Life incumbency on the House

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Irish
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Life incumbency on the House

Postby Irish » Fri Nov 03, 2006 5:42 am

I'm sure most Baha'is know by now that anyone who has ever been elected to the House of Justice has remained a member (i.e. been re-elected consistently) until such time as they are no longer able to perform their functions, either through illness, old-age or death.

I am wondering why that is. I am thinking about what the people who elect them are thinking when they cast their votes. Could it be that, since most National Spiritual Assembly members believe that the House is infallible in absolutely everything it does (not just legislation), this belief makes them think that it will make absolutely no difference if the same guys are re-elected? The logic is that, no matter who is elected, they'll do an great job anyway, nay, an veritable infalllible job.

Does it make any difference is on the House, since they'll do a perfect job anyway?

EFIKIfubG
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Postby EFIKIfubG » Fri Nov 03, 2006 7:34 am

Great question Irish

The short response might be: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

The longer one is: Since Shoghi Effendi needed information and education, it occurs to me that probably so do the House members. The greater level of their collective intellegence, comprehension, history, vision of the Faith, institutional memory, etc., the better the infallible decisions.

As I've read the Ridvan letters and other communications over the past decade, for me personnally I see such a level of excellence that I have no concern about the 'trend of lifetime membership' for the House members. Baha'u'llah and the Bab are watching over them. No worries Mon!

"Its members must be manifestations of the fear of God and daysprings of knowledge and understanding, must be steadfast in God’s faith and the well-wishers of all mankind." AB W&T

Warmest Wishes
Hadi

brettz9
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Postby brettz9 » Sun Nov 05, 2006 11:56 pm

There is a letter (as I recall from Shoghi Effendi and cited by the House of Justice) to the effect that all things being equal it may be better to elect some 'new blood' for a fresh perspective, but I can't find the letter now.

I believe that this was, in the context of voting for the National Spiritual Assembly members, and that other statements may have indicated that weaknesses in our current practice of the administrative system were due to our current practice, and not the system itself, thus indicating perhaps that if the community did have an excessive tendency to vote for incumbents (while they are still free to do so if they believed the incumbent the best qualified), they might come around to correct this tendency through a progressive education of the community.

Finding the quotation would probably be the beginning of this... :)

I think seeing a higher turnover (though in other systems like that of the U.S. incumbents are also frequently rechosen) would provide and also show a more active involvement and awareness of people's character and qualifications by the community; it is clearly a duty for the delegates to do this, and it is impossible in any duty for individuals to claim they have lived up to it fully. On the other hand, it is not ours to question any specific set of choices made by the community.

best wishes,
Brett

brettz9
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Postby brettz9 » Thu Nov 23, 2006 8:20 am

Here is the quotation I was thinking of:

He was very happy to see that changes had been made in membership of the N.S.A. this year, not from any reasons of personality, but because change itself is good and brings a fresh outlook into the discussions of any assembly. He was also pleased to see that these changes involved more younger people being on the N.S.A.; with the tremendous amount of work which this . . . Plan is going to involve, this will be a great help to the older members of that body.

(Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, in The National Spiritual Assembly, p. 18, cited in Developing Distinctive Bahá'í Communities)


best wishes,
Brett

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Postby EFIKIfubG » Thu Nov 23, 2006 11:30 am

Hi Brettz9

My only thought on this quote you provided is that The Guardian is speaking about a National Spiritual Assembly, not the Universal House of Justice. Of course there was no sitting UHJ at that time. This quote does not say to me that there is any connection to its 'rhymes and reasons' to the UHJ. The UHJ is vouchsafed unerring guidance and the NSAs are not.

In any case, over the recent years, there have been five new members on the UHJ. It seems to me that while its members will probably serve for 30 or 40 years there is still 'adequate turnover' for those who feel this is important. The phrase 'for life' seems to be a misnomer because how many have actually died as sitting members? From my memory, I recall most if not all have retired from the UHJ.

No big deal, just some thoughts.

