, I realise that the administration is a key part of Baha’i life, but there are other key parts and the administration is a means, not an end in itself.
I reckon Alison’s release (I like that better than expulsion) is a major event in Dunedin’s Baha’i history. I guess it’s good that people are holding off talking about it until they get a bit more information, but I don’t think there’s much more information to know, unless the Dunedin assembly got told more than Alison herself did.
One thing I really like is that the House said in its 7 April letter that Baha’is weren’t to be concerned about the “problems” the House had identified, because it was going to sort them out systematically (I’m paraphrasing). Well my strategy with the local assembly over the last 6 years or so, when I’ve wanted to do something that involves it, has been to say, “This is what I propose to do, take it or leave it”. I haven’t done any consulting; I’ve just presented my offer as a finished product. This strategy has worked very well for me, and I reckon I’m the shining example of a systematic Baha’i, as defined by the House in its own dealings. Yeah! Consultation is so… Twentieth Century. To recap: the new way goes like this. You make a decision and you tell ’em. They can take it or leave it. I wonder how many will take it and how many will leave.