National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States
The elected governing body of the U.S. Baha'i community is the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States, a nine-member council with headquarters in Evanston, Illinois, near the Baha'i House of Worship in neighboring Wilmette. The current members of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States are (seated, left to right): Kenneth E. Bowers, Valerie Dana, Juana C. Conrad, and Robert C. Henderson, (standing, left to right): David F. Young, Fariba Aghdasi, Jacqueline Left Hand Bull, Erica Toussaint, and Muin Afnani.
The National Spiritual Assembly oversees the administrative affairs of the Baha'is of the United States and provides guidance for their spiritual and moral development. The Assembly oversees a publishing trust and several periodicals, including The American Baha’i newspaper; Brilliant Star, a magazine for children; and World Order, a quarterly journal of opinion and ideas. The Assembly also operates retreat and conference centers in California, Michigan, Maine and South Carolina.
Whether at the local, regional, national, or international level, Baha'i elections follow a similar process that seeks to choose spiritually minded leaders from the entire body of believers in the area. The electoral process at the national level is different in one respect. While the local Assembly is elected by all adult community members, the National Spiritual Assembly is elected by delegates, who, in turn, are chosen in "district" conventions. All adult Baha'is are eligible to vote in district conventions, and so the connection between the individual and his or her national-level governing body remains quite close. In choosing members of the National Spiritual Assembly, delegates may vote for any adult Baha'i residing in the country - once again preserving the freedom of choice that is fundamental to the Baha'i electoral system.
As the Faith has grown, so have the number of National Spiritual Assemblies. In 1954, for example, there were only 12 National Spiritual Assemblies. By 2004, there were 183 National Spiritual Assemblies around the world - in nearly every country. Just as the men and women serving on Local Spiritual Assemblies oversee Baha'i community affairs within a municipal locality, National Spiritual Assemblies are charged with guiding and coordinating Baha'i activities within a given country. Their activities range from the adoption of nationwide teaching plans to the initiation of large-scale social and economic development projects; from overseeing relations with their respective national governments to coordinating with other religious groups and nongovernmental organizations.
“Its immediate purpose is to stimulate, unify, and co-ordinate by frequent personal consultations the manifold activities of the friends as well as the local Assemblies; and, by keeping in close and constant touch with the Holy Land, initiate measures, and direct in general the affairs of the Cause in that country.”— Shoghi Effendi