Mainly quirky things from my daily life that I feel like sharing with my friends, many of whom are Baha'is. Quite a bit of stuff will be Baha'i-related, and won't make much sense if you don't have that background. Or maybe the entries just aren't funny.
Kate Kelly’s excommunication letter, June 23 2014:
“The difficulty, Sister Kelly, is not that you say you have questions or even that you believe that women should receive the priesthood. The problem is that you have persisted in an aggressive effort to persuade other church members to your point of view and that your course of action has threatened to erode the faith of others. You are entitled to your views, but you are not entitled to promote them and proselyte others to them while remaining in full fellowship in the church.”
The Department of the Secretariat to The National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of New Zealand, 19 April 2000:
“Mrs. Marshall has chosen to aggressively promote her misconceptions in defiance of efforts to provide her with essential Baha’i teachings which correct them. She has made a series of statements that stand totally in contradiction to the authoritative texts of the Baha’i writings. These assertions, which she disseminated to an international audience, were of such concern to a number of Baha’is that the matter was brought to the attention of the Universal House of Justice.”
“The administrative bodies of the Bahá’í Faith at all levels use a distinctive method of non-adversarial decision-making, known as consultation.” Consultation
Apparently, the phrase more commonly used by the rest of the world for non-adversarial judicial decision-making is “inquisitorial system”:
This article is about the inquisitorial system for organizing court proceedings. This is not to be confused with the system of religious courts established by the Roman Catholic Church for the prosecution of heresy. For this see: Inquisition.” Wiki: Inquisitorial System
The Wiki article goes on to say:
“An inquisitorial system is a legal system where the court or a part of the court is actively involved in determining the facts of the case, as opposed to an adversarial system where the role of the court is solely that of an impartial referee between parties.”
It’s possible there is no valid comparison to be made between Baha’i judicial decision-making and civil judicial decision-making, and this has been argued in various places. For example, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of New Zealand wrote:
In terms of decision-making required when Baha’i membership is at issue or when infringements of Baha’i law are of concern to the institutions, decisions are made based on Baha’i principles. The Baha’i administration is non-adversarial in nature and works in subtle ways. There can be no comparison with the terminology used in legal proceedings in the community at large. For example, Baha’i institutions do not lay any ‘charge’ against an individual believer, and there is no necessity for giving ‘direct notice’ to the individual. Similarly, the concept of a ‘case to be heard’ is foreign to the Baha’i administration. It is at the discretion of the Baha’i administrative body to act as it sees fit in full accordance with the Baha’i principles. … 9.4 Attempts by a National Spiritual Assembly to correct misunderstandings about the Faith by individual believers can be achieved in a variety of ways. The NSA does not employ the practice of formally approaching an individual before making a decision in every instance. There are many occasions when the deficiencies in understanding of individuals are addressed in a general, all-embracing way with the whole community (for instance, the presentation of community classes dealing with particular issues) rather than singling out individuals for specific attention. Expulsion
Now, I would have thought that Baha’i principles did indeed require that Alison be consulted prior to having her membership removed, but apparently the National Spiritual Assembly believed otherwise. Or it simply did as it was told, then rationalised its behaviour afterwards.
The moral of the story: “When using the inquisitorial system, try to avoid acting like the Spanish Inquisition.”
The Universal House of Justice is trying every which way to make Baha’is more active. It’s tried working through national and local assemblies and it’s tried through the ITC, Counsellors, ABMs and clusters, using the Ruhi institute process. More recently, it’s trying out a bunch of regional conferences. All those methods have been quite labour-intensive and sometimes quite capital-intensive. Travel, study, venues, accommodation and materials all add to the cost.
The House is nothing if not systematic. It tries something, evaluates and adapts it, then tries again. If anything seems to work, it gets adopted and tried elsewhere. “Anna’s presentation” is probably a good example. A script in a training manual becomes an integral part of door-to-door teaching.
