An unenrolled Baha'i is a believer in Baha'u'llah who is not an official member of the Baha'i Faith, nor affiliated with any of the small Baha'i splinter groups. Sometimes you hear the term "independent Baha'i". There's also a good argument for "unaffiliated Baha'i", since it does not define adherents in terms of membership of the mainstream Baha'i Faith. "Unaffiliated" is a term that's also used in polls and studies to describe people who have a set of spiritual or religious beliefs, but are not formal members of any religious community.
But I started with the term "unenrolled" -- and I didn't invent it. It was around long before I started writing, used to describe people who hung around the Baha'i community, even confessing that they believed in Baha'u'llah, but for one reason or another, never signed on the dotted line. There are also numerous unenrolled Baha'is in places like Bolivia, where remote villages have heard of the Faith from Baha'i radio, but have never been reached by travel teachers to get signed up and organized. I'd love to know how the Faith is developing in such places, but I suppose anyplace too remote for the administration is also too remote for researchers as well.
The second way that people become unenrolled Baha'is is that enrolled Baha'is become disillusioned with conditions in the Baha'i community, or policies of the Baha'i administration, and they leave voluntarily to go it on their own. They have become visible with the rise of the Internet -- although I think they've always been there. I run into people who've been out of the Faith for a decade or more, and still have an attachment to Baha'u'llah. I myself was an enrolled Baha'i for thirteen years and have been an unenrolled one for nine.
The third category of unenrolled Baha'is are those that have been forcibly removed from the membership rolls against their will. The UHJ has essentially created this category as a matter of policy since 1997, by removing individuals they hold to be unqualified for membership. Since a person just doesn't stop believing in Baha'u'llah at the stroke of a pen, a cluster of Baha'is outside the mainstream Faith is the inevitable result -- although I'm not at all sure that the House anticipated that.
In the years since I left formal enrollment behind, I've sought way to create community among unenrolled Baha'is. It's no easy thing. The mainstream Baha'i community itself is rather thinly spread -- as one wag put it: " Baha'is are everywhere,. . . and nowhere." That is, you can find Baha'is in nearly every corner of the globe, but each corner has so few that they aren't very visible and have little impact on the wider society.
Unenrolled Baha'is are fewer in number, and even more widely spread. I have heard that, in some places, small informal groups gather under the radar of the administration, but most of us find company on the Internet.
Which brings me to the point of this blog: This blog is about any and all things Baha'i -- except the administration. I want to talk about being a Baha'i, without getting tangled up in Baha'i politics. I cover that adequately in my general blog . Here, I want to try something different. Let's see how it works.