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Trial Abbatial Restructuring Update


Ryushin Paul Haller and Myogen Steve Stücky
Assessment of New Abbacy Leadership Model

On June 1, 2010, San Francisco Zen Center began a one-year trial period of a new model of abbatial leadership. The trial model consists of a central abbot, concerned primarily with Zen Center-wide issues; an abiding abbot at City Center and at Green Gulch Farm, each concerned primarily with issues at his or her respective practice center; and an abiding teacher at Tassajara, concerned primarily with issues at Tassajara. During the trial period, Myogen Steve Stücky fills the position of Central Abbot, Ryushin Paul Haller is the Abiding Abbot at City Center, and Eijun Linda Ruth Cutts is the Abiding Senior Dharma Teacher at Green Gulch Farm. (“Abiding Senior Dharma Teacher” will change to “Abiding Abbot/Abbess” at Green Gulch Farm if we permanently adopt the new leadership structure.) Leslie James is the Abiding Teacher at Tassajara. The trial period continues to July 1, 2011.

Abiding Senior Dharma Teacher Eijun Linda CuttsFor almost three years the Elders Council and the Board had been exploring a number of problems associated with the current co-abbot structure:
  • unmanageable workload for abbots
  • abbots’ lack of available time to spend with students
  • overlapping authority between abbots and between the abbots and officers, resulting in a protracted and cumbersome decision-making process
The trial model, a joint product of the Elders Council and the Board, is a result of that exploration and a structural proposal for addressing these problems.

Abiding Teacher Leslie James by Renshin BunceDuring the one-year trial period, the new leadership model will be rigorously assessed. We are highly committed to a process that will provide reliable and accurate information about whether the new model is working satisfactorily and is addressing the problems initially identified. The abbots, abiding teachers, tantos, officers, directors, and board chair, as well as a joint committee of members of the Elders Council and of the Board, have been involved in developing assessment tools. The first part of the assessment will be personal interviews with the abbots and abiding teachers, officers, directors, tantos, and board chair. These interviews are planned for January 2011 (6 months after the beginning of the trial). We plan a written survey of the same persons, plus a survey of residential and non-residential members, to take place in July 2011 (1 year after the beginning of the trial). In addition to these formal aspects of the assessment, each abbot and abiding teacher is regularly checking in with the joint committee about how it is going from his or her perspective.

Feedback from residents and non-residential sangha members is also very important. We anticipate that there will be membership teas at each practice center during the next year to provide opportunities for the giving and receiving of feedback on the trial restructuring and for sangha members to discuss the proposed new model and the assessment results.

By October 2011, the board will decide whether the by-laws should be amended to provide for the new model through restructuring of the abbatial leadership.

If you have any questions or wish to speak with a member of the Board or Elders Council, please contact the SFZC Corporate Secretary via email.