It now seems that the US National Spiritual Assembly may not be as asleep at the wheel as it seems. Or perhaps not all members are snoozing. Or perhaps the full frontal assault of reality on their senses is simply too much for even them to ignore any further.
Here is the full Annual Report of the US National Spiritual Assembly’s Ridvan 2007 (pdf). You’ll need an Adobe Acrobat or similar software to read it. The underlined are my own emphasis to draw your attention to important points.
If you don’t have Adobe Acrobat or similar software, you can view the document here.
Please read the full report for yourself and do your own thinking. Unlike Counsellor Murphy, I agree with Baha’u’llah and believe that we should see things with our own eyes and ears and not through the eyes and ears of others.
Here are some highlights:
- Nevertheless, as we reported last year, growth remains low. The past 10 years have witnessed a sharp decline of enrollments (50 percent). This year the current rate of net growth is nearing 0 percent.
A rare acknowledgement of reality.
- …we observed that the consultation of the institutional leaders mirrors issues identical to those being raised in clusters across the national community
This was apparently a watershed moment where many voiced their displeasure at the current direction of the Baha’i community.
- At the present rate, our net growth will approach zero. From 1980 to 1997, the Baha’i community nearly doubled in size (77,000 to 137,000, excluding Iranian immigrants), with significant increases in the rate of retention. The 50 percent drop in enrollments since 1997 means that enrollments are now at the same level they were in the 1960s, when the Baha’i community was a small fraction of its current size. The number of enrollments to date for this year is 872.
872 !! That’s an average of about 72 people a month. For a country of 300+ million people! For the largest and most dynamic Baha’i community in the world. Keep that 872 figure in mind for another reason (coming up).
- Historically, those same areas have always contributed disproportionately to growth in this country, as they have the largest populations of Baha’is. The difference now is that while their proportionate contributions remain the same, their rate of enrollments has decreased. The aim of achieving both accelerated and sustained growth has yet to be realized, even in “A” clusters.
So basically, all this beaurocratic mumbo-jumbo about clusters and Ruhi institutes has resulted in: ZILCH.
- Yet, there is a pervasive feeling of confusion and dislocation among many Local Spiritual Assemblies, including those in “A” clusters.
Hmmm.. I wonder why? It couldn’t be that they are being marginalized by appointed institutions, could it?
- We are concerned that feelings of disempowerment and mixed signals regarding roles and responsibilities are robbing the current Plan of the spiritual benefits that flow from the wholehearted participation of these divine institutions
Or maybe it could.
- The result is a narrowly defined model of growth that permits a small range of initiative, allows little creativity, and accepts few real innovations
Yikes! More truth. Can the Baha’i community take this much truth? Maybe the NSA should have rationed it out. Hmmm.. rigidity, little creativity, few real innovations. Why does that strike a bell?
- While we fully appreciate the need for Baha’i communities to avoid placing undue emphasis on proclamation activities…
Double yikes !!
- The problem we face is that proclamation is widely considered to be inconsistent with the framework for action in the Five Year Plan.
Well, it is tough to be teach since that would require an outward focus and we can’t be distracted by that sort of thing now. We need to focus on the navel gazing. Navel gazing people! Did you do your Book #8 Navel Gazing?
- hardly a word is spoken about who seekers are, what they want, or how they experienced their contact with the Baha’i community
Who cares! They’re just ‘seekers’. Are you perhaps, trying to suggest that these are you know, actual people? With feelings, goals, values, desires, faults, challenges and gifts? How preposterous!
- our discourse about teaching does not sufficiently take into consideration issues of broad social concern
Well, as long as you consider Ruhi to be a “broad social concern” we are doing just peachy. Thank you very much.
- During that period, Baha’is increased the size of the Baha’i community, the retention of new believers, the number of functioning Spiritual Assemblies, contributions to the Funds, the spiritual education of children and youth, social and economic development, and more.
Ahhh… yes. I remember it well. The pre-Ruhi period. I’m glad that’s over. Aren’t you? I mean who wants a dynamic community, vibrant with activities, new believers, contributions to the Funds and all that other stuff. I’d rather have what we have now. Don’t you?
- What appears to be underappreciated in most clusters is that receptive populations, and especially youth, cannot be expected to come to the Faith entirely on our terms. We must acknowledge that there is still much to learn about reaching them, and that successful approaches will eventually emerge to the extent that we cultivate an atmosphere of experimentation, imagination, and audacity.
Huh? You mean the answer isn’t just Ruhi, more Ruhi and then some more Ruhi?
- People will make sacrifices for a great purpose that they will not make for activities. A focus on activities at the expense of vision will yield a community that is rule-bound and prone to conflict, where a culture of learning and innovation are nearly impossible, where individuals are treated as “insiders” or “outsiders” according to perceptions of their obedience to direction, and where expression of legitimate concerns is viewed as uninformed or disloyal.
Are you saying that we shouldn’t just focus on Ruhi classes, devotionals and such just to pump the numbers and stats up for reporting? What kind of crazy talk is that?
Expressions of legitimate concern? Whoa! Next thing you know, constructive criticism will be allowed. Slow down!
- In our experience at regional and cluster meetings, it is routinely assumed for purposes of analysis that all enrollments in any given cluster can be attributed directly and only to the core activities. Further investigation almost always yields a far more complex picture that includes proclamations, firesides, striking innovations in approach, and other types of activity that go unacknowledged.
Holy Smokes! Are they trying to imply that “core activities” are not all that they’re cracked up to be and that other activities and approaches are yielding better results? Very dangerous grounds the NSA is treading.
- To date, the achievement of 6,000 tutors in the United States has not yielded growth in enrollments, nor is the growth of the core activities themselves commensurate with the number of Baha’is who have completed courses.
Yikes! No results?!
- This year, withdrawals (369) from Baha’i membership have risen 30 percent.
Oh my God !! Remember how many new Baha’is there were in the year? (from above) 872. And there were 369 withdrawals. To put that in perspective 42% of the amount of new believers walked out the door. They weren’t necessarily the same people but that doesn’t matter. And you know that for each person that officially withdraws from the Faith, there are atleast 2-3 that simply walk away and don’t bother contacting the NSA. The situation is dire. To not see that is to simply refuse to accept reality.