Organization of the Bahá’í Community of Canada
Organized religion is often faulted for a history that includes rigid exercise of authority, neglect of individual freedom, and inflexibility in the face of social evolution. And yet, absent effective organization, an entirely subjective and merely personal religion lacks that sense of community, solidarity, and purposeful collective action that improves society and provides practical support for families and individuals.
The Bahá’í administrative system, which governs the affairs of the Bahá’í community, was established in the writings of Bahá’u’lláh and gives practical expression to Bahá’í social principles. There are no clergy in the Bahá’í Faith, and group leadership is emphasized rather than individual authority.
Local governing councils are elected democratically each year, as is a national governing council in each country. These councils, called Local Spiritual Assemblies and National Spiritual Assemblies, use a method of decision-making called consultation. It is a non-adversarial method of group discussion and decision-making that relies on building consensus and on the unity of decision and action in the group and community.
The election process excludes any form of electioneering or nomination while giving the widest possible choice to the elector: every adult member of the Bahá’í community. The consultative process serves to bring together the concerns of all, instead of pitting different segments of the community against one another. Thus, freedom of individual expression, free choice in voting for the community’s leadership, and promotion of the common good are among the distinctive features of Bahá’í organization that overcome the common pitfalls of organized religions.
In addition to the Local Spiritual Assembly, the Nineteen-Day Feast provides a blend of worship, fellowship, and grassroots democracy. It represents not only an innovation in collective worship but an arena of discussion and deliberation in which all members of the Bahá’í community have an opportunity to voice their concerns and suggestions about the affairs of the community.