October 2014 President’s Message by Kent Matsuda

The European Experience

On Sunday, August 31, 2014, the 32nd World Joint Coordinating Council Meeting for Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha took place in Southampton, England. This was the first time it was held in Europe. Representatives from the Hongwanji in Kyoto met with representatives from the four Overseas Districts (Kyodans): North America, Hawai’i, Canada, and South America. (The representatives from the Comunidade Budista Sul-Americana Jodo-Shinshu Honpa Hongwanji were unable to attend.) At this meeting, Hongwanji representatives and the overseas districts can report what is happening at their respective locations.

Representing the Buddhist Churches of America (BCA) was Rev. Kodo Umezu, bishop, Alan Kita, chief administrative officer and I (as president). Rev. Kiyo Kuwahara was also present representing the Hongwanji Office in the USA. The BCA’s written report to the Council consisted of many of the facts one would normally see in the Bishop’s Report to the BCA National Council. (A copy is available from the BCA temples.) In addition, our Bishop shared his middle and long-term visions for international propagation, including ideas such as establishing a Hongwanji International Office in San Francisco to send messages out to the world, and making the Institute of Buddhist Studies a center for world Jodo Shinshu studies.

The Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawai’i was represented by Rev. Eric Matsumoto, bishop, Pieper Toyama, president, and Rev. Toshiyuki Umitani, executive assistant. They are moving ahead with plans to build classroom facilities for the Pacific Buddhist Academy. They received a $1.5 million grant from the Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Foundation. Another $2 million is needed to construct the first building. The building must be finished by the end of 2016, or they will lose the grant. They have already raised about $5.8 million.

Bishop Matsumoto is looking at ways to try to share the Dharma with non-Buddhists. He wants members of the Hawai’i Kyodan to reach out to the general community and provide a Buddhist perspective. He notes that some of the Hawaiian temples chant their sutra in English. He also reported declining membership and a shortage of qualified certified ministers. The Kyodan is also trying to standardize ministers’ compensation.

Rev. Tatsuya Aoki, bishop, presented for the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada (JSBTC). His report was similar to what appeared in my column in the August Wheel of Dharma. In addition, he reminded BCA members going to the 15th World Buddhist Women’s Convention in Calgary in May 2015 to bring their nenju, monto-shikisho, passport, and six omiyage gifts (suggested value of $5 or under) to exchange at your banquet table. The BCA Bookstore can give you ideas.

Representatives from Honzan (Hongwanji headquarters) informed us that they are still making plans for public services to commemorate the Go-Monshu’s Succession in 2016. The Hongwanji Office on Building Opportunities for Children and Youth is continuing with the Kids’ Sangha movement and expanding youth participation. Overseas districts will be sending 15 people for Tokudo ordination in November. Thirteen are from BCA, one is from JSBTC, and another from Europe. Honzan announced that Mr. Fons Martens from Jikoji in Antwerp, Belgium, was certified as a Minister’s Assistant and appointed Acting Liaison for the European Sub-District.

Honzan told the Council attendees there will be a job announcement for an English speaking ministerial candidate to work in Japan to teach English to Hongwanji employees, receive guests from abroad, assist in translations, and perform other duties for three to five years. Honzan is also trying to update their Overseas Ministers and Tokudo Holders’ Lists by removing those who have passed away or are no longer active. Honzan presented information on the shrinking population of Japan.

They also told the Council that they will partially subsidize the costs of ministers participating in the International Ministerial Orientation Program (IMOP) at the Jodo Shinshu Center (JSC). IMOP enables Japanese ministers to learn how to be a kaikyoshi minister. The IMOP ministers take English courses, go to lectures on western culture, and visit many different temples. Rev. Kuwahara estimated that it cost about $25,000 to train the four ministers who came last year, not including travel to and from Japan, insurance, meals, or Rev. Kuwahara’s time. There are five ministers participating this year.

A resolution of appreciation was signed by all the overseas bishops and was presented to His Eminence Koshin Ohtani, Zenmonsama, at the meeting’s dinner.

One day following the Joint Coordinating Council Meeting, the 17th European Shin Buddhist Conference (ESBC) began with a joint session of the 14th International Association of Shin Buddhist Studies Conference. The theme for the conference was “Jodo Shinshu in Daily Life.” We heard papers titled “Namandabu Anytime, Anywhere,” “Defeating the Mara,” “On Other Power Faith,” “Myokonin Okaru and Her Poems of Despair and Joy,” “Walking the Shin Buddhist Path as a Buddhist,” “The Name and the Light as our Compassionate Father and Mother,” “Mindfulness of Amida: the Application of the Nembutsu in Everyday Life,” “Jodo Shinshu: The Supreme Teaching for the Present Age,” and “The Ordinary Circumstances of Human Life: Reading Rennyo In and Out of Context.” The speakers were from England, Japan, Romania, Australia, Germany, and Belgium.

