Who belongs? – 3
On the Bahai Questions Resource Forum (on facebook), Doris Ray posed a question on March 14, 2015:
I am just wondering about Baha’i seekers who are supportive of the Faith but have not given up on some things such as drinking alcohol or perhaps promiscuity or are in gay relationship? Is there an in-between space for them where they can provide support without actually becoming a card-carrying member of the Baha’i Faith? They would not be able to vote or participate in administrative duties but perhaps be supportive of membership in other ways? There are many people with addiction issues and relationship issue; also mental health issues. Can they not become some kind of honorary or supportive members in some way, shape or form?
I suppose the solution would be to have more Firesides where we can become accepting of those with attributes not conforming to becoming card-carrying Baha’is. I like the term Bonnie used “Friends of the Faith!” That would be something to aim for…
I responded a few days later
In response to the original posting: there are Bahais who are not enrolled. This may be because they don’t wish to be electable, live in a country where there is no Bahai administration, for the sake of family unity, or some reason relating to their personal spiritual path. Or it may be because the admin will not enroll them, as in the case of same-sex couples (although the UHJ policy on this does not say that this also excludes same-sex *married* couples from enrollment [A later clarification does include married couples: last item on the page]), or for reasons that are not explained. These are unenrolled Bahais. National administrations need to develop policy guidelines that take note of the existence of unenrolled Bahais, so that the local Bahai communities don’t treat them like square pegs on a board of round holes. In New Zealand, the NSA guidelines allow a Bahai to withdraw their name from the membership roll, and in the Netherlands the enrollment guidelines say that a declaration of faith will not be acted on, by the admin, unless the declarant also asks to be enrolled. In both cases, “being a Bahai” is understood as a step on the spiritual path, and “being enrolled” as an administrative status which does not necessarily follow from being a Bahai.
Bahai life is more than Bahai administration, and the Bahai community is more than an administrative status. Not all of those who are in communion with one another on the basis of their common orientation to Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha and the divine system they introduced will be enrolled, and not everyone who is enrolled will actually be in communion with the Bahai community. There are phantoms on the electoral rolls, and there are people who use membership of a respected group as a cloak.
To respond to the OP again, but at the level of individual Bahais and local communities: if we recognise that our community is based on the veneration of Baha’u’llah and the practice of walking the Bahai path, there will be a welcome mat out for those who are Bahais but are not enrolled. The onus is also on the unenrolled Bahais to behave as part of the community of faith, which entails an extra measure of patience, love and care for the other members, to foster unity and ensure that no soul is hurt or estranged. If we find Bahais suffering from misconceptions they must be educated, if they suffer from prejudices, they must be shown the ways of love.
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