The National Spiritual Assembly
Updated: Dec 31, 2018
The same basic rules governing elections and decision-making are followed in the constitution and operation of Bahá'í governing councils at the national and international levels as they are at the local level. National governing councils, known as National Spiritual Assemblies, are formed whenever there is a sufficient base of local Bahá'í communities in a given country or territory.
Accordingly, as the Faith has grown, so have the number of National Spiritual Assemblies. In 1954, for example, there were just 12 National Spiritual Assemblies. By 2006, there were 179 National Spiritual Assemblies around the world-in nearly every country.
The same basic procedures outlined for the election of local Spiritual Assemblies are followed in electing National Spiritual Assemblies: no nominations are permitted, campaigning is forbidden, spiritual capacity is emphasized, and those men and women who receive the most votes are elected.
In this case, however, the voters are delegates to a national convention and they may vote for any adult Bahá'í residing in the country. These delegates are chosen each year in a secret ballot by the adult Bahá'ís who reside within specially defined electoral districts. The districts cover the entire country.
Just as the men and women serving on local Spiritual Assemblies oversee Bahá'í community affairs within a municipal locality, National Spiritual Assemblies are charged with guiding and coordinating Bahá'í activities within a given country. Their tasks range from the initiation and administration of large-scale social and economic development projects to book publishing; from overseeing relations with their respective national governments to the coordination of collaboration with other religious groups and non-governmental organizations. The responsibilities of a National Spiritual Assembly also include channelling the community’s financial resources, fostering the growth and vibrancy of the national Bahá’í community, supervising the affairs of the community including resolving questions from individuals and Local Spiritual Assemblies, and strengthening the participation of the Bahá’í community in the life of society at the national level.
Shoghi Effendi, in a letter written on his behalf, likens the functioning of a National Spiritual Assembly to the beating of a healthy heart, “pumping spiritual love, energy and encouragement”.