Next Steps: Creation of Abode Steering Committee

Greetings friends,

On November 9th, 2015, the Sufi Order North America Board of Trustees (SOINA BOT) met and approved a motion, which outlines the process by which the Abode of the Message will begin to form its own governing structure. The first step in this process will be the selection of members of the Abode Steering Committee, a new sub-committee of the SOINA BOT. This committee will be responsible, in collaboration with the entire Board, for the formation of the new Abode of the Message BOT and management team. Please find attached to this message the resolution, and a message from the Board outlining the process by which nominations for the steering committee will be accepted.

The Board is whole-heartedly looking forward to a robust collaboration with the emerging leadership from the Abode. We recognize the current and future inter-dependence of both entities, and we look forward to a dynamic process of working together to bring to reality a self-governing and fully independent Abode of the Message.

As the letter from the Board indicates, nominations for the Steering Committee are now open. We are initially seeking 2 to 4 individuals to serve alongside one current SOINA Board member on the committee (this number may expand in the future based on the needs of the committee). We will accept nominees through December 11th, after which time the Board, in consultation with current Abode leaders, will select potential members to forward to Pir Zia, who will ultimately appoint the slate of Steering Committee members. We plan on having the Committee in place in the first few weeks of 2016.

We welcome your nominations for these important positions (please see attached letter for the information on how to submit a nomination). Committee members will work closely with the SOINA Board in creating their charter, sub-committees and in determining benchmarks and a timeline for reaching the final goal of an independent Abode Board of Trustees. Please note that serving on the Steering Committee is likely to be a multi-month commitment, and membership on this committee does not commit one to serve, nor imply that one will be asked to serve, on the eventual Abode BOT.

Thank you for your continuing support as we seek to position our Order to better meet the spiritual needs of today’s world.

In service,
Executive Committee,
Sufi Order International Board of Trustees

Attachments:
Steering Committee Nomination Process
Motion to create the Steering Committee

Executive Committee Letter, October 2015

Greetings Friends of the Sufi Message,

The Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of the Sufi Order International North America (“SOINA”) and the Abode of the Message (the “Abode”), on behalf of the entire Board, would like to thank all of you who have commented to us regarding the decisions that were announced following our September retreat to move the headquarters of the SOINA from the Abode so that the two separate organizations become sustainable and the Abode becomes self-governing. The vast majority of the comments we have received have been supportive of our Pir, of the Order, and of the direction that has been chosen. This initial feedback is entirely heartening, as the vision before us is one that will require a high level of unity among our membership to actualize.

As we move into this next phase of transition, the Board is united in our intention to facilitate a highly conscientious and transparent process. To that end, we encourage you to continue to send us your thoughts and your questions. You can email the Board directly at board@inayatiorder.org. To date we have responded to every inquiry.

The following are a few of the questions that arose regarding the resolution that was passed at the meeting authorizing the Board to begin planning for a move of the SOI headquarters from the Abode to an as yet undetermined metropolitan location:

How will the move of the SOI Headquarters to a new location be financed?

This is one of the most obvious challenges before us. The Board unanimously agrees that the preferred method of financing the move is a targeted fund development campaign. In the coming weeks, we will begin the process of initiating this campaign in coordination with our other annual fundraising efforts. It is our sincere hope that the membership will respond to this campaign to a degree that further sources of funding will not have to be considered.

What if the Order cannot raise sufficient funds to finance the move through contributions alone?

In the resolution that was passed at the retreat, the Board identified potential sources of funding that may be considered if the targeted campaign falls short of its goal. The resolution mentions the possibility of a proposed use of funds from a conservation easement, as well as a potential partial sale of real estate. At the present time, no decision has been made to utilize such resources. The Board recognizes that the leveraging of any Abode assets to finance the move may elicit controversy, and any process that explores this possibility will be done with full transparency and in full compliance with federal, state and local law including the New York State Charities Bureau which describes the process the Board would follow.

While the Abode’s charter states that it “…is formed to perform the functions of, and purpose of, the Sufi Order,” the Sufi Order does not own the Abode. The Abode is a separate not-for-profit Religious Corporation that owns the property, and for which the Sufi Order Board serves as the trustees. Thus, as we have stated, we are going to need to work together as an organization in order to achieve an outcome that best serves the larger shared goals of both the SOINA and the Abode; we won’t be successful without broad membership support. If we were to pursue a less-preferred alternative of funding, the process we would follow would include soliciting the support of stakeholders and petitioning for court approval as required by New York state law. The Board will fully comply with all of its legal, fiduciary, and ethical responsibilities to both organizations as we collectively navigate our path into the future.

