The House of Justice, however, according to the explicit text of the Law of God, is confined to men; this for a wisdom of the Lord God’s, which will ere-long be made manifest as clearly as the sun at high noon.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 79-80)
We have been informed of a paper presented at a recent New Zealand Bahá’í Studies conference, which raises the possibility that the ineligibility of women for membership on the Universal House of Justice may be a temporary provision subject to change through a process of progressive unfoldment of the divine purpose. We present the following points as a means of increasing the friends’ understanding of this established provision of the Order of Bahá’u’lláh that membership of the Universal House of Justice is confined to men. The system of Bahá’í Administration is “indissolubly bound with the essential verities of the Faith” as set forth in the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. A unique feature of this system is the appointment of authorized interpreters, in the persons of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and the Guardian, to provide authoritative statements on the intent of Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation. Writing in “The Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh", Shoghi Effendi stated that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and the Guardian “share ... the right and obligation to interpret the Bahá’í teachings”. In relation to his own function as interpreter, he further stated that “the Guardian has been specifically endowed with such power as he may need to reveal the purport and disclose the implications of the utterances of Bahá’u’lláh and of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá”. The significance of this important provision is that the religion of God is safeguarded and protected against schism and its essential unity is preserved. The function of the divinely appointed interpreters is evident in the progressive disclosure and clarification of the details of the Bahá’í teachings concerning the membership of the Universal House of Justice. Bahá’u’lláh in His Writings ordained both the Universal House of Justice and Local Houses of Justice. However, in many of His laws He refers simply to “the House of Justice” and its members as “Men of Justice", leaving open for later clarification to which level or levels of the whole institution each law would apply. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the Centre of Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant and the unerring Interpreter of His Word, not only provided for the establishment of National Spiritual Assemblies, to be designated at some future time as Secondary Houses of Justice, but He also outlined the means by which the Universal House of Justice was to be elected. In His Will and Testament the Master wrote: And now, concerning the House of Justice which God hath ordained as the source of all good and freed from all error, it must be elected by universal suffrage, that is, by the believers.... By this House is meant the Universal House of Justice, that is, in all countries a secondary House of Justice must be instituted, and these secondary Houses of Justice must elect the members of the Universal one....(p. 14) And in one of His Tablets He had already written: At whatever time all the beloved of God in each country appoint their delegates, and these in turn elect their representatives, and these representatives elect a body, that body shall be regarded as the Supreme House of Justice. In the following passage, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá referred to membership of the “House of Justice” being restricted to men, without a specific designation of the level or levels of the institution to which this provision applied: The House of Justice, however, according to the explicit text of the Law of God, is confined to men; this for a wisdom of the Lord God’s, which will erelong be made manifest as clearly as the sun at high noon.
("Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá” [rev.ed.], (Haifa: Bahá’í World Centre, 1982), p. 80)
Later the Master clarified that it was only the Universal House of Justice whose membership was confined to men. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote: According to the ordinances of the Faith of God, women are the equals of men in all rights save only that of membership on the Universal House of Justice, for as hath been stated in the text of the Book, both the head and the members of the House of Justice are men. However, in all other bodies, such as the Temple Construction Committee, the Teaching Committee, the Spiritual Assembly, and in charitable and scientific associations, women share equally in all rights with men.
(from a newly-translated Tablet) Shoghi Effendi, in a letter written on his behalf to an individual believer, provided the following authoritative elaboration of this theme:As regards your question concerning the membership of the Universal House of Justice: there is a Tablet from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in which He definitely states that the membership of the Universal House is confined to men, and that the wisdom of it will be fully revealed and appreciated in the future. In the local as well as the National Houses of Justice, however, women have the full right of membership. It is, therefore, only to the International House that they cannot be elected…
(The Universal House of Justice, 1996 Jun 14, Infallibility, Women on House of Justice)