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Abstract:
An explanation of the ‘Appointed Arm’ of the Faith.

Counsellors, Board Members, and Assistants:
Warwick Leaflets

by Warwick Bahá'í Bookshop

2002
The Bahá'í administration consists of two distinct parts. The first is the "Elected Arm", which means the Universal House of Justice, National Spiritual Assemblies, Regional Councils and Local Spiritual Assemblies. The second is the "Appointed Arm", known as the Institution of the Counsellors, which is made up of Counsellors, Auxiliary Board members and their assistants. It is also sometimes called the "Learned Arm" because its members are generally expected to have a depth of knowledge about the Faith. Its members have no direct authority over the other Bahá'ís, they are there to offer advice and guidance.

Every five years, the Universal House of Justice appoints nine people as International Counsellors to form the International Teaching Centre (ITC). The Universal House of Justice also appoints Counsellors for each continent to form Continental Boards, which are under the direction of the International Teaching Centre. This body has its seat on Mount Carmel, next to the seat of the Universal House of Justice. The main duties of the International Teaching Centre are summarised as follows:

Its responsibilities call on it to serve as a source of information and analysis for the Universal House of Justice and to provide guidance and resources to the Continental Counsellors. It is required to be fully informed of the situation of the Cause in all parts of the world and alert to possibilities for the expansion of the Faith, the consolidation of its institutions, and the development of Bahá'í community life. It has to analyse these possibilities in relation to global plans, anticipating needs worldwide and ensuring that the necessary resources become available to national communities. In this context, it gives particular attention to the development of human resources, helping communities increase their capacity to endow growing contingents of believers with spiritual insight, knowledge of the Faith, and skills and abilities of service."

The Continental Counsellors share responsibility for the countries within each continent, but one or two will specialise in each individual country. In the main, the Continental Counsellors will consult with National Spiritual Assemblies and also with Regional Councils. They will also often speak at the national gatherings in each country.

Counsellors have the duty to stimulate on each continent the expansion and consolidation of the Faith and to promote the spiritual, intellectual, and social aspects of Bahá'í life."

To help them in their work, the Continental Counsellors appoint two Auxiliary Boards -- one for Protection of the Faith and one for Propagation of the Faith. In fact, members of both are involved with the progress of the Faith through teaching and consolidation, but the Protection Board members have the additional responsibility of ensuring that disunity does not appear in the community, either through misunderstanding or by someone's desire for leadership. They "focus much of their energies on deepening the friends' knowledge of the Covenant and fostering a spirit of love and unity."

They also defend the Faith against attacks from people outside. Auxiliary Board members (ABMs) are each responsible for quite large areas. Since one person cannot possibly know what is happening in dozens of different communities, Auxiliary Board members will usually appoint a number of assistants, each of which will cover a small area. So every community and individual should have access to a Board member and an assistant from each Board. Sometimes an assistant may be appointed for a particular role, for example to help the youth in an area. Assistants can also be youth themselves. Auxiliary Board members and their assistants will consult with Local Spiritual Assemblies, local communities and individuals as necessary.

Because they have a separate role, Counsellors and Board members will not usually serve as members of the Elected Arm.

Among the duties of the Institution of the Counsellors are the encouragement of individual initiative and the sharing of good ideas and good practice. Because of their responsibility for developing the talents of individuals, Auxiliary Board members often serve on Training Institute Boards, and they and their assistants often become tutors of training courses. If an individual, Assembly or community feels in need of advice or assistance, the Auxiliary Board members and their assistants are there to help. They can also assist an Assembly with making plans and implementing them. It is essential that the Elected Arm and the Appointed Arm work together harmoniously. They have different parts to play, but they both have the same aim:

Interactions between the two institutions flourish in an atmosphere of love and according to the dictates of genuine respect."

In this regard Bahá'u'lláh said: "Abase not the station of the learned in Bahá and belittle not the rank of such rulers as administer justice amidst you."

The Appointed Arm originated with the Hands of the Cause of God. These special people were appointed by Bahá'u'lláh, 'Abdu'l-Bahá or the Guardian. 'Abdu'l-Bahá said "The obligations of the Hands of the Cause of God are 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."

The Institution of the Counsellors - the International Teaching Centre, the Continental Boards of Counsellors, the Auxiliary Board members and their assistants - continues this work in the present day and into the future.

The text of all these leaflets remains the copyright of Warwick Bahá'í Bookshop. The Bookshop is happy for people to download individual copies for their own purposes. Printed copies can be purchased from the Warwick Bookshop. Individuals or communities wishing to translate or print these leaflets in other countries please contact the Bookshop for permission.
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