In addition to these factors, Pir Zia stated that he does not want assets from a potential sale of Abode property to be used to fund his personal residence in the new location.

Was the Board unanimous in its support of this decision?

In the communication that went out at the close of the Board retreat, we indicated that the vote on the resolution passed was unanimous. The Executive Committee wishes to issue the following clarification to that communication: Although Taj Inayat, Sura Gilbert-Miller, and Siddiq Singler attended portions of the retreat in person or via video conference, due to personal scheduling conflicts they were unable to be present for the vote on the resolution contained in the communication and, therefore, did not vote. The vote was unanimous among the Board members who were present, and those who were not present subsequently voiced their support.

Has any decision been made regarding the new location for the SOINA headquarters?

No. The Board is still in the process of gathering relevant data and evaluating potential options.

When will the Headquarters move take place?

As was outlined in the letter from the Board following the retreat, it is anticipated that the transition of Headquarters to a new location, as well as establishment of a new governing structure at the Abode, will take several years to complete.

What are the Board’s next steps?

During the Board’s September retreat, we established 30, 60 and 90 day action items. Over the next few weeks, we will be reviewing and vetting those action items to finalize next steps. When these next steps become more concrete we will provide an additional update.

Will additional results of the recent mureed surveys be shared with the mureed body?

Yes, they are attached in aggregated, anonymous form.

Thank you for taking the time to stay informed regarding our collective process, and for your continuing support as we strive to better position our Order to meet the spiritual needs of the world today.

In loving service,
The Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of the SOINA and the Abode

Pir Zia Inayat-Khan, President
Taj Inayat, Vice President
Amina Linda Hall, Chair
Bayazid Jonathan Ware, Vice Chair
Roshan Anne Peay, Secretary
Huzur Nawaz German, Treasurer

Board Message

Greetings friends,

We, the Trustees of the Sufi Order International North America (“SOINA”) are writing to you following our September 2015 Board retreat at the Abode of the Message (the “Abode”).  This retreat has been substantial in terms of decision-making regarding the way forward for our Order.  As Pir Zia has stated, an outcome of the retreat is the unanimous support of the Board for his vision of moving the headquarters of our Order and the residence of our Pir from the Abode to a metropolitan location while maintaining the Abode as a Sufi residential retreat center in alignment with its original purpose.

This decision is the culmination of an intensive year-long process of dialogue and in-depth study on the part of the Board. Some of the steps that were taken to prepare us for this decision include:

  • Completion of a comprehensive information-gathering process, including a due diligence review, to inform our deliberations regarding possible future reconfigurations of our organization.
  • Creation of a transition blog to provide information regarding the Board’s process and create an additional means of providing input to the Board.
  • A thorough upgrade of accounting systems and processes which provided the Board with accurate financial data for both the SOINA and the Abode.
  • A summer program, including a 40th year reunion at the Abode, with a day-long conversation regarding the past, present and future of the Abode.
  • Two online surveys of our membership.
  • Several in-person and online town-hall meetings with the Abode community.
  • Submission of a proposal to the Board by the Committee for a Sustainable Abode.
  • Countless hours of dialogue, both formal and informal, between Board members and members and friends of our Order.

Upon consideration of all factors, the Board’s unanimous consensus is that the current model for the SOINA and the Abode is unsustainable.  We also unanimously agree that we want to see both entities prosper, and that relocating the SOINA headquarters and revitalizing the Abode is the best option for securing the long-term sustainability of both entities.  Making this change will enable the SOINA to shift its focus beyond the Abode to its mission throughout North America and the world.  This decision will simultaneously allow the Abode to flourish, and over a transition period of several years, to become independent as a Sufi residential and retreat center, with its own governing Board, that supports the Message in its own unique way consistent with its original purpose.

It is further envisioned that Abode and the metropolitan center will mutually support and nourish each other.  In our new metropolitan center, the Message will be more accessible both to local residents and visitors from afar.  At the Abode, seekers will continue to have the opportunity to live the Sufi Message in a rural, residential setting.