Warmest Wishes
Hadi

brettz9
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Postby brettz9 » Thu Nov 23, 2006 12:33 pm

Hello Hadi,

Although he is speaking here about the National Spiritual Assembly, I don't see why the same wouldn't apply for House of Justice members as well. Just because the Universal House of Justice as a body is infallible doesn't mean that its members are. Although they are guided from error when they make a decision as a majority, and are surely assisted greatly in making plans, etc. it doesn't mean that they have necessarily brought out everything that could be brought out, even as a body. If Shoghi Effendi, for example, can say this about himself, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and even the Prophets:

What the Master meant in the words you quoted is simply that joy gives one more freedom to create; if the Prophets, the Master Himself, and the Guardian, had less problems and worries, They could give forth a great deal more creatively to the Cause. When He said that "grow to be as a fruitful tree" he meant that, by lifting burdens from the Guardian and trying as much as possible to do our share of the work of the Faith, we would help Shoghi Effendi to develop his full powers as Guardian and, through the Covenant, the Cause would spread its shadow over all men. This we have seen happen in the last 30 years, but that does not mean we must not try to our utmost to help him by our lives and our services.

(On behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 5 October 1952, in Unfolding Destiny, p. 461, emphasis added)


...then I think that it certainly can be surmised that the House of Justice might also not always be at its fullest possible capacity. That is not at all to imply error, by the way, nor, God forbid, to imply any dissatisfaction with the current membership (I say "God forbid" because we should not canvas for/against anyone, but I am not saying voters (i.e., NSA members) could not be dissatisfied with those elected--even to the House of Justice--though again, I really am not saying this).

Also, the Writings point out that the guidance given in the context of specific institutions is not limited to the particular institution mentioned:

In regard to your question about qualifications of delegates and Assembly members: the qualifications which he outlined are really applicable to anyone we elect to a Bahá'í office, whatever its nature. But these are only an indication, they do not mean people who don't fulfill them cannot be elected to office. We must aim as high as we can.

(Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, letter dated October 24, 1947, to a National Spiritual Assembly, in "Extracts from the Guardian's Letters on the Spiritual Character of Bahá'í Elections," p. 3, in Developing Distinctive Bahá'í Communities, 2:8)


And my posting quotations here was not to necessarily side with any categorization of the current situation (as you say, some members have retired -- see http://home.wanadoo.nl/arjen.nandita2/u ... meline.htm ), just to state my understanding from all of these quotations that, all things being equal, new membership can be good.

There is this quotation as well:

Concerning the qualifications of the members of the spiritual assembly; there is a distinction of fundamental importance which should be always remembered in this connection, and this is between the spiritual assembly as an institution, and the persons who comprise it. These are by no means supposed to be perfect, nor can they be considered as being inherently superior to the rest of their fellow-believers. It is precisely because they are subject to the same human limitations that characterize the other members of the community that they have to be elected every year. The existence of elections is a sufficient indication that assembly members, though forming part of an institution that is divine and perfect, are nevertheless themselves imperfect. But this does not necessarily imply that their judgment is defective. For as 'Abdu'l-Bahá has repeatedly emphasized Bahá'í assemblies are under the guidance and protection of God. The elections, specially when annual, give the community a good opportunity to remedy any defect or imperfection from which the assembly may suffer as a result of the actions of its members. Thus a safe method has been established hereby the quality of membership in Bahá'í assemblies can be continually raised and improved. But, as already stated, the institution of the spiritual assembly should under no circumstances be identified with, or be estimated merely through, the personal qualifications of the members that compose it.

(Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, in The Local Spiritual Assembly, pp. 9-10, in Developing Distinctive Bahá'í Communities, 2:8-2:9)


There is also the following from an unpublished letter of the Guardian:

We should never for a moment consider our election or non-election to Bahá'í bodies as indicative of the good pleasure or otherwise of God, as it may be due to any number of different reasons, all of them purely human.

(at http://bahai-library.com/?file=shoghief ... rzieh_gail )


best wishes,
Brett


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