|The emphasis on group leadership,
as opposed to individual power, runs throughout the Bahá'í administrative system.
Individuals do not set policy or make rules in Bahá'í Institutions --
Spiritual Assemblies make the decisions, but may delegate specific executive
There are, however, several distinct groups of individuals
who are recognized for their spiritual capacities and experience. They play a special role
in inspiring and advising the Bahá'í community.
Although they have no decision-making power, their ideas and
insights are often sought by elected Bahá'í decision-making bodies.
Foremost among these advisers are the "Hands of the
Cause of God." This title has been given to some 47 individuals in the history of the
Faith; all were appointed either by Bahá'u'lláh or Shoghi Effendi. Only three were living in mid-1992, and no more can
now be appointed.
In 1968, the Universal House of Justice began to designate a
number of spiritually mature and experienced individuals as "Continental
Counsellors," so as to extend into the future the functions of the Hands of the
Cause. Appointed to five year terms, they coordinate their activities through the
instrumentality of continental Boards. The work of the Boards--which comprise those
Counsellors who reside in a specific continental region--is coordinated, in turn, by a
body known as the International Teaching Centre. Located in Haifa, Israel, the Centre's
membership comprises all living Hands of the Cause and a number of Counsellors.
Continental Counsellors appoint various auxiliaries and assistants, who are charged with
working to stimulate and advise Bahá'í communities at the regional and local levels.
There are 72 Counsellors worldwide.