Church of Christ, Scientist
|Church of Christ, Scientist|
|Founder||Mary Baker Eddy|
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
|Congregations||approximately 1000 worldwide (900 in the U.S.)|
|Members||approximately 85,000 worldwide|
The Church of Christ, Scientist was founded in 1879 in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, by Mary Baker Eddy. She was the author of the book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the Christian Science textbook and which, along with the Bible, serve as the permanent "impersonal pastor" of the church. The church was founded "to commemorate the word and works of [Christ Jesus]" and "reinstate primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing". Sunday services are held throughout the year and weekly testimony meetings are held on Wednesday evenings, where following brief readings from the Bible and the Christian Science textbook, those in attendance are invited to give testimonies of healing brought about through Christian Science prayer. Christian Science metaphysics teach that God is Spirit and cites the first chapter of Genesis as the true story of creation, where in the King James Bible, "man" is both "male and female", created "in the image and likeness" of God. The story of Adam and Eve is held to be an allegory. Healing on this basis is accomplished without material means and is the traditional bedrock of the church. In the early decades of the 20th century, churches sprang up in communities around the world, though in the last several decades of that century, there was a marked decline in membership, except in Africa, where there has been growth. Several controversies have rocked the church and remain unresolved, according to dissidents. Headquartered in Boston, the church has a worldwide membership of about 85,000.
- 1 History
- 2 Beliefs and practices
- 3 Organization
- 4 Recent problems
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
The church was incorporated by Mary Baker Eddy in 1876 following a claimed personal healing in 1866, which she said resulted from reading the Bible. The Bible and Eddy's textbook on Christian healing, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, are together the church's key doctrinal sources and have been ordained as the church's "dual impersonal pastor".
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, is widely known for its publications, especially The Christian Science Monitor, a daily newspaper published internationally in print and on the Internet. Skeptics consider the religion to be controversial because of adherents' reliance on healing through prayer and their rejection of medicine. There have also been periodic tensions with both mainstream and fundamentalist Christians, who think the religion is aligned with Gnosticism or is a cult, and fault it for departing from traditional Christian doctrine. Of particular issue is the deity of Jesus, which Christian Science denies; and a view that Christian Science does teach, that God is not the creator of finite (material) existence and its concomitant suffering, sin and death.
The Church of Christ, Scientist is sometimes confused with the Church of Scientology, an unrelated organization founded about 75 years after Christian Science. It is also sometimes confused with Religious Science, a religious denomination in line with the New Thought tradition and founded in 1927.
The seal of Christian Science is a cross and crown with the words, "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons," and is a registered trademark of the church.
Beliefs and practices
Spiritual healing in the material world
The Church claims to have over 50,000 testimonies of healing through Christian Science treatment alone. While most of these testimonies represent ailments neither diagnosed nor treated by medical professionals, the Church does require three other people to vouch for any testimony published in its official organ, the Christian Science Journal. However, some[who?] critics of the Church complain that the verification guidelines are not strict enough. The Church also has a number of statements regarding diagnosed conditions accompanied by legal affidavits of authenticity signed by medical practitioners who witnessed a non-medical healing. Historian and journalist Robert Peel, who was a Christian Scientist, chronicles examples of these accounts, quoting from the affidavits.
Christian Scientists may take an intensive two-week "Primary" class from an authorized Christian Science teacher. Those who wish to become "Journal-listed" (accredited) practitioners, devoting themselves full-time to the public practice of healing, must first have Primary class instruction. When they have a proven record of healing, they may submit their names for publication in the directory of practitioners and teachers in the Christian Science Journal. A practitioner who has been listed for at least three years' may apply for "Normal" class instruction, given just once every three years. Those who receive a certificate are authorized to teach. Both Primary and Normal classes are based on the Bible and the writings of Mary Baker Eddy. The Primary class focuses on the chapter, "Recapitulation" in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. This chapter uses the Socratic method of teaching and contains the "Scientific Statement of Being". The "Normal" class focuses on the platform of Christian Science, contained on pages 330-340 of Science and Health.
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The First Church of Christ, Scientist is the legal title of The Mother Church and administrative headquarters of the Christian Science Church. The complex is located in a 14-acre (57,000 m2) plaza alongside Huntington Avenue in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts.
The church itself was built in 1894, and an annex larger in footprint than the original structure was added in 1906. It boasts one of the world's largest pipe organs, built by the Aeolian-Skinner Company of Boston. The Mary Baker Eddy Library for the Betterment of Humanity is housed in an 11-story structure originally built for The Christian Science Publishing Society constructed between 1932 and 1934, and the present plaza was constructed in the late 1960s and early 1970s to include a 28 story administration building, a colonnade, and a reflecting pool with fountain, designed by Araldo Cossutta of I. M. Pei and Partners (now Pei Cobb Freed).
Branch churches of The Mother Church may take the title of First Church of Christ, Scientist; Second; but the article The must not be used, presumably to concede the primacy of the Boston Mother Church.
An international daily newspaper, the Christian Science Monitor, founded by Eddy in 1908 and winner of seven Pulitzer prizes, is published by the church through the Christian Science Publishing Society.
Branch Christian Science churches and Christian Science societies are subordinate to the Mother Church, but are self-governed. They have their own by-laws, bank accounts, assets and officers, but in order to be recognised must abide by the by-laws in the Manual of The Mother Church. Church services are regulated by the Manual, the set of by-laws written by Eddy, that establishes the church organization and explains the duties and responsibilities of members, officers, practitioners, teachers and nurses; and establishes rules for discipline and other aspects of church business.
