Community and administration

Entries about Baha'i community life, about Baha'i administration, and about how the two intersect.

Banned From Church

Reviving an ancient practice, churches are exposing sinners and shunning those who won't repent.

On a quiet Sunday morning in June, as worshippers settled into the pews at Allen Baptist Church in southwestern Michigan, Pastor Jason Burrick grabbed his cellphone and dialed 911. When a dispatcher answered, the preacher said a former congregant was in the sanctuary. "And we need to, um, have her out A.S.A.P."


Half an hour later, 71-year-old Karolyn Caskey, a church member for nearly 50 years who had taught Sunday school and regularly donated 10% of her pension, was led out by a state trooper and a county sheriff's officer. One held her purse and Bible. The other put her in handcuffs. (Listen to the 911 call)

The charge was trespassing, but Mrs. Caskey's real offense, in her pastor's view, was spiritual. Several months earlier, when she had questioned his authority, he'd charged her with spreading "a spirit of cancer and discord" and expelled her from the congregation. "I've been shunned," she says.

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The Startup Faith

In my day job, I work in the Internet industry. I have worked at, and with, many startups over the years. Working at a startup is often the most exciting, fun, empowering, stressful, uncertain, challenging, and rewarding environment many people encounter in their professional lives. A startup has a number of characteristics that make it a unique experience including a constant lack of resources, a need to focus on the right opportunities (at the right time), a need for everyone to be flexible and multifaceted, a threat of overwhelming failure and a threat of too much success coming to fast.

Baha’i Faith – a startup religion

{josquote}At a startup, people believe.{/josquote}

In a few ways, the Baha’i Faith is like a startup. We have a constant lack of resources and it forces us to make hard choices about what opportunities we are going to go after. Baha’is have to be multifaceted and do whatever tasks need to be done, even if we are not trained, equipped, or particularly excited about those tasks. We have a constant threat of failure. We know that for us, failure of our efforts causes the delay of that promised Day when the Baha’i World and the long awaited New Jerusalem can arrive in the world. Therefore, the longer we fail to grow, the more the world suffers and the longer mankind has to wait for a unified and peaceful world to live in. And finally, we know that if we did have millions of people interested in joining our Faith overnight, our current systems and processes would likely be overwhelmed, and that success might be equal to failure if we fail to capitalize on it.

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In the Hands of the Hands

Monday, Dec. 09, 1957

The problem of succession is a tricky business in the patriarchal Moslem world. The Shiite Moslems broke with the Sunnis over naming the successor to Mohammed; the Babists broke with the Shiites over the successor to the successor; and, in more recent times (1863), the Bahais splintered from the Babists when Baha'u'llah proclaimed himself the true successor or Bab (literally, "gate" to Paradise). Last week the Bahais, who claim a membership of close to 10,000 in the U.S. (1,500,000 in the world), wrestled with a succession problem of their own.

{josquote}Everything would certainly have been much simpler if Shoghi Effendi had made a will{/josquote}

Founder Baha'u'llah ("the manifestation of God") had appointed his son ("the perfect man") to succeed him, and the son in turn appointed Shoghi Effendi Rabbani ("a man under divine guidance"). When Asian flu carried off 61-year-old Shoghi Effendi in London last month. Bahais from Illinois to Iran speculated on whom he had appointed to carry on as Guardian. At Bahai world headquarters in Haifa last week 26 of the 27 "Hands of the Cause of God," chief stewards of the faith, gathered to find the answer in Shoghi Effendi's will. But where was the will?

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Baha'i faithful gather for summer school

CONGREGATION CONCENTRATION: Baha'i faithful take part in their annual summer school gathering at Hamilton's Southwell School.

They don't consider themselves part of a church or religion in the conventional Judeo-Christian sense, but more than 400 North Island members of the Baha'i faith have been congregating at Hamilton's Southwell School this week.

The Anglican preparatory school is the venue for the 2007 North Island Baha'i Summer School, which began on Boxing Day and runs until Monday.

Sue Edwards, secretary for the event's organising committee, said about 400 of the nation's 4500 Baha'i faith members were set to attend the summer school, the seventh held at Southwell.

The volunteer guests speaking at the event have come from as far away as the US including keynote speaker Michael Winger-Bearskin and among them are New Zealand actress Ilona Rodgers, a member of the faith.

Visitors have travelled from Tahiti, Australia and Papua New Guinea to attend the summer school, Mrs Edwards said.

{josquote}Independent investigation is encouraged by, and within, the Baha'i faith, so visitors are welcome to attend the event.{/josquote}

"We've chosen the theme of nurturing spiritual relationships, because we think building relationships between people and communities is a really important thing," she said.

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Theocratic assumptions in Baha'i literature

{amazon id='1890688207'}

Published in S. Fazel and J. Danesh (eds) Reason and Revelation, Studies in Babi and Baha’i Religions vol. 13, Los Angeles, Kalimat Press, 2002. 35 pages in pdf, including an annotated bibliography in an appendix.

This essay presents scriptural support for the view that the institutional differentiation of the religious and political orders is a central Bahá’í doctrine, and looks for counter-arguments in one passage from the writings of Shoghi Effendi and one phrase interpolated into The Promulgation of Universal Peace. It then criticises the ‘dispensationalist’ form of argument that has been used to support theocratic theories.

Beyond this, it points to three challenges facing the Bahá’í community: the need to provide explicit scriptural foundations to support ideas presented as Bahá’í teachings; the need to clarify certain attitudes toward politics; and the need for moral self-examination.

PDF document

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