Bahá’í Council

Boundaries are to be set not according to the condition of local Bahá’í communities or the strength of Local Spiritual Assemblies, but on the basis of a number of specific demographic, social, and economic factors.

Universal House of Justice, December 12, 2001, to a National Spiritual Assembly

Regional Bahá’í Councils partake of some, but not all, characteristics of the Spiritual Assemblies, and thus provide a means of carrying forward the teaching work and administering related affairs of a rapidly growing Bahá’í community in a number of situations. Without such an institution, the development of a national committee structure required to cover the needs in some countries would run the danger of over-complexity through adding a further layer of committees under the regional committees, or the danger of excessive decentralization through conferring too much autonomy on committees which are characterized by the Guardian as “bodies that should be regarded in no other light than that of expert advisers and executive assistants.”

The distinguishing effects of the establishment of Regional Bahá’í Councils are the following:

It provides for a level of autonomous decision-making on both teaching and administrative matters, as distinct from merely executive action, below the National Assembly and above the Local Assemblies.

It involves the members of Local Spiritual Assemblies of the area in the choice of the members of the Council, thus reinforcing the bond between it and the local believers while, at the same time, bringing into public service capable believers who are known to the friends in their own region.

It establishes direct consultative relationships between the Continental Counsellors and the Regional Bahá’í Councils.

Universal House of Justice, Turning Point, Selected Messages of the Universal House of Justice and Supplementary Material, 1996-2006, par. 14.5-14.9

The expansion of the Bahá’í community and the growing complexity of the issues which are facing National Spiritual Assemblies in certain countries have brought the Cause to a new stage in its development. They have caused us in recent years to examine various aspects of the balance between centralization and decentralization. In a few countries we have authorized the National Spiritual Assemblies to establish State Bahá’í Councils or Regional Teaching and Administrative Committees. From the experience gained in the operation of these bodies, and from detailed examination of the principles set forth by Shoghi Effendi, we have reached the conclusion that the time has arrived for us to formalize a new element of Bahá’í administration, between the local and national levels, comprising institutions of a special kind, to be designated as “Regional Bahá’í Councils.

Universal House of Justice, Messages of the Universal House of Justice 1986-2001, par. 250.1

The main task of a Regional Bahá’í Council is to devise and execute expansion and consolidation plans in close collaboration with the Local Spiritual Assemblies and the believers within its area of jurisdiction. Its goal is to create strong Local Spiritual Assemblies which will be the focal centres of Bahá’í activity, will exercise their vitally important role in the development of the Faith and will demonstrate their ability to regulate the affairs of their local communities.

Universal House of Justice, The Establishment of Regional Bahá’í Councils in Certain Countries, Their Characteristics and Functions, par. 14.22

The work of Regional Bahá’í Councils is concerned primarily with the teaching work, and it is on this and related topics that the Regional Bahá’í Council interacts with the Local Spiritual Assemblies in its region. Regional Bahá’í Councils are not involved in personal status matters and the administration of justice.

Universal House of Justice, December 12, 2001, to a National Spiritual Assembly

What is necessary then, is for each Regional Bahá’í Council to consider the area under its jurisdiction and divide the region into clusters ... It should be borne in mind that a “cluster” is a construct that is to enable the friends to think about the growth of the Faith on a manageable scale and to design and implement plans close to the grassroots of the community.

Universal House of Justice, December 12, 2001, to a National Spiritual Assembly

As the process of clustering has evolved, cluster coordinating bodies have developed organically. Regional Bahá’í Councils often appoint Area Teaching Committees (ATC) to stimulate and track the teaching activities within a cluster. The members of the Area Teaching Committees are appointed by the Regional Councils, which receive recommendations for committee membership from Local Spiritual Assemblies, Auxiliary Board members, and members of cluster agencies.

NSA-USA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, p. 19

In most cases, there are multiple Bahá’í localities (civil jurisdictions) within a cluster and a cluster may have as many Local Spiritual Assemblies, registered Bahá’í groups, and/or unopened localities as there are civil jurisdictions. However, in some cases a single jurisdiction has been designated as a cluster by itself. In those cases, there cannot be more than one Assembly. Such a cluster is usually composed of sectors or neighborhoods within the single jurisdiction.

USA-NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, p. 20