But there’s one thing the House has tried that seems to have had stunning results in activating Baha’is, yet doesn’t appear to have been adapted and adopted.
I’m speaking of removal of membership. Michael McKenny appears to have been an early “failure”, but Alison Marshall and Sen McGlinn have shown that the method has great promise. Those two have become real powerhouses since their expulsion. Think how amazingly vibrant the Baha’i faith could become if the House would remove just 1% of the Baha’is from membership, let alone 10% or 100%.
HAIFA — As the new Baha’i year got under way, Baha’is in the West again found the door to continued membership closed.
Although in its public stance the Universal House of Justice maintains that “individual understanding or interpretation should not be suppressed, but valued for whatever contribution it can make to the discourse of the Bahá’í community”, reports over the past few weeks indicate that the policy of arbitrarily removing Baha’is from membership remains in effect.
Baha’is attempting to regain admittance to membership found that their requests were refused. Baha’is, even those who have been enrolled or accepted as members for years, continue to be removed from membership.
And those who have sought redress through the Baha’i administration have been disappointed, their cases rejected.
“As has been the case for the last ten years, the Baha’i administration continues to use a series of devious ploys to prevent Baha’is from regaining their arbitrarily-removed membership,” said Mr. C. Morant-Baker
The effect of the Baha’i administration’s policies is to arbitrarily close the doors of the membership to certain Baha’is, despite the Baha’i Faith’s supposed commitment to the rule of law, natural justice and due process.
“Our plea to the international community, and especially to leaders and followers of religion everywhere, is that they raise their voices on behalf of Western Baha’i expellees,” said Morant-Baker.
According to reports from Haifa, the principal method this year by which authorities are preventing Baha’is from re-enrolling in the Baha’i Faith is by blocking their applications for re-admittance and declaring their cases “not honored”.
Some fascinating developments are coming out of the recent Counsellors’ meeting in Haifa. I’ve heard that the House will announce the names of about 400 newly declared Baha’is. (That is, newly declared by the House to be Baha’is). Anyone care to guess who might be on that list?
Here’s a copy of the House’s announcement about Declaration Day:
Following on from its success in redefining Baha'i belief to more closely meet the needs of the Baha'i community, the Universal House of Justice has initiated a new phase in the process of Entry By Troops. It will soon begin declaring people to be Baha'is.
"This new method of growing the Baha'i community is a natural follow-on to our work in defining Baha'i disbelief", said Faith C. Lensing, a spokesperson for the Baha'i World Centre.
"We began, less than a decade ago, by declaring those Baha'is who were not a good fit in the organisation to be non-Baha'is. However, we soon realised that this approach had its limits and its problems. We also needed to identify non-Baha'is who would be a good fit in the organisation, and declare them to be Baha'is. ...It was that simple."
"As you know, removing a Baha'i from membership in the Baha'i community is not a punishment -- it simply reflects the removee's true spiritual state. Similarly, declaring a non-Baha'i to be a Baha'i has absolutely no effect on that person."
The details of the new initiative have quickly fallen into place: A new Arm of the Learned has been created. The new Counsellors for Declaration will travel within their appointed regions, conducting study classes and enquiring discreetly into the affairs of the general population. Their assistants will provide important back-up, by working within their own communities to identify candidates. The names of suitable non-Baha'is will be compiled and sent off to Haifa.
A new Holy Day -- "The Declaration of the House", falling on 1 April -- will be inaugurated. "The date set for Declaration Day conveniently comes just before Ridvan, which is, as you know, the deadline for locality goals to be met", said Ms. Lensing. On Declaration Day, the House will announce the names and locations of the newly declared Baha'is. Work will not be suspended on that Day, but all income earned will go into a Declaration Fund.
"Self-declaration is proving to be far too slow and haphazard. A potentially life-changing decision such as this [a declaration of faith in the Universal House of Justice] is far too important to be left only in the hands of fallible human beings. We need to become more obedient, more systematic, and to put greater trust in the Universal House of Justice. This is an important first step."