In addition to its extraordinary diversity and wide geographic distribution, perhaps the most distinctive feature of the Baha'i community is its unity. Explicit teachings on the institutional framework of the Faith and a clear line of succession of leadership have protected the Baha'i Faith from schism. More than 100 years after the passing of Baha'u'llah, the single worldwide Baha'i community is knit together by a network of elected institutions. Baha'u'llah taught that in an age of universal education, there was no longer a need for a special class of clergy. Instead, he provided a framework for administering the affairs of the Faith through a system of elected councils at the local, national and international levels. All Baha'i elections occur through secret ballot and plurality vote, without candidacies, nominations or campaigning.
The Universal House of Justice is the international governing body of the worldwide Baha'i community. Endowed by Baha'u'llah with the authority to legislate on all matters not specifically laid down in the Baha'i scriptures, the House of Justice keeps the Baha'i community unified and responsive to the needs and conditions of an evolving world. The Universal House of Justice is a nine-member body elected every five years by the members of national Baha'i assemblies.
The permanent seat of the Universal House of Justice is located at the Baha'i World Centre on the slopes of Mount Carmel in northern Israel. From this building and others nearby, a staff of more than 600 people from 60 countries administers the international affairs of the Baha'i world community. From Haifa, information is transmitted back and forth between national Baha'i communities; international goals and plans are disseminated; social and economic development projects are monitored; statistics are collected and kept; and international funds are managed. There is also an international archives building, within which are housed relics, writings and artifacts associated with the lives of the Bab, Baha'u'llah, and `Abdu'l-Baha.
The world's 182 National Spiritual Assemblies are elected each year at national conventions attended by delegates representing all the Baha'is in each country.
The National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United Kingdom has its administrative office in London, England. The National Assembly oversees the administrative affairs of the Baha’is of the United Kingdom, supervises a publishing trust and publishes several periodicals including a quarterly magazine. The National Spiritual Assembly also engages in collaborative projects with other religious groups and non-government organizations, provides resources and guidance for the spiritual and moral development of Baha’i members, and supports the activities of the Baha’i Faith internationally.
All costs associated with the activities of the National Spiritual Assembly are covered by voluntary contributions from Baha'is in the United Kingdom. No subsidies or donations are accepted from governments, other organizations or individuals who are not members of the Baha'i Faith.
There are approximately 11,000 Local Spiritual Assemblies around the world, elected each year from among the adult believers in every locality where at least nine Baha'is reside. Local Assemblies minister to the needs of the local Baha'i community, organizing classes for the spiritual education of children, adult study circles, devotional programs, Holy Day observances, and service projects. They are also able to conduct Baha'i marriages.