The Board recognizes that realizing this vision will require considerable resources and may take several years to complete.  In order to ensure the sustainability of both entities, the transition will be carefully and conscientiously managed.  Two key factors for consideration are finance and governance:

Finance

The intention of the Board is to finance the transition by utilizing our resources in a most conscientious manner.  Below are the sources of funding we intend to consider in the following order of preference:

1.  Donor contributions to a targeted campaign.

2.  A restructuring of SOINA/Abode resources to effectuate an equitable allocation between the organizations to make them both sustainable, which would potentially include:

A) An equitable distribution of potential funding from any proceeds of a conservation easement on the property located in New York and Massachusetts, based on recent investments of the SOINA in the Abode.

B) A partial sale of real estate on the property located in New York and Massachusetts as a source of funding with priority given to spiritually minded and ecologically-attuned organizations or individuals.

Governance

Throughout this year, there have been many advocates for more autonomy in terms of the Abode’s leadership. In the near future, the SOINA Board of Trustees will form a new committee which will be charged with creating a plan for a sustainable Abode in New Lebanon, NY. Based upon the achievement of certain milestones as set forth in the plan, managerial and operational responsibility for the New Lebanon campus will be transitioned to this committee. Provided the operational plan is realized, leadership and managerial control will be fully transferred to this committee, which thereafter will serve as the independent governing body of the Abode.  Consistent with the process of appointing other trustee positions in our organization, committee members will be nominated by the the SOINA Board and confirmed by the Pir.

Here is a link to the full Board Resolution which authorizes the implementation of the plan described above.

We pledge to continue to be in open dialogue as we implement these changes.  Please email any comments or questions to board@inayatiorder.org.

We commit ourselves in service as we collectively proceed in an atmosphere of love, harmony and beauty to create the most effective container for the work of our Pir and for spreading the Message far and wide.

With Great Love,

The Sufi Order North America Board of Trustees

Pir Zia Inayat-Khan, President

Taj Inayat, Vice President (not in attendance)

Amina Linda Hall, Chair

Bayazid Jonathan Ware, Vice Chair

Roshan Anne Peay, Secretary

Huzur Nawaz German, Treasurer

Sura Gilbert-Miller, Trustee (not in attendance)

Hadi Reinhertz, Trustee

Fazl Peay, Trustee

Siddiq Bill Singler, Trustee (not in attendance)

Mahbood Seligman, Trustee

Board Resolution

Sufi Order Board North America Resolution 9.19.15

The SOINA headquarters will relocate from the Abode to a metropolitan area. The Abode will continue to develop in alignment with its original purpose as stated in its organizational documents, which is:

The purpose for which the Corporation is formed is to perform the functions of, and carry out the purposes of, the Sufi Order, by:

  • Establishing one or more in-residence economically self-sustaining spiritual centers, which will perform the following functions:
    • Promoting the religious teachings of the Sufi Order; and
    • Being a center for the teaching and performance of the Universal Worship Service and other forms of worship taught by the Sufi Order; and
    • Exploring and developing methods by which persons may live in a manner most harmonious with the forces of nature, consistent with the teachings of Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan and other Sufi masters;
  • Doing any other act or thing incidental to or connected with the foregoing purposes or in advancement thereof.”

The relocation of the SOINA headquarters will be financed in the most conscientious manner. Sources of funding might include, in the following order of preference:

  1. Donor contributions to a targeted campaign.
  2. A restructuring of SOINA/Abode resources to effectuate an equitable allocation between the organizations to make them both sustainable, which would potentially include:

    • An equitable distribution of potential funding from any proceeds of a conservation easement on the property located in New York and Massachusetts based on recent investments of the SOINA in the Abode.
    • A partial sale of the property located in New York and Massachusetts as a source of funding with priority given to spiritually-minded and ecologically -attuned organizations or individuals.

Over a transition period of several years, governance of the Abode would be transitioned to a subcommittee of the SOINA board, and eventually to a fully-independent Board of Trustees to be nominated by the SOINA Board and confirmed by the Pir.

Motion  (Bayazid): That we adopt and authorize the actions as written in the roadmap that we have outlined.

Second, Huzur Nawaz.

Motion passed unanimously by those in attendance.

Message from Pir Zia

Dear Sisters and Brothers in the Community of the Sufi Message Near and Far,

Greetings of peace! I am writing to you from Inayat Manzil, my home at the Abode of the Message, to which I have recently returned with my family following weeks of travel in Turkey, Switzerland, France, and Holland. In all of these travels it has been rewarding to witness the Sufi Message spreading in the world and kindling innumerable hearts.

