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Orthodox Bahá'í Faith
The Orthodox Bahá'í Faith is a movement which started within the Bahá'í Faith, though now independent of it. Total membership is estimated at up to a few thousand. Although the beliefs of the main division and the Orthodox Bahá'ís are for the most part identical, they differ on the issue of ongoing leadership.
Between the years 1957 and 1960, the Bahá'í Faith underwent a severe test of succession. The majority of Bahá'ís, under the Hands of the Cause of God (a group of Bahá'ís that included Charles Mason Remey, and that was appointed by Shoghi Effendi according to the provisions of `Abdu’l-Bahá's Will and Testament) followed the Hands' corporate leadership of the Faith. The remainder followed Remey as the new individual leader of the group forming the Orthodox Bahá'í Faith.
Nature of the Dispute
During the time immediately following the unexpected death of Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith, Charles Mason Remey attempted to change the plan of his fellow Hands who had determined to elect the Universal House of Justice mentioned by both Baha'u'llah and Abdul-Baha. Remey signed the unanimous statement of the Hands that no document appointing a successor Guardian had been found, and that no such appointment of a blood relative was possible.
The first proclamation was sent from the first conclave of the Hands, gathered in Bahji, "To the Bahá'ís of East and West" announcing that, as "The Aghsan (branches) one and all are either dead or have been declared violators of the Covenant by the Guardian", it was apparent "that no successor to Shoghi Effendi could have been appointed by him...." (Branches is the term used in the Bahá'í Faith for the descendants of Baha'u'llah.)
The second proclamation from the conclave of the Hands called on the believers to unite in completing the Guardian's Ten Year Crusade. The Hands pointed out that, in due course, the Bahá'í world would elect "the Universal House of Justice, that Supreme Body upon which infallibility, as the Master's Testament assures us, is divinely conferred: When that divinely ordained Body comes into existence, all the conditions of the Faith can be examined anew and the measures necessary for its future operation determined in consultation with the Hands of the Cause." Mason Remey again joined his fellow Hands in signing this second formal statement that there was no blood relative successor to Shoghi Effendi as Guardian of the Cause of God.
The Orthodox Bahá'ís acknowledge his signing the document. They believe that even the present Orthodox Guardian could have signed it, since they claim that it stated only that Shoghi Effendi had not appointed a successor by a Will and Testament, and that there were no living bloodline relatives he could have appointed. The larger Bahá'í Faith group maintains actual text of the proclamation, however, which Remey signed, makes the broad statement that "no successor to Shoghi Effendi could have been appointed by him" and does not limit itself either in the manner the designation would have been left (such as by allowing for an appointment outside of a Will and Testament) nor does it allow for a nonrelative to be appointed (see http://bahai-library.org/published.uhj/ministry.custodians.html#36 for the text of this statement and see the text beginning at http://bahai-library.org/published.uhj/ministry.custodians.html#231 for the Hands' further expanding on this position including their indicating that "aghsan" could only apply to male descendants of Bahá'u'lláh ). The Orthodox maintain a different position concerning the same documents. (Concerning the Hands interpretation of "Branch' see http://www.bahai-guardian.com/myth.html and for explanation of why any Guardian could have signed the statements indicated see http://www.bahai-guardian.com/even.html)
The belief as to whether there was - or could be - another living Guardian, and whether the Universal House of Justice could properly function without a living Guardian was the basis for the division which followed.
Announcement of the Division
Remey remained silent to the general Bahá'í community until 1960 when he stated that unity could not be preserved at the cost of the Guardianship. He maintained that he would not be able to convince the Hands that a living Guardian was indispensable, according to his interpretations of the Writings of the Faith.
In 1960 he proclaimed to the Bahá'ís that Shoghi Effendi had appointed him Second Guardian of the Bahá'í World Faith, and outlined the means by which the late Guardian had appointed him. According to Mason's Proclamation Shoghi Effendi appointed Mason Remey as the Head of the First International Bahai Council. The Council was named by Shoghi Effendi "the embryonic Universal House of Justice", but it was never activated by the Guardian. According to Mason's Proclamation, only a Guardian can be the President of an activated Universal House of Justice; that in 1957, with the passing of Shoghi Effendi, this embryonic institution automatically became the administrative body over the National and Local Assemblies per the instructions of the late Guardian; and that Mason Remey - as President of the embryonic Universal House of Justice - became the Second Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith. However, in the proclamation which Remey had earlier signed with the other Hands, it was indicated that the International Bahá'í Council had not yet fulfilled its charge (and that this institution was not to become the House of Justice but to instead help lead to its formation and that the body of the Hands would determine how it would evolve as such):"...the entire body of the Hands, assembled by the nine Hands of the World Centre, will decide when and how the International Bahá'í Council is to evolve through the successive stages outlined by the Guardian, culminating in the call to election of the Universal House of Justice by the membership of all National Spiritual Assemblies."
While the majority of Bahá'ís followed the Hands, and the Hands declared Mason Remey to be a Covenant-Breaker, some individuals followed Mason Remey. These became known as Orthodox Bahá'ís. The Orthodox Bahá'ís refer to the main group as sans-Guardian Bahá'ís.
According to the members of the Orthodox Bahá'í Faith, Joel Bray Marangella became Guardian of the Orthodox Bahá'í Faith based on the activation by Mason Remey of the Second International Bahai Council with Marangella as its appointed President in October 1965, and by Remey's earlier written appointment of him as Guardian.
See Minor Baha'i divisions for subdivisions within the Orthodox Bahá'ís that have disputed this appointment.
Orthodox Bahá'ís now reside in over 70 localities throughout the world.
See also: Bábís
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