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Ask a Bahá’í: How Do Bahá’ís Get Clergy?


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Ask a Bahá’í: How Do Bahá’ís Get Clergy?

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Column by Daniel Pschaida | FāVS News

The simple answer is that there are no clergy in the Bahá’í faith. Each person is enjoined by Bahá’u’lláh — the Promised One of all Religions, who founded the Bahá’í Faith — to investigate truth for ourselves, to learn and not rely upon “the knowledge of [our] neighbor” and “see with [our] own eyes.”

We pray directly to God. We do not have a sacrament in which a priest is required to consecrate bread or wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. We bring ourselves to account each day for the quality of our choices and efforts to live by our inmost values.

We ask God directly for forgiveness when we have fallen short, and we pray to him for his gracious support and assistance in more fully becoming the type of spiritual being and servant of humankind that we aspire to become.

Learning and Growing Together in Community

The more detailed answer is that while Bahá’ís fundamentally have individual, personal responsibility for learning spiritual truths, actively choosing our relationship with God, and growing therefrom. We also do this in community.

Bahá’ís, for example, study together — and with whomever might be interested — a series of workbooks called Ruhi (“my spirit”) that explore the spiritual life of the soul and develop habits and skills to serve and be of benefit to humanity.

A “facilitator” guides the discussion, yet — besides having completed the book previously plus one more book training to become a facilitator — has no special qualifications or necessary extensive training program or ordination.

Baha’i Communities Guided by Elected Councils

Bahá’ís also elect councils, or “spiritual assemblies”: nine individual Bahá’ís who regularly consult to guide and serve the community life of the Bahá’ís. Individually, a member of the spiritual assembly has no special powers, prerogatives or authority, yet, when the spiritual assembly has arrived at consensus on a matter, that has binding authority for the community.

There are spiritual assemblies for the local and national level, and the Universal House of Justice for the global Bahá’í community. The way of decision-making in each of these bodies is to be that of collective consultation towards consensus-building, not the force of any individual’s professional status or charisma. The Bahá’í Writings say:

Man must consult on all matters, whether major or minor, so that he may become cognizant of what is good. Consultation giveth him insight into things and enableth him to delve into questions which are unknown. The light of truth shineth from the faces of those who engage in consultation. Such consultation causeth the living waters to flow in the meadows of man’s reality, the rays of ancient glory to shine upon him, and the tree of his being to be adorned with wondrous fruit. The members who are consulting, however, should behave in the utmost love, harmony and sincerity towards each other. The principle of consultation is one of the most fundamental elements of the divine edifice. Even in their ordinary affairs the individual members of society should consult. – ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

Counselors & Auxiliaries Provide Guidance, Support

The Universal House of Justice also appoints “counselors” who serve for a set term on the global or continental levels who in turn appoint assistants in more local regions called “auxiliary board members.”

The Counselors and Auxiliary Board Members do not have a specialized seminary training or priestly authority or decision-making powers; rather, they are mature, consecrated and wise Bahá’is, dedicated to doing their best to be of service to Bahá’í communities. They have an advisory role to support and offer guidance to spiritual assemblies and Bahá’í individuals.

Each of these institutions/roles were appointed by Bahá’u’lláh to guide and maintain unity among the Bahá’ís, and indeed — while still learning how to all work together — they have been quite successful in facilitating the unity in diversity of the worldwide Bahá’í community, respecting individual freedom of conscience while encouraging collective programs to serve our villages, cities and regions in which we live, releasing the power of unity that “can illuminate the whole earth.”  

You may also be interested to read my friend Scott’s answer to a similar question in Quora

The views expressed in this opinion column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of FāVS News. FāVS News values diverse perspectives and thoughtful analysis on matters of faith and spirituality.

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Daniel Pschaida
Daniel Pschaidahttps://danielazimpschaida-reflections.blogspot.com
Daniel Pschaida hails from San Diego and married into the Spokane area where he has made his home since 2017. Passionate about Spokane’s interfaith movement, basketball, Harry Potter books and nature hikes with his wife Tiara, he also teaches comparative religion at Gonzaga University and history at Eastern Washington University. You can also sometimes find his shared, personal reflections on the Baha'i writings on his blog.

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