Hands of the Cause of God
An 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, although they may delegate specific executive responsibilities.
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 regularly sought by elected Bahá'í decision-making bodies.
Foremost among these advisers were the "Hands of the Cause of God." This title was given given to 50 individuals in the history of the Faith; all were chosen by Bahá'u'lláh, referred to as such by `Abdu'l-Bahá, or appointed by Shoghi Effendi. 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 in the areas of the protection and propagation of the Faith. 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 at the Bahá'í World Centre in Haifa, Israel. 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 81 Continental Counsellors worldwide. Another nine serve as members of the International Teaching Centre.