Board of Directors
The Christian Science Board of Directors is a five-person executive entity created by Mary Baker Eddy to conduct the business of the Christian Science Church under the terms defined in the by-laws of the Church Manual. Its functions and restrictions are defined by the Manual.
The Board (occasionally CSBD or the BoD for short) also includes functions defined by a Deed of Trust written by Eddy (one of several, in fact) under which it consisted of four persons, though she later expanded the Board to five persons, thus in effect leaving one of its members out of Deed functions. This later bore on a dispute during the 1920s, known as the Great Litigation in CS circles, pivoting on whether the CSBD could remove trustees of the Christian Science Publishing Society or whether the CSPS trustees were established independently.
While Eddy's Manual established limited executive functions under the rule of law in place of a traditional hierarchy, the controversial 1991 publication of a book by Bliss Knapp led the then Board of Directors to make the unusual affidavit during a suit over Knapp's estate that neither acts by it violating the Manual, nor acts refraining from required action, constituted violations of the Manual. A traditionally-minded minority held that the Board's act in publishing Knapp's book constituted a fundamental violation of several by-laws and its legal trust, automatically mandating the offending Board members' resignations under Article I, Section 9.
Another minority believed that Eddy intended various requirements for her consent (in their view, "estoppels") to effect the church's dissolution on her death, since they could no longer be followed literally. Ironically, one of the stronger arguments against this position came from an individual highly respected by their theological quarter, Bliss Knapp, who claimed that Eddy understood through her lawyer that these consent clauses would not hinder normal operation after her decease.
Churches worldwide hold a one-hour service each Sunday, consisting of hymns, prayer, and currently, readings from the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible (although there is no requirement that this version of the Bible be used) and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. These readings are the weekly Lesson-Sermon, which is read aloud at all Sunday services in all Christian Science churches worldwide, and is studied by individuals at home throughout the preceding week. The Lesson, as it is informally called, is compiled by a committee at The Mother Church, and is usually made up of six sections, each of which consists of passages from the Bible (read by the Second Reader) and passages from Science and Health (read by the First Reader).
Eddy selected 26 subjects for the Lesson-Sermon. These Lessons run in continuous rotation in the order she established, hence each subject is studied twice a year. In years in which there are 53 Sundays, the topic "Christ Jesus" occurs a third time, in December. In addition, there is a special, shortened Lesson-Sermon for Thanksgiving Day. Branch churches outside the United States may schedule their Thanksgiving service when convenient for them, most choosing a day in October or November, and the Thanksgiving Day proclamation by the United States president, may be omitted.
- See List of Christian Science tenets, prayers, and statements for the complete list of subjects.
Because there are no clergy in the church, branch church Sunday services are conducted by two Readers: the First Reader, who reads passages from Science and Health, and the Second Reader, who reads passages from the Bible. First Readers determine the beginning "scriptural selection", hymns to be sung on Sundays, and the benediction. The vast majority of the service is the reading of the weekly Bible lesson supplied by Boston, and the order of the service set out by the Manual. To be elected the First Reader in one's branch church is one of the highest and most important positions the lay Christian Scientist may aspire to.
Churches also hold a one-hour Wednesday evening testimony meeting, with similar readings, after which, those in attendance are invited to share accounts of healing through prayer. At these services, the First Reader reads passages from the Bible and Science and Health. Departing from denominational practice for over 120 years, English language churches may now choose alternate Bible translations at these services (i.e. Phillips).
Branch churches also sponsor annual public talks (called lectures) given by speakers selected annually by the Board of Lectureship in Boston.
Beginning in the mid-1980s, church executives undertook a controversial and ambitious foray into electronic broadcast media. The first significant effort was to create a weekly half-hour syndicated television program, The Christian Science Monitor Reports. "Monitor Reports" was anchored in its first season by newspaper veteran Rob Nelson. He was replaced in the second by the Christian Science Monitor's former Moscow correspondent, David Willis. The program was usually broadcast by independent stations — often at odd hours.
In 1988, Monitor Reports was supplanted by a nightly half-hour news show, World Monitor, which was broadcast by the Discovery Channel. The program was anchored by veteran journalist John Hart. The Church then purchased a Boston cable TV station for elaborate in-house programming production. In parallel, the church purchased a shortwave radio station and syndicated radio production to National Public Radio. However, revenues fell far short of optimistic predictions by church managers, who had ignored early warnings by members and media experts.
In October 1991, after a series of conflicts over the boundaries between Christian Science teachings and his journalistic independence, John Hart resigned. The Monitor Channel went off the air in June 1992. Most of the other operations closed in well under a decade. Public accounts in both the mainstream and trade media reported that the church lost approximately $250 million on these ventures.
The hundreds of millions lost on broadcasting brought the church to the brink of bankruptcy. However, with the 1991 publication of The Destiny of The Mother Church by the late Bliss Knapp, the church secured a $90 million bequest from the Knapp trust. The trust dictated that the book be published as "Authorized Literature," with neither modification nor comment. Historically, the church had censured Knapp for deviating at several points from Eddy's teaching, and had refused to publish the work. The church's archivist, fired in anticipation of the book's publication, wrote to branch churches to inform them of the book's history. Many Christian Scientists thought the book violated the church's by-laws, and the editors of the church's religious periodicals and several other church employees resigned in protest. Alternate beneficiaries subsequently sued to contest the church's claim it had complied fully with the will's terms, and the church ultimately received only half of the original sum.
The fallout of