A National Convention FAQ

April 22, 2019
A National Convention FAQ

Q. What are the purposes of the annual Baha’i National Convention?

A. The Universal House of Justice, global governing council of the Baha’i Faith, has explained to our National Spiritual Assembly that “the primary purpose in holding a convention is to enable the delegates to meet together, deliberate freely upon the affairs of the community, and cast their ballots.” The balloting to which the letter refers is for the nine members of the National Assembly that will serve for the coming year.

Q. When is National Convention?

A. April 25–28, 2019. Most years, including this one, National Convention is held on an extended weekend in late April during the 12-day Baha’i Festival of Ridvan, anniversary of Baha’u’llah’s public declaration of His mission in 1863. Elections of Baha’i institutions at the local and international levels are also generally held during this period.

The Bahá’í House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois, is the setting for the U.S. Bahá’í National Convention, April 25–28, 2019. Photo by Richard Doering

Q. Where is National Convention held?

A. All sessions of the National Convention are held at the Bahá’í House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois.

Q. Who can attend National Convention?

A. The small number of seats in Foundation Hall at the Bahá’í House of Worship greatly limits the number of people who can attend. Delegates are guaranteed seats, as are members of the Continental Board of Counselors and the National Spiritual Assembly. The remainder of seats in Foundation Hall are filled by members of other Baha’i institutions and invited guests.

Q. How are National Convention delegates elected, and who is eligible to serve?

A. The number of delegates allocated to the U.S. Baha’i National Convention was set by the Guardian, Shoghi Effendi, at 171. At unit conventions in early October, Baha’is elect delegates residing in each unit. Any adult Baha’i in good standing who lives in the unit is eligible to serve as a delegate, except members of the Continental Board of Counselors. If an elected delegate cannot serve, the National Spiritual Assembly chooses his or her replacement.

Q. How do delegates prepare for National Convention?

A. To assist new and returning delegates in preparing for participation in the Convention, they are provided with many writings from the Faith relating to Convention. Election materials, the National Spiritual Assembly’s Annual Report, and a preliminary Convention agenda also are provided to delegates. On the morning National Convention begins, delegates study guidance together on the significance and purpose of the National Convention, with members of the Continental Board of Counselors facilitating.

Q. Who may speak at National Convention?

A. The privilege of the floor is extended to delegates, members of the Continental Board of Counselors, and members of the National Spiritual Assembly. Also able to speak when invited are Baha’is who deliver reports or possess information that will inform the delegates’ consultation.

Q. Who may serve as a National Convention officer?

A. Any delegate present for the proceedings may serve as Convention chair or secretary. The body of delegates elects the officers by secret ballot in the opening session of the Convention.

Q. How is the National Convention agenda decided?

A. A preliminary agenda, guided by the purposes of National Convention and themes of global plans for development of the Faith, is presented by the National Spiritual Assembly to the delegates. Delegates are free to propose changes to the agenda and have them adopted by the body of delegates.

Q. How is consultation conducted at National Convention?

A. The exact manner of consultation, such as how long each delegate may speak or whether preference will be given to delegates who have not yet spoken, is decided by the body of delegates at the beginning of Convention. When delegates speak they may offer insights on the topic of consultation for that time period and offer a suggestion or recommendation to the National Spiritual Assembly for its consideration. Suggestions require no vote of the body of delegates. A recommendation that receives a second is consulted on specifically and the body of delegates decides by show of hands whether to pass it along to the National Assembly.

Q. How is the National Spiritual Assembly elected?

A. On Saturday morning of National Convention, the delegates gather — in a session observed by the members of the Continental Board of Counselors present and Convention guests — to vote prayerfully by secret ballot for the nine members of the National Spiritual Assembly. Any adult Baha’i in good standing, residing in the contiguous United States, is eligible for election — no nominations or campaigning allowed. A ballot that contains more or fewer than nine names is invalid. A vote for a person not eligible for election is not counted. Delegates who cannot attend Convention may vote by absentee ballot. The nine individuals receiving the highest number of votes serve on the National Assembly for one year.

Q. How are National Spiritual Assembly election results reported at National Convention?

A. The names of the nine elected members of the National Spiritual Assembly are announced the day of balloting. Other details on how voting results are reported may be decided by the body of delegates on the first day of Convention.

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