An address was given by Zenmon-sama at the opening ceremony of the 17th ESBC, the second half of which was held jointly with the International Association of Buddhist Culture. We heard papers on “The Power of Gratitude,” “Nembutsu Poetry and Daily Life,” “Responding to Climate Change in Daily Life,” “Amida’s Pure Land: My Heaven on Earth,” and “24/7— Isn’t That Too Much?”

Both conference groups were taken for a day trip to Stonehenge and Winchester Castle and Cathedral. We had tea and scones with the mayor of Winchester. She and Zenmon-sama exchanged gifts.

After the conference I asked BCA headquarters to send fifty copies of the “Complete Works of Shinran Shonin” to the Southampton Shin Buddhist Fellowship.

The next ESBC will be in August 2016 and the theme will be “The Meaning of Nembutsu.” I hope that a BCA minister and a lay representative will attend.

September 2014 President’s Message by Kent Matsuda

The BCA Bylaws

The BCA Bylaws guide how the Buddhist Churches of America operates as a corporate business. They outline the governing structure of our organization, describe the role of the bishop and the elected officers, and lay out the interconnected lattice of the various BCA organizations, affiliated organizations, district councils, and committees. The BCA Bylaws outline how BCA organizations function and how the BCA can be dissolved. Our bylaws have been amended multiple times. The amendments are usually passed by the BCA National Board and ratified by the BCA National Council.

Our Bylaws Committee is headed by Rick Stambul, who is also one of the BCA’s vice- presidents. He is currently in the process of trying to revise the bylaws into an easier to read, consistent and relevant document. This revision is a multi-year project, and I truly appreciate his efforts.

At the May BCA National Board Meeting, we spent over an hour discussing the proposed bylaw changes for this year. I would like to spend less time on these amendments at next year’s National Council Meeting. To that end, I would like to discuss the amendments that will be brought up at next February’s National Council Meeting in San Diego.

Issue 1: Which ministers can vote at the National Council Meeting?

Our current bylaws do not specifically indicate which ministers are allowed to vote at the BCA National Council Meeting. We have kaikyoshi ministers, kyoshi ministers, part-time ministers, and retired ministers serving as resident ministers. This amendment will allow only kaikyoshi ministers assigned by the Hongwanji and assigned by the BCA Bishop to be allowed to vote at the BCA National Council Meeting.

Issue 2: Can past BCA Presidents be elected to the BCA National Board after their term as president is over?

Currently, the bylaws do not allow a past BCA President to serve on the BCA National Board until they have served a three- year term as a district representative after their term as BCA President has concluded. This bylaw amendment would remove the prohibition and allow past BCA Presidents to be elected to the BCA National Board at any time after their term as BCA President is over.

Issue 3: Who oversees changes to the guidelines for establishing temples and the guidelines for selecting the bishop?

The guidelines for establishing temples do not indicate who has the right to make changes to the guidelines. The guidelines for selecting a bishop indicate that a 2/3 vote by the National Council is needed to make changes in the guidelines.

The first part of this amendment will give the BCA National Board the right to amend the guidelines on establishing temples. The second part of this amendment gives the BCA Ministers’ Association and the BCA National Board the right to amend the guidelines for selecting a bishop. The two changes in this amendment will change the wording in the guidelines, not the BCA Bylaws.

Issue 4: Do both the BCA National Board and National Council need to approve changes to the Center for Buddhist Education (CBE) Bylaws?

The current CBE Bylaws indicate that a majority vote by both the BCA National Board and the BCA National Council is needed to change the CBE Bylaws. This amendment will give the power to make changes to the CBE Bylaws to the BCA National Board.

Issue 5: Can we make non-substantive changes to the BCA Bylaws?

This amendment will allow the BCA Bylaws Committee to change the wording in multiple sections of the bylaws so that it flows better, makes more sense, and is consistent with what we are actually doing. To see the results of this amendment, you need to read the notes from your district representatives. They have complete copies of the BCA Bylaws as they currently are and as they will become with the proposed changes.

If you have any questions on these bylaws amendments, please see your district representative to the BCA National Board. They have copies of what was discussed at the May BCA National Board Meeting. If you would like your own copy of any of these changes, please contact me or Rick Stambul.

