Posted by Rob (220.127.116.11) on October 25, 2003 at 17:05:11:
In Reply to: Re: What is a covenant breaker? posted by Misagh on October 22, 2003 at 14:18:53:
Yes, only bona fide members of the Baha'i community can be declared as Covenant breakers by the Hands, the ITC Counselors, and Universal House of Justice, and when they are so judged, they are immediately removed from membership and are ALSO considered NOT to be a Baha'is at all until such time they repent and are accepted back by the Head of the Faith. Covenant breakers are not the same as those who have simply lost their administrative rights (same as being deprived of membership in the Faith through having committed some bad deed. Association with those deprived of membership only is not prohibited in most cases.
Normally, but not always, when a person is determined to be a Covenant breaker, their name and some of the particulars of their misdeeds are circulated among the Baha'is in the area they are active in. with the advent of the internet, this could mean the entire planet. This is usually accompanied with a warning to the Baha'is not to associate with the individual and to contact an Auxiliary Board member for protection or a Counselor if the Covenant breaker has made any attempts to associate with the Baha'is.
Those who have lost membership in the Faith, but are not deemed to be Covenant breakers, are still be considered to be believers in virtually most cases depending on circumstances. Others who have failed to fulfilled the prerequisites for being a Baha'i at all, but are not considered to be a Covenant breaker, are dismissed from both membership and being counted as a believer.
Those who actively resign their membership in the Faith are usually not considered to be Baha'is both in terms of membership or in spiritual terms, since usually they resign indicating they no longer believe in Baha'u'llah and/or the Baha'i teachings, or have likewise shown through their actions they are no longer a Baha'i.
The determining Body in cases of resignation of membership or deprivition of membership for wrong-doing would usually be the National Assembly in the nation that person lives in.
In cases of Covenant breaking, the determining body is the Universal House of Justice whose general protective function to do so is authorized in the Baha'i Writings. While individual Baha'is may hold to their own opinions about who is and who is not a Covenant breaker and even spout off their unauthorized views from time to time, this kind of judgement is not in accord with the Faith's teachings. Only the Head Authority of the Faith may decide who is a Covenant breaker. At present that is the Universal House of Justice.
Baha'is are required not to associate with Covenant breakers unless permission is given to do so by Hands, Counselors or the UHJ, who by virtue of their authority are allowed allow association should they determine it is in the best interests of the Faith. In cases where any such association would validate or otherwise cause the Covenant breaker to be emboldened further in their ways, such association is never made. In other cases, when association by the Authority of the Faith is considered to be prudent and helpful, it is done.
In some cases of Baha'is associating with Covenant breakers it has been considered an act of Covenant breaking itself in the extreme degree, and, in the least degree, is considered to be a violation of a believer's duty to cease all association, and that believer may receive a warning or a small punishment such as deprivition of some or all of their membership rights. The purpose of shunning the Covenant breakers is two-fold: protection of the Faith and its believers from divisiveness, rancor and schism, and punishment for the violators. There is no restriction on reading Covenant breaker materials, but the Baha'is are warned of possible spirutal hazards in doing so.
Those who are not members of the Faith (even though they may have been at one time), who may simply actively oppose the Faith in one degree or another, are usually termed "enemies", or in milder instances "disputants" These people are a separate catagory, not the same as a Covenant breakers in the eyes of the Baha'i Authorities. While Baha'is may be advised from time to time not to associate with enemies of the Faith and to "leave them to God" or "eshew the fellowship of the ungodly", generally there is no hard and fast rule prohibiting association other than using one's own wisdom. Indeed, Baha'is are encouraged in the Writings to associate with fellowship and wisdom with "enemies" such as those whose oppostion is born of ignorance. The exception to this spiritual advise is in the case of Covenant breakers.
A distinction should also be made with regard to those who become followers of Covenant breakers who were never a Baha'i in the first place. They are not considered Covenant breakers by the Baha'is but are nevertheless usually not associated with by advise of the Counselors.
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