Read: 1-5-06 Decentralization


THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE

DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT


Transmitted by email: usnsa@usbnc.org

5 January 2006

The National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States


Dear Baha'i Friends,


The Universal House of Justice was impressed by the spirit of your letter of 7 December 2005 from which it sensed the earnestness of your desire and effort to respond effectively to its comments on developments in your country, as conveyed in our letter of 19 October 2005, that indicate a need for adjustments to be made to your administrative structure. It is moved to offer a few comments, as follows, further to assist your thinking especially regarding decentralization in relation to the work of regional institutions.


The administration of teaching is preeminent among the categories of responsibility in which a National Spiritual Assembly exercises its authority to direct and coordinate the affairs of its community. The execution of this responsibility is of a different character, however, from that of, say, the administration of justice; for whereas the latter is properly concentrated in the activity of the Assembly, which must itself render judgments on cases submitted to it, the former is essentially concerned with efforts initiated and maintained at the base of the community and thus calls for a decentralized mode of management—a means of functioning that makes possible the mobilization of action among the generality of believers, whose individual initiatives must be accommodated in a coherent movement of teaching at the level of clusters. Where rapid or substantial growth is occurring, such management ensures that due attention is given not only to executing the plan for expansion and consolidation, but also to addressing the needs of varying patterns of growth from one area to another, to coping with emerging new realities, as well as to applying the lessons of experience in rapidly changing situations. This closeness of attention is not possible from the top, whatever mechanisms may be set in place at the National Center. Particularly at this stage in the evolution of the Divine Plan, when the community must prepare administratively to accommodate entry by troops, your responsibility towards the expansion of the Faith demands a high degree of devolution of administrative authority to appropriate subsidiary institutions, so that the requisites for maintaining progressive activity in the clusters can be adequately met.


For example, in this context, all programmatic and administrative matters pertaining to growth of the Faith in its area are the proper concern of every Regional Baha'i Council and are to be dealt with by it in accordance with the requirements for the execution of the Five Year Plan in your community. The Regional Councils are the executive instruments of the National Spiritual Assembly authorized to act on its behalf in devising and promoting programs dedicated to fulfilling the aim of advancing the process of entry by troops. The Councils direct and coordinate the work of cluster agencies, as well as ensure the collaborative involvement of Local Spiritual Assemblies in cluster and core activities.


[2] In your letter several attempts at decentralization are mentioned that provide examples by which to illustrate a sense of the meaning of the foregoing paragraphs. You state that you have been working with Regional Councils to decentralize responsibility for your Spiritual Assembly development program. The development of Assemblies in relation to the teaching work is progressing through their direct support for individual initiative and cluster activities, their interaction with institutions operating at the cluster level, and the guidance and support they receive from Regional Councils. The training provided through your National Office complements this process by concentrating on subjects that go well beyond matters of growth, touching on such sensitive and often problematic issues as personal status, family violence, and other questions of a judicial or administrative character. Therefore you are free to continue these efforts, which fall mainly into the category of the administration of justice that you have carried out so well in the past, without the need to transfer them to the Regional Councils. Naturally, in scheduling events for such training, you will no doubt want to coordinate with the Councils to ensure that there is no conflict with the work under way in the clusters.


The proposed changes in your administrative structure that address the education of children and junior youth provide another useful example. Your decision to conclude the training function of the National Children's Education and Research Center is a constructive step. At your request, the Regional Training Institutes will now provide training based on existing materials. The House of Justice feels that the Core Curriculum should be considered as a specialized branch, after Book 3 of the Ruhi Institute's main sequence of courses, that serves the needs of teachers of Baha'i schools for children. However, in relation to the neighborhood children's classes, which are a natural outgrowth of Ruhi Institute Book 3 and the related branch being developed, you should not insist that the teachers of such classes be trained in the Core Curriculum, although many of them may wish to benefit from such training later on. Moreover, it is understood you have materials that have been developed for junior youth and youth. Given the recent decision of the House of Justice as conveyed in its letter of 28 December 2005 to all National Spiritual Assemblies, special programs for junior youth need no longer be produced at the national level, but such material as may be available can be offered to the Regional Institutes as resources they may use at their own discretion. As for youth, every effort should be made to have them complete the basic sequence of courses to assist them to move to the forefront of the work in the clusters. Regarding your interest in obtaining information from the National Spiritual Assemblies of Brazil and India about the operations of a National Training Institute Board, the House of Justice feels that it is not necessary for you to establish such an agency in your country.


The House of Justice is especially pleased by the intensity of your determination to deal with the issues raised in the 19 October 2005 letter and looks forward to hearing of the further progress of your consultations.


With loving Baha'i greetings,

Department of the Secretariat

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