I urge all temple presidents (and people who will be temple presidents in February 2015) to discuss these bylaw changes with your district representatives at your next district meeting. We need not spend a lot of time on these bylaw amendments during the February BCA National Council Meeting. Next year, the meeting format will be different from prior years. The business portion of the weekend will be shorter than in the past. I do not want the business portion to go over the allotted time. Thank you for your understanding.

August 2014 President’s Message by Kent Matsuda

Our Canadian Friends

In late April of this year, I had the opportunity to attend the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada’s Annual General Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia. This meeting is the Canadian counterpart to the BCA’s National Council Meeting. I was attending the meeting as a guest of the Canadian kyodan’s president, Greg Chor.

The Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada (JSBTC) consists of twelve temples and eight ministers. One of their ministers, Rev. Tomofumi Fujii, was getting ready to return to his family’s temple in Japan. His father passed away in January, 2014.

The Canadian kyodan had over 1,660 members at the end of 2013. Projections for 2014 indicated that their membership would decrease by about 100 members. At the meeting that I attended, it was decided that the dues per member would go up to $70.

Four of the Canadian ministers serve more than one temple. The Bishop of the JSBTC is Rev. Tatsuya Aoki. He is also the resident minister for Fraser Valley Buddhist Temple in Adlergrove, British Columbia, and the Vancouver Buddhist Temple. The Canadian Bishop can only work part-time as the Bishop and must also serve as a resident minister due to the shortage of ministers. Even though the Bishop is elected by attendees of the annual meeting, the temple that the bishop candidate serves must also give its consent to having their minister become the Bishop.

During the evening before their annual meeting, Greg Chor chaired a meeting where attendees went over the agenda and discussed topics that needed further discussion. In this informal meeting, temple representatives have the opportunity to ask questions and go over complex issues so that the annual meeting does not take so long.

One of the issues that the Canadian kyodan faced was a change in their bylaws to comply with a recently passed Canadian law known as the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act. The Act requires that all members of a membership class have to have a chance to vote on any issue that affects any interest in that membership class. For that reason, the attendees of the annual meeting voted to eliminate the “individual members” membership class and changed their bylaws so that JSBTC members were just the temples.

During the meeting, we had a presentation by members of the Calgary Buddhist Temple. Their current temple building was built in 1912 as a Ukrainian Catholic Church. It was damaged by a fire in 1942 and repaired. It became the Calgary Buddhist Temple in 1981. The building does not have much insulation, which is a serious problem in that part of the country. It will cost about $2 Million Canadian to renovate the building. Temple members have been raising funds since 2002 and now have over $1.4 Million Canadian raised. Anyone wishing to donate can contact me or visit www.calgarybuddhist. ab.ca. The Calgary members are currently using another site while their temple is being renovated. The members hope to have construction completed by the time of the 2015 World Buddhist Women’s Convention in Calgary next May.

I do not mean any disrespect for any BCA temple that is currently undergoing renovation or construction, such as the Fresno Betsuin. I can understand that they need funds to complete their building projects and would like BCA members to join them.

I bring up the Calgary Buddhist Temple’s situation because events in Calgary were discussed at the Canadian annual meeting. As mentioned above, Calgary is getting ready to host the 2015 World Buddhist Women’s Convention next May and the World Convention organizing committee is also raising money. I saw evidence of their fundraising efforts while I was in Vancouver. If anyone would like to help the Canadian women, you can go to www.wbwconvention.com or contact me. I am hoping that our Federation of Buddhist Women’s Associations will be able to donate.

One day before I arrived in Vancouver, the former minister for the Calgary Buddhist Temple, Rev. Kyojo Ikuta, passed away. He is Rev. Grant Ikuta’s father. Rev. Grant Ikuta is the resident minister for Steveston Buddhist Temple. There were many items of remembrance visible during the time I was at the meeting.

After the Canadian annual meeting was completed, I joined the members of the Vancouver Buddhist Temple in celebrating their 110th Anniversary. They were also celebrating 35 years at their present location. The guest speaker for the anniversary service was recently retired Rev. Frederick Ulrich from the Manitoba Buddhist Temple.

Many of the issues that we face in the BCA are similar to the issues that the Canadians face. They, too, see decreasing memberships and have a minister shortage. Members of the Canadian kyodan have joined BCA members for events that take place in the Northwest and Eastern Districts. Some of the Canadian members have visited the JSC to take classes or attend seminars.

I would like to thank Bishop Aoki, JSBTC President Greg Chor and his wife, Gina, the JSBTC Board of Directors, and the members of the Vancouver Buddhist Temple for their hospitality and friendship. I hope to see many of them at next year’s Annual General Meeting at the Steveston Buddhist Temple in Richmond, British Columbia.