Read: 1999 Feb 22, Rank of Counsellors

The Universal House of Justice

The Bahá'í World Centre
Department of the Secretariat

22 February 1999

Dear Baha'i Friend,

In reply to your email message of 6 January 1999, the Universal House of Justice has asked us to convey that it is not certain which letter is being referred to therein; however, it has asked us to send you the enclosed letter dated 27 March 1978, which may be of assistance to you. Furthermore, it has asked us to send you statements from two letters that might be helpful.

On the matter of showing respect to others, this is a question of politeness and courtesy, and the manner of expressing politeness and courtesy varies in different parts of the world. Whether or not one stands when another person enters a room is a decision that is left to each individual and we should not be critical of the way any one individual expresses his feeling of respect for another.

(From a letter dated 16 September 1971 written by the Universal House of Justice to a Local Spiritual Assembly)

The Universal House of Justice has received your email dated 1 October 1993 requesting its advice on the subject of rank and protocol with respect to Counsellors and members of the House of Justice, as this matter seems to be the cause of some concern to a group of believers in your community.

The House of Justice has noted your specific questions in this regard, and feels that the friends should be encouraged not to delve into such subjects at this time in the development of the administrative institutions of the Faith, and should instead focus their energies on engaging in the teaching and other vital work of the Faith.

(From a letter dated 20 October 1993 written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly)

With loving Baha'i greetings,
Department of the Secretariat

Enclosure (appended)

The Universal House of Justice

The Bahá'í World Centre
Department of the Secretariat

27 March 1978

To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Baha'i Friends,

One of the believers wrote recently to the Universal House of Justice requesting an elucidation of a statement made by it in one of its letters about the relationship between the Boards of Counsellors and National Spiritual Assemblies. The House of Justice instructed us to send the following reply, which is now being shared with all National Assemblies as it will undoubtedly be of interest to the believers in general.

The statement that the Boards of Counsellors outrank the National Institutions of the Faith has a number of implications. A Board of Counsellors has the particular responsibility of caring for the protection and propagation of the Faith throughout a continental zone which contains a number of national Baha'i communities. In performing these tasks it neither directs nor instructs the Spiritual Assemblies or individual believers, but it has the necessary rank to enable it to ensure that it is kept properly informed and that the Spiritual Assemblies give due consideration to its advice and recommendations. However, the essence of the relationships between Baha'i institutions is loving consultation and a common desire to serve the Cause of God rather than a matter of rank or station.

It is clear from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, as well as from those of 'Abdu'l-Baha and the interpretations of the Guardian, that the proper functioning of human society requires the preservation of ranks and classes within its membership. The friends should recognize this without envy or jealousy, and those who occupy ranks should never exploit their position or regard themselves as being superior to others. About this Baha'u'llah has written:

And among the realms of unity is the unity of rank and station. It redoundeth to the exaltation of the Cause, glorifying it among all peoples. Ever since the seeking of preference and distinction came into play, the world hath been laid waste. It hath become desolate. Those who have quaffed from the ocean of divine utterance and fixed their gaze upon the Realm of Glory should regard themselves as being on the same level as the others and in the same station. Were this matter to be definitely established and conclusively demonstrated through the power and might of God, the world would become as the Abha Paradise.

Indeed, man is noble, inasmuch as each one is a repository of the sign of God. Nevertheless, to regard oneself as superior in knowledge, learning or virtue, or to exalt oneself or seek preference, is a grievous transgression. Great is the blessedness of those who are adorned with the ornament of this unity and have been graciously confirmed by God.

In similar vein, Shoghi Effendi gave this warning to those who are elected to serve on National Spiritual Assemblies:

They should never be led to suppose that they are the central ornaments of the body of the Cause, intrinsically superior to others in capacity or merit, and sole promoters of its teachings and principles. They should approach their task with extreme humility, and endeavour by their open-mindedness, their high sense of justice and duty, their candour, their modesty, their entire devotion to the welfare and interests of the friends, the Cause, and humanity, to win not only the confidence and the genuine support and respect of those whom they should serve, but also their esteem and real affection....

Courtesy, reverence, dignity, respect for the rank and achievements of others are virtues which contribute to the harmony and well-being of every community, but pride and self-aggrandisement are among the most deadly of sins.

The House of Justice hopes that all the friends will remember that the ultimate aim in life of every soul should be to attain spiritual excellence- to win the good pleasure of God. The true spiritual station of any soul is known only to God. It is quite a different thing from the ranks and stations that men and women occupy in the various sectors of society. Whoever has his eyes fixed on the goal of attaining the good pleasure of God will accept with joy and radiant acquiescence whatever work or station is assigned to him in the Cause of God, and will rejoice to serve Him under all conditions.

There are many passages on this theme in the Holy Writings, and the Universal House of Justice hopes that these remarks will help the friends to turn to them and understand their purport.

With loving Baha'i greetings,
For Department of the Secretariat

cc:The Hands of the Cause of God
The International Teaching Centre
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