Sen McGlinn's blog

                                  Reflections on the Bahai teachings

Who belongs?

On Catholic Forums, someone (not a Catholic I think, but one of the anti-bahai polemicists being trained at an institute in Qom), wanted to know what right I had to speak. The underlying issue is: who is part of a community? Who is entitled to have their say?

… while we’re at it, why is a New Zealand resident of Holland and a non-Iranian posting to Iranian.Com, especially one who it is claimed has been disenfranchised by the Baha’i establishment?

I responded (September 23, 2009:

This is off-topic, but easily answered. Anyone who looks at my
blog on can see that I am part of the community there
mainly because of the Iranian literature connection. I am a Master’s
student in Persian, on the editorial board of the Iranian Studies Series,
and edit or translate a lot of books relating to Iranian literature or
Iranian studies in general. A couple of these are listed on
the[URL=””%5D ‘publications’
tab of my blog[/URL] Some of my articles and translations that are
available electronically are listed on my blog here. is open to non-Persians: the site has a magazine format
and has created a broad cultural community. I do not need to
apologise to anyone for being part of it.

As for my being removed from the Bahai membership rolls, the story is on
my Bahai Studies blog in a blog entry called What is theology, and what´s it good for?

There are links to the only documents there are, on the ‘about Sen’ tab. It
looks as if someone sent the UHJ a selective quotation from the Foreword
to my book Church and State, at a time when the book itself was not yet
available in Israel, and the UHJ thought I was aspiring to some sort of
leadership in the Bahai community and removed me by way of precaution. If
there’s more to the story, the UHJ is not sharing it so far. I’ve asked
several times to be re-enrolled, but didn’t get any further idea from the
answers of what the UHJ’s purpose may be, but…

… we know that all things work together for good to them that
love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
(Romans 8:28)

Since I was not actually looking for any sort of leadership, not being on
the membership rolls doesn’t affect me very much. So there’s not much
downside to a ‘better safe than sorry approach.’ If I was angling for
leadership, the UHJ’s action would effectively put a stop to it. But
that’s not my thing. I had served on local assemblies and as an
‘assistant’ at various times, but in small communities where I felt there
was not much choice. Meetings and agendas are not my thing, and I am happy
to let other people do that. Now I can focus on with my own kinds of

+ teaching (in the sense of preaching, not teaching classes),
+ pastoral stuff like visiting the sick, + defence of the faith (against
honest critiques and anti-Bahaism, for Islam against islamophobia, and for
religion as a whole against critiques of religion)
+ theology, not as an academic discipline (though it should meet academic standards), but as “faith seeking understanding” and as a way of helping believers with the life of faith by clearing up misunderstandings that get in their way. A lot of this happens through my blog.

Perhaps the UHJ has placed me in just the position I am best suited to,
but I’ve asked to be re-enrolled and I guess I will ask again in a few
year’s time. Disenrollment is not like being declared a heretic or having
the anathema pronounced: I am still free to attend conferences and summer
schools organised by the Bahais, and I have done so and on a couple of
occasions have been a speaker, I can go to local unity feasts, devotional
meeting and holy day celebrations. I can’t be enrolled in the Bahai
community. It’s a bit like being a Catholic but not being accepted for the
priesthood, or living in a medieval walled monastery for a decade or two,
and then being summoned by the Abbot and told “Brother Sen, the chapel
outside the walls needs you. Pack your bags.” The UHJ’s authority extends
over all Bahais, not just those on the membership rolls, because it flows
from the direct words of Baha’u’llah. So I’m extramurally active, and try
with reasonable success to do it with joy, and not to cause the UHJ any
grief about it:

“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.
Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly.”
(Hebrews 13:17-18)

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