More than three decades have passed since the establishment, in 1968, of the Continental Boards of Counsellors. During this time the institution has accumulated invaluable experience, and its influence is being ever more strongly felt throughout the Bahá’í world. The occupation by the International Teaching Centre of its seat on Mount Carmel offers a propitious occasion for a document to be issued that describes the operations of the institution of the Counsellors. Accordingly, we have prepared a digest of the guidance previously given on this subject, which we hope will increase the friends’ understanding of not only the responsibilities of the Counsellors and their auxiliaries but also the workings of the Administrative Order in general.
The document consists of two parts. In the first, we provide an overview of the various components of the institution and their duties. The second part is a list of statements addressing specific aspects of its functioning.
The Administrative Order conceived by Bahá’u’lláh accomplishes its divinely ordained purpose through a system of institutions, each with its defined sphere of action. The central governing body of the Order is the Universal House of Justice, whose terms of reference are the revealed Word of Bahá’u’lláh together with the interpretations and expositions of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and the Guardian. Under its guidance, legislative, executive and judicial authority over the affairs of the Bahá’í community is exercised by Local and National Spiritual Assemblies. This authority is also exercised by Regional Councils, committees and other agencies established by these institutions, to the extent that it is so delegated.
Together with the authority vested in elected corporate bodies to make decisions binding on the community is the spiritual, moral and intellectual influence that the Administrative Order exerts on both the lives of believers and the work of the Faith’s institutions. This influence acquires a special character through the services performed by those individuals who are appointed to the high rank of Counsellors and by their deputies. More specifically, the Continental Counsellors and the members of the Auxiliary Boards and their assistants are charged with functions relating to the protection and propagation of the Faith. In carrying out their duties, the Continental Counsellors receive their guidance from the International Teaching Centre, an institution whose mandate is global and which functions in close proximity to the Universal House of Justice.
Acting in their respective roles, the two institutions of the Counsellors and the Spiritual Assemblies share responsibility for the protection and propagation of the Faith. The harmonious interaction between them ensures the constant flow of guidance, love and encouragement to the believers and invigorates their individual and collective endeavours to advance the Cause. The value of such interaction is underscored by words of the Guardian, in a cable message dated 4 June 1957, referring at the time to the Hands of the Cause and National Assemblies: “SECURITY PRECIOUS FAITH PRESERVATION SPIRITUAL HEALTH BAHÁ’Í COMMUNITIES VITALITY FAITH ITS INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS PROPER FUNCTIONING ITS LABORIOUSLY ERECTED INSTITUTIONS FRUITION ITS WORLDWIDE ENTERPRISES FULFILMENT ITS ULTIMATE DESTINY ALL DIRECTLY DEPENDENT BEFITTING DISCHARGE WEIGHTY RESPONSIBILITIES NOW RESTING MEMBERS THESE TWO INSTITUTIONS…”.
Freed from those administrative functions assigned to elected bodies, the Counsellors and Auxiliary Board members are able to concentrate their energies on the task of promoting adherence to principle on the part of individual Bahá’ís, Bahá’í institutions and Bahá’í communities. Their understanding of the Teachings, together with the wisdom that comes from the experience gained through intimate involvement in the many aspects of Bahá’í activity, especially qualifies them to offer advice that assists the work of elected bodies. Further, the fact that they occupy a rank higher than that of the Spiritual Assemblies ensures that they are kept properly informed and that Spiritual Assemblies give due consideration to their advice and recommendations. The administrative processes of the Faith are not only concerned with judicial matters, laws and regulations, and programmes that direct action, but also embrace those measures that elicit from the friends wholehearted response and channel their energies. Counsellors and their auxiliaries bring to bear on all such administrative processes their ability as individuals of proven devotion and consecrated spirit. Similarly, they play a vital part in encouraging the friends and in fostering individual initiative, diversity and freedom of action. In their endeavours they strive to follow in the footsteps of the Hands of the Cause, whom ‘Abdu’l-Bahá called on “to diffuse the Divine Fragrances, to edify the souls of men, to promote learning, to improve the character of all men and to be, at all times and under all conditions, sanctified and detached from earthly things.”