US NSA Annual Report – Ridvan 2007

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.

  • Craig Parke

    Back in 1992 when my father passed away (May God rest his soul. He was a very fine man.) I read quite a few NDE (Near Death Experience) books about peoples’ experiences who had passed over to the next world and then come back to this world to be revived.

    One particularly moving one was that of a Vietnam combat veteran who went through an NDE. I think he had been severly injured in a car crash and had no pulse. He had died. In his experience he bacame aware of the Viet Cong soldier he had killed in battle during the Vietnam War. He relived the event as it had happened in this world. But this time as he saw the enemy soldier die he was able now to watch that enemy soldier’s face up close. Now he was able to feel all of the death in the loss of that single life. He felt the grief of that soldier’s father and mother, his wife and now fatherless children. He then felt the loss of all the lives that were changed. Of children that were not then born to him who were supposed to have been. And of those who were destined to be effected by them and now would not. He was filled with great loss and then supreme compassion. It was an experience of loss, grief, and compassion that deeply moved him and immediately changed him in his life when he was turned back to this world.

    I have been a dedicated and steadfast Baha’i for 36 years and have served in many different capacities over this long period of time. The Baha’i Faith is now clearly in a shambles. The US NSA has stated the case for change and new thinking. The UHJ has sternly replied in their April 19th, 2007 letter that there will be no change in anything whatsoever. Period.

    So I now wonder what it is going to be like for the current members of the UHJ and the current members of the US NSA when they cross over to the next world in the hour of their deaths? The current UHJ and their top down ITC Faith “think tank” creation are completely intractable. The US NSA is a little late in the game to actually start to manifest critical thought but I fully commend them for trying at this very late hour before the total calamity of unaddressed freefall.

    I personally know of now eight people who have left the Baha’i Faith in total disgust over the last two years after decades of steadfast dedication totalling over 230 years of combined service. People who served on LSA’s, DTC’s, and even as pioneers serving on foreign NSA’s. One person gave over $40,000 to the Faith in a two year period in service to an overseas NSA . All of these people are now
    gone. Some are in the 369 former Baha’is mentioned in the report who formally withdrew last year. Some are too disgusted to even bother to write a formal letter of withdrawal of any kind now. They have just walked out of the Faith.

    So I wonder what it will be like for these members of the UHJ and the US NSA when they cross over to the next world in the hour of their deaths?

    I wonder if like that soldier each one of them will feel the spiritual loss and the incredible sorrow of all the damage they did and the hurt they caused to so many other dedicated souls by their completely thoughtless actions and their breathtaking hare brained mismanagement of the precious human beings who were entrusted to them? I wonder if they will ever grasp the true sheer scope of the astonishing destruction that they have caused? Will they see and feel in the solitude of their own souls the sheer magnitude of the death and loss they have personally caused in their lifetime incumbent service at the top?

    As that soldier said along with many others who have had NDE experiences, there is no judgment of you in the next world. You judge yourself. Yes. These are terrible, terrible words. You judge yourself on what you have done in your life. You judge yourself. I wonder what it will be like for them now?

  • Craig Parke

    Back in 1992 when my father passed away (May God rest his soul. He was a very fine man.) I read quite a few NDE (Near Death Experience) books about peoples’ experiences who had passed over to the next world and then come back to this world to be revived.

    One particularly moving one was that of a Vietnam combat veteran who went through an NDE. I think he had been severly injured in a car crash and had no pulse. He had died. In his experience he bacame aware of the Viet Cong soldier he had killed in battle during the Vietnam War. He relived the event as it had happened in this world. But this time as he saw the enemy soldier die he was able now to watch that enemy soldier’s face up close. Now he was able to feel all of the death in the loss of that single life. He felt the grief of that soldier’s father and mother, his wife and now fatherless children. He then felt the loss of all the lives that were changed. Of children that were not then born to him who were supposed to have been. And of those who were destined to be effected by them and now would not. He was filled with great loss and then supreme compassion. It was an experience of loss, grief, and compassion that deeply moved him and immediately changed him in his life when he was turned back to this world.

    I have been a dedicated and steadfast Baha’i for 36 years and have served in many different capacities over this long period of time. The Baha’i Faith is now clearly in a shambles. The US NSA has stated the case for change and new thinking. The UHJ has sternly replied in their April 19th, 2007 letter that there will be no change in anything whatsoever. Period.

    So I now wonder what it is going to be like for the current members of the UHJ and the current members of the US NSA when they cross over to the next world in the hour of their deaths? The current UHJ and their top down ITC Faith “think tank” creation are completely intractable. The US NSA is a little late in the game to actually start to manifest critical thought but I fully commend them for trying at this very late hour before the total calamity of unaddressed freefall.

    I personally know of now eight people who have left the Baha’i Faith in total disgust over the last two years after decades of steadfast dedication totalling over 230 years of combined service. People who served on LSA’s, DTC’s, and even as pioneers serving on foreign NSA’s. One person gave over $40,000 to the Faith in a two year period in service to an overseas NSA . All of these people are now
    gone. Some are in the 369 former Baha’is mentioned in the report who formally withdrew last year. Some are too disgusted to even bother to write a formal letter of withdrawal of any kind now. They have just walked out of the Faith.

