Introducing the AZC Elder’s Advisory Council

Mako Voelkel News Archive

In March of 2018 the AZC Board amended the by-laws to include the formation of an Elder’s Advisory Council to help serve the needs of our temple and community. This council serves in an advisory capacity to both the Practice Leadership and Administration of the Austin Zen Center. Its main function are to provide continuity of religious leadership (by nominating the Head Teacher to the Board of Directors), to reflect and assess the long-term health and well-being of Zen practice at AZC, and to be a resource when unusual or challenging issues and concerns rise above the scope of the AZC Practice Committee and/or Board of Directors. The Council has met numerous times this year, and will continue to meet several times a year, or as needed.

Elder’s Advisory Council Members:

  • Mark Bykoski, AZC Member since 2009
  • Rev. Gaelyn Godwin, Abbot of Houston Zen Center
  • Betty Holmes, Founding Member of AZC & Practice Leader
  • Tim Kroll, AZC Executive Director & Practice Leader
  • Sherry Mason, AZC Member since 2000
  • Laura O’Loughlin, Co-Head Teacher & Founder of Brooklyn Zen Center & former AZC Director
  • Rev. Steve Weintraub, SFZC Elder & Branching Streams Liaison
  • Rev. Mako Voelkel, Head Teacher of AZC
  • Pat Yingst, Founding Member of AZC & Practice Leader

Text of the AZC ByLaws on the Elder’s Council:

11.08 Elders Advisory Council. This council will be established in an effort to better support the community in making the best decisions possible when matters of religious leadership or questions of Zen practice are to be reviewed.

Section 1. The Elders Advisory Council provides continuity of religious leadership. It meets periodically to reflect on the health of Austin Zen Center practice and to respond to practice and administrative questions. For the purposes of this document the most senior Head Priest or most senior religious leader at AZC, will be referred to as the Head Teacher regardless of their position. The Elders Advisory Council reviews and proposes candidates for Head Teacher at Austin Zen Center, and refers such candidate(s) to the AZC Board. The Elders Advisory Council also may recommend the removal of a Head Teacher at Austin Zen Center.

Section 2. The Elders Advisory Council will use a unity process in proposing a candidate. The process may include a vote. Any such vote to recommend a candidate must pass by at least two thirds (2/3) of the entire Elders Advisory Council. Should the AZC Board reject a candidate, the Elders Advisory Council will reconsider and either send the same or a different candidate to the AZC Board. Should the Board twice reject a candidate, the Elders Advisory Council will propose a different candidate. This process will continue until a Head Teacher is chosen. The Council will function in like manner regarding reappointment of a Head Teacher. Should there arise the need to consider removal of a Head Teacher, the Elders Advisory Council shall notify all members of the AZC Board of Directors in writing of such a proposal, at least 30 days before a meeting to discuss it. The Elders Advisory Council shall then meet and may recommend removal only if two thirds (2/3) of the entire Elders Advisory Council votes for such removal. The Head Teacher who is the subject of removal shall be heard, but shall not vote at a meeting to consider her/his removal.

Section 3. Members of the AZC Elders Advisory Council will consist of the AZC Head Teacher and six individuals, two from AZC, two from associated Zen centers located in Texas, and two from the SFZC membership. All members of the Elders Advisory Council will be selected from those who have practiced in the Suzuki Roshi lineage. The AZC members, and local Texas members, will be selected from those who have practiced for at least ten years and completed at least two practice periods. SFZC members will be selected from those who have practiced for at least twenty years, and completed at least four practice periods at Tassajara and been Shuso or Head Student. The Elders Advisory Council may waive any of these requirements by unanimous vote. Initial membership of the Elders Advisory Council will be determined by a vote of the AZC Board of Directors after consultation with the AZC membership, local Texas centers and members of the SFZC Elders Council. The Elders Advisory Council shall determine subsequent membership, associated terms of office and the actual makeup of the Elders Advisory Council, after consultation with the AZC Board of Directors.

Section 4. A further function of the Council is to be a resource for advice in unusual practice or administrative issues that may arise at Austin Zen Center. Either the Head Teacher, Practice Committee or the AZC Board may consult the Elders Advisory Council to advise. This is meant especially for unusual and tricky issues when there is difficulty seeing the path forward, or to help determine a more skillful resolution.

Section 5. The Elders Advisory Council will have at least two scheduled meetings, or conference calls, per year. One of the annual meetings will include a review of the state of the Austin Zen Center. Additional meetings will occur only as needed and called upon.