Conscious that the Sufi Order International North America (SOINA) and the Abode are at a crossroads, during my travels I frequently contemplated the relationship of the Sufi Order and the Abode. At the same time, the Board of the SOINA undertook a survey of our membership and collected and analyzed large quantities of information.

My own process of deliberation has included both spiritual and rational modes of inquiry. I have meditated and I have reflected, and I have found, in the end, that my heart and my mind both incline to the same conclusion. I am writing to share with you what I see.

Let me reaffirm, first of all, that in all of the major decisions of my life—and the current decision is no exception—the fundamental criterion is whether the chosen path will further the cause of the Sufi Message. This is the cause that I live to serve. I understand, of course, that not everyone will agree that a particular decision best serves the Sufi Message. Murshid said, “There is nothing in life which pleases me more than pleasing others, but it is difficult to please everyone.” In the end, I have to be true to my own clearest understanding of Guidance.

I am a founding member of the Abode of the Message. I was four years old when the Abode was founded and I grew up here as a child. When I married and had my own family, with my father’s encouragement I returned to the Abode. We have lived here for the last fifteen years. I cannot put into words the reverence I have for this land or the warm feeling I have for the many friends who have lived in, or passed through, this enchanted garden.

When my father left the world in 2004, he left me with the responsibility of caring for the Sufi Order worldwide. To “fill the shoes” of Pir Vilayat was, and remains, an enormous, and daunting, undertaking. Alhamdulillah, I have not been alone in the effort to fulfill my responsibilities, but on the contrary have received unwavering support and tremendous goodwill from many dedicated workers for the Message.

During this decade, the Abode provided an auspicious and protective environment in which to commence my task. There was a convergence of energy buoying my work. The North American Secretariat moved to the Abode, the Boards of the SOINA and the Abode became one Board, and the Suluk Academy was born. These were, in many ways, golden years.

The focalization of the Sufi Order at the Abode, however, came at a cost. The Board and staff often found themselves so preoccupied with Abode issues that, often, little time or energy remained to consider nationwide needs. At the same time, the community of Abode residents sometimes felt that the work of the Sufi Order at the Abode left too little space for the community’s needs and aspirations.

I believe that we are now on the threshold of a new phase in the work of the Sufi Order. The legacy we have received from Murshid is vitally alive and significant. It comes in an era when, as I believe we all recognize, there is an enormous need for spiritual remembrance in our world. Our mandate is to work quietly, without fanfare, but at the same time, energetically and expansively.

In this next decade of my service to the Sufi Message, in order for me to be more present to the bustling, diverse world of interactions between people of many walks of life, in order for the SOINA to refocus on its mission in North America, and in order for the Abode of the Message to revitalize itself as a residential community oriented by the Sufi Message, it is my determination that I should, with my family, move to a metropolitan environment and establish the headquarters of the SOINA in that new setting, joined by all who wish to live and serve in such a setting.

I envision a flourishing metropolitan center serving as a clear focal point from which the Sufi Order can effectively radiate its work throughout North America and the world. I envision, equally, a flourishing Abode, where individual and collective retreats and a vibrant communal life interweave in wonderful patterns. God willing.

Linked to this message is a letter from the Board of Trustees of the SOINA and the Abode, together with a copy of the Resolution passed by the Board this past weekend authorizing and implementing this vision for the future.

Yours always in service to the One,

Pir Zia

Due Diligence Committee Report

Below is a link to the Due Diligence Report compiled by the Due Diligence Committee (DDC), an ad-hoc committee chartered by the Sufi Order International – North America (SOINA) Board of Trustees.

Download the report

The specific charter of the DDC was to deliver a comprehensive report addressing financial, cultural and operational factors that might inform a Board decision about strategic direction.

Although the SOINA Board of Trustees chartered the report, the report was compiled independently by the DDC without input from the Board. The Board is not responsible for the information contained in the report and makes no claims regarding its accuracy. It was reviewed as just one of various sources informing the decision articulated here. Nevertheless, we wish to make the report available to stakeholders in the interest of complete transparency.

We would like to express our gratitude to Sura Gilbert-Miller, the DDC Chair, and the many other dedicated volunteers and contributors, both named and unnamed.

– The Sufi Order North America Board of Trustees