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