THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE INTERNATIONAL BAHA'I COUNCIL

It is a belief of Orthodox Bahá'ís that, aside from each of the three Guardians of the Faith having used the formation of the International Bahá'í Council as the instrumentality to designate their respective spiritual successors to the Guardianship, the Council has more than a symbolic role.

Shoghi Effendi, of course, provided that the International Bahá'í Council that he named had a threefold function of forging a link with authorities of the State of Israel, assisting him in the discharge of his responsibilities in erecting the Shrine of the Bab, and conducting "negotiations related to matters of personal status with civil authorities." He also noted that as the Council evolved, further functions would be added to it. The Council that he established in his ministry was calculated to develop into an "officially recognized Bahá'í Court" and then to transform into a "duly elected body," eventually efflorescing into the Universal House of Justice and "its final fruition through the erection of manifold auxiliary institutions constituting the World Administrative Center."

The significance of the Council he established clearly implied that the Guardianship of the Faith was a key element within that body inasmuch as the functions of working with Israeli authorities and the "matters of personal status with civil authorities" both were related to specific responsibilities of the Guardian. Certainly, his identification of such functions was beyond the functions established in the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá for the Hands of the Cause, whose responsibilities are set forth as spiritual duties rather than administrative work; and following his passing, the International Council should have been the institution that was turned to by the believers and by all the subordinate organizations rather than the body of Hands.

As second Guardian of the Faith, Mason Remey initiated the Second International Bahá'í Council. And though he did not make reference to such functions of the Council as Shoghi Effendi had identified, he provided for a sequence to the appointment of his successor by saying that the members of the Council that he named were in an order which, if the President of the body (Joel B. Marangella) was unable to assume the office of Guardian, then the next member in line would become the Guardian. Mason Remey indicated that he felt such a process might be necessary because of his view that a world-wide catastrophe might occur and a number of members of the Council might not live through it.

Within the Third International Bahá'í Council that Joel B. Marangella, as the third Guardian, developed was the use of a similar succession sequence to that employed by Mason Remey. Unlike either Shoghi Effendi and Mason Remey, though, Joel Marangella, in his role as third Guardian of the Faith, placed himself over the Council as its President, naming his successor as the Vice-President of the Council. Like Shoghi Effendi's Council, the body established by the third Guardian has other designated officers with specific functions assigned to them. Thus, the Council of the third Guardian is a functioning organism under his direction, and those functions are international in scope. The Secretary-General, for instance, is assigned the responsibility to develop an international newsletter and to communicate on behalf of the Council with believers and Orthodox Councils throughout the world. Other members of the Council have specific responsibilities spelled out for them, several being charged with developing materials for certain geographic areas and the Treasurer of the body being given the responsibility to handle an International Fund.

Naturally, in the fullness of time, the International Bahá'í Council will eventually evolve to the Universal House of Justice, with the Guardian of the Faith serving that body as its "sacred head," all in accordance with what 'Abdu'l-Bahá set forth in His Will and Testament, the Charter of the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh. So, truly, the establishment of the International Bahá'í Council has a significance that goes far beyond what it may appear to be in its present-day operation. (By IBC Secretary-General Frank Schlatter)