The duties of those whom the friends have freely and conscientiously elected as their representatives are no less vital and binding than the obligations of those who have chosen them. Their function is not to dictate, but to consult, and consult not only among themselves, but as much as possible with the friends whom they represent. They must regard themselves in no other light but that of chosen instruments for a more efficient and dignified presentation of the Cause of God. They should never be led to suppose that they are the central ornaments of the body of the Cause, intrinsically superior to others in capacity or merit, and sole promoters of its teachings and principles. They should approach their task with extreme humility, and endeavor, by their open-mindedness, their high sense of justice and duty, their candor, their modesty, their entire devotion to the welfare and interests of the friends, the Cause, and humanity, to win, not only the confidence and the genuine support and respect of those whom they serve, but also their esteem and real affection. They must, at all times, avoid the spirit of exclusiveness, the atmosphere of secrecy, free themselves from a domineering attitude, and banish all forms of prejudice and passion from their deliberations. They should, within the limits of wise discretion, take the friends into their confidence, acquaint them with their plans, share with them their problems and anxieties, and seek their advice and counsel.
In the Baha'i writings, those elected or appointed to Baha'i institutions do not have any spiritual rank or any special privileges. They are called upon to approach their task with extreme humility and to avoid any spirit of exclusiveness or secrecy. They should attempt to gain the confidence, the respect, and the support of those whom they serve by their open-mindedness, their sense of justice and duty, their candor, and their devotion to the welfare of humanity. Membership in these institutions is looked upon as an opportunity for service rather than a promotion to a position of power.
The pastoral function of the clerical class is an aspect of Baha'i community life that is still developing at present. The local spiritual assembly has the ultimate responsibility to ensure that pastoral functions are provided. However, under its current plans, the Universal House of Justice is encouraging all Baha'is to visit the homes of Baha'is and others and to provide pastoral support. The idea of accompanying others as they begin acts of service has also recently been promoted.
The role of the clerical class in providing spiritual guidance is replaced in the Baha'i community by groups of Baha'is coming together to study the Baha'i scriptures, to consult about them, and to derive spiritual guidance from them. For more specific guidance about problems in one's life, the appointed or elected institutions of the Baha'i community can be consulted. Alternatively, the Baha'i scriptures advise that a group of friends be called together to consult about the problem.