The Bahá’í Covenant The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh

How the Covenant in the Bahá’í Faith creates and maintains a unified religious community.

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What should we do if we disagree with a decision that has been made by a Bahá’í Institution?

The Arc on Mount Carmel during the International Convention 2008

If they agree upon a subject, even though it be wrong, it is better than to disagree and be in the right, for this difference will produce the demolition of the divine foundation. Though one of the parties may be in the right and they disagree, that will be the cause of a thousand wrongs, but if they agree and both parties are in the wrong, as it is in unity, the truth will be revealed and the wrong made right.
‘Abdu’l‑Bahá cited in letter of the Universal House of Justice,1988 Dec 29, Individual Rights and Freedoms, paragraph 29

One of the fundamentals involved in our Administrative Order, which we must remember will become the pattern for our World Order, is that even if an Assembly makes an ill-advised decision it must be upheld in order to preserve the unity of the Community. Appeal can be made from the Local Assembly’s decision to the National Assembly… But the principle of authority invested in our elected bodies must be upheld. This is not something which can be learned without trial and test….
Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 30 June 1949, Light of Divine Guidance vol 1, p. 151

… Whenever there is any infringement of Bahá’í rights, or lapse in the proper procedure, the friends should take the matter up with the Assembly concerned, and if not satisfied, then with the National Spiritual Assembly. This is both their privilege and their duty.”

Written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, July 10, 1942, Lights of Guidance, p. 62

Any member of a local Bahá’í community may appeal from a decision of his Local Spiritual Assembly to the National Spiritual Assembly which shall determine whether it shall take jurisdiction of the matter or refer it back to the Local Spiritual Assembly for reconsideration.

…Any Bahá’í may appeal from a decision of his National Spiritual Assembly to the Universal House of Justice which shall determine whether it shall take jurisdiction of the matter or leave it within the final jurisdiction of the National Spiritual Assembly.
The Universal House of Justice, The Constitution of The Universal House of Justice, p. 14

As you know, you are free to request the Assembly to reconsider its decision. However, you may wish to weigh this course of action against the reaction it could produce, and which may cause you further stress. In some cases, it is preferable if one accepts humbly the view of the Assembly in a spirit of sacrifice, and without further dispute. Then, any wrong decision will eventually be set right. When the believers act submissively and in a spirit of self-effacement it attracts the good pleasure of God, which in itself serves as a consolation to their hearts.

Written on behalf of The Universal House of Justice, 12 September 1988, Issues concerning community functioning

The believers should have confidence in the directions and orders of their Assembly, even though they may not be convinced of their justice or right. Once the Assembly, through a majority vote of its members, comes to a decision the friends should readily obey it. Specially those dissenting members within the Assembly whose opinion is contrary to that of the majority of their fellow-members should set a good example before the community by sacrificing their personal views for the sake of obeying the principle of majority vote that underlies the functioning of all Bahá’í Assemblies.
Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 28 October 1935, Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 57

The Assembly may make a mistake, but, as the Master pointed out, if the Community does not abide by its decisions, or the individual Bahá’í, the result is worse, as it undermines the very institution which must be strengthened in order to uphold the principles and laws of the Faith. He tells us God will right the wrongs done. We must have confidence in this and obey our Assemblies. He therefore strongly urges you to work directly under your Bahá’í Assembly, to accept your responsibilities as a voting member, and do your utmost to create harmony within the community.
Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 1949, Lights of Guidance, p. 81

What the Master desired to protect the friends against was continual bickering and opinionatedness. A believer can ask the Assembly why they made a certain decision and politely request them to reconsider. But then he must leave it at that, and not go on disrupting local affairs through insisting on his own views. This applies to an Assembly member as well. We all have a right to our opinions, we are bound to think differently; but a Bahá’í must accept the majority decision of his Assembly, realizing that acceptance and harmony — even if a mistake has been made — are the really important things, and when we serve the Cause properly, in the Bahá’í way, God will right any wrongs done in the end.
Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 19 October 1947, Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 57

The believers should be careful not to deviate, even a hair-breadth, from the Teachings. Their supreme consideration should be to safeguard the purity of the principles, tenets and laws of the Faith. It is only by this means that they can hope to maintain the organic unity of the Cause. There can and should be no liberals or conservatives, no moderates or extremes in the Cause. For they are all subject to the one and the same law which is the Law of God. This law transcends all differences, all personal or local tendencies, moods and aspirations.

Next is the principle of complete, and immediate obedience to the Assemblies, both local and national. It is the responsibility of these Bahá’í administrative bodies to enable the community to acquire, and increasingly deepen in the knowledge and understanding of the Cause. Doctrinal unity and administrative unity, these are the two chief pillars that sustain the edifice of the Cause, and protect it from the storms of opposition which so severely rage against it.
Shoghi Effendi, September 5, 1936, Dawn of a New Day, p. 60

Let us be on our guard lest we measure too strictly the Divine Plan with the standard of men. I am not prepared to state that it agrees in principle or in method with the prevailing notions now uppermost in men’s minds, nor that it should conform with those imperfect, precarious, and expedient measures feverishly resorted to by agitated humanity. Are we to doubt that the ways of God are not necessarily the ways of man? Is not faith but another word for implicit obedience, whole-hearted allegiance, uncompromising adherence to that which we believe is the revealed and express will of God, however perplexing it might first appear, however at variance with the shadowy views, the impotent doctrines, the crude theories, the idle imaginings, the fashionable conceptions of a transient and troublous age? If we are to falter or hesitate, if our love for Him should fail to direct us and keep us within His path, if we desert Divine and emphatic principles, what hope can we any more cherish for healing the ills and sicknesses of this world?
Shoghi Effendi, Bahá’í Administration, p. 62-63

Our present generation, mainly due to the corruptions that have been identified with organizations, seem to stand against any institution. Religion as an institution is denounced. Government as an institution is denounced. Even marriage as an institution is denounced. We Bahá’ís should not be blinded by such prevalent notions. If such were the case, all the divine Manifestations would not have invariably appointed someone to succeed Them. Undoubtedly, corruptions did enter those institutions, but these corruptions were not due to the very nature of the institutions but to the lack of proper directions as to their powers and nature of their perpetuation. What Bahá’u’lláh has done is not to eliminate all institutions in the Cause but to provide the necessary safeguards that would eliminate corruptions that caused the fall of previous institutions. What those safeguards are is most interesting to study and find out and also most essential to know.

Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, quoted in Individual Rights and Freedoms, paragraph 22

…suppose five people are in a boat in the middle of a lake. They are trying to get to shore. Everyone has a paddle. If each one paddles his own way they will neither move fast nor far. What they may do is get wet or sink the boat. If three want to go north and the other two south, there are several options. If three paddled north and two paddled south, there would be a lot of activity but little progress. They could take a vote and decide which way to go. If they discuss things first, they might decide to paddle east. If they work together to accomplish the majority decision and they find they are headed the wrong way, they can turn around and work together towards a new destination.

John Kolstoe, Developing Genius: Getting the Most Out of Group Decision-Making, p. 84