    So I wonder what it will be like for these members of the UHJ and the US NSA when they cross over to the next world in the hour of their deaths?

    I wonder if like that soldier each one of them will feel the spiritual loss and the incredible sorrow of all the damage they did and the hurt they caused to so many other dedicated souls by their completely thoughtless actions and their breathtaking hare brained mismanagement of the precious human beings who were entrusted to them? I wonder if they will ever grasp the true sheer scope of the astonishing destruction that they have caused? Will they see and feel in the solitude of their own souls the sheer magnitude of the death and loss they have personally caused in their lifetime incumbent service at the top?

    As that soldier said along with many others who have had NDE experiences, there is no judgment of you in the next world. You judge yourself. Yes. These are terrible, terrible words. You judge yourself on what you have done in your life. You judge yourself. I wonder what it will be like for them now?

  • Brendan Cook

    Baquia,

    This is a great summary of a long message. Glad to have it set out so clearly. But what of part 2? What of the UHJ’s response, the response that essentially dismisses the NSA’s concerns? I presume that’s coming up. But good work so far.

    Brendan

  • Brendan Cook

    Baquia,

    This is a great summary of a long message. Glad to have it set out so clearly. But what of part 2? What of the UHJ’s response, the response that essentially dismisses the NSA’s concerns? I presume that’s coming up. But good work so far.

    Brendan

  • Priscilla Gilman

    Reading the NSA annual report was the first time I actually felt love in an official letter from them. Their concern for the LSAs, communities, and individual Baha’is under their care is palpable. They seem to have even been interested in why more people are leaving the Faith. Unlike Peter Khan, who somehow knows without ever talking to the people concerned that it has nothing to do with the Baha’i community and is simply and universally attributable to those individuals’ failure to develop what he calls “heightened spiritual consciousness,” the NSA has noted an increase in conflict within the community as a cause. I suspect there are many more reasons, but it is very interesting that this one stood out.

    There is a much bigger issue underlying it all and that is that internal rot is ineveitable for any community that makes getting converts its primary focus. Right relationships can not come about this way. Its a sick way to relate to other people and the world, and if this obsession were part of the public image of the Faith there would be even fewer people signing up and showing up.

  • Priscilla Gilman

    Reading the NSA annual report was the first time I actually felt love in an official letter from them. Their concern for the LSAs, communities, and individual Baha’is under their care is palpable. They seem to have even been interested in why more people are leaving the Faith. Unlike Peter Khan, who somehow knows without ever talking to the people concerned that it has nothing to do with the Baha’i community and is simply and universally attributable to those individuals’ failure to develop what he calls “heightened spiritual consciousness,” the NSA has noted an increase in conflict within the community as a cause. I suspect there are many more reasons, but it is very interesting that this one stood out.

    There is a much bigger issue underlying it all and that is that internal rot is ineveitable for any community that makes getting converts its primary focus. Right relationships can not come about this way. Its a sick way to relate to other people and the world, and if this obsession were part of the public image of the Faith there would be even fewer people signing up and showing up.

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  • http://www.whoisbahaullah.com Alison Marshall

    Craig, that’s a fabulous comment! You’ve got it exactly right: when we die, we judge ourselves on the facts of what happened, not on our idle fancies about it. There can be no doubt that the House members will face the reality of what they’ve done, when they die.

    I’ve read some NDEs too and they match with the account of the Vietnam vet. His story is very moving and makes you think hard about the consequences of what you do.

    I think the Vietnam vet, after the NDE, came closer to the state “freed from error”. It doesn’t mean he is infallible; it means he’s no longer interested in doing anything morally wrong. Instead, he has woken up and can see the conseequences of his actions and will avoid acting out of self and passion.

    Alison

  • http://www.whoisbahaullah.com Alison Marshall

    Craig, that’s a fabulous comment! You’ve got it exactly right: when we die, we judge ourselves on the facts of what happened, not on our idle fancies about it. There can be no doubt that the House members will face the reality of what they’ve done, when they die.

    I’ve read some NDEs too and they match with the account of the Vietnam vet. His story is very moving and makes you think hard about the consequences of what you do.

    I think the Vietnam vet, after the NDE, came closer to the state “freed from error”. It doesn’t mean he is infallible; it means he’s no longer interested in doing anything morally wrong. Instead, he has woken up and can see the conseequences of his actions and will avoid acting out of self and passion.

    Alison

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  • Gregory Williams

    I went looking for the NSA letter on the USNBC website and I cannot find it. Has it actually been removed?

    What is going on here? I don’t understand it.

  • Gregory Williams

    I went looking for the NSA letter on the USNBC website and I cannot find it. Has it actually been removed?

    What is going on here? I don’t understand it.

  • http://www.bahairants.com Baquia

    I’m sure it is still there. You have to look in the right place since there are a few different categories.

  • http://www.bahairants.com Baquia

    I’m sure it is still there. You have to look in the right place since there are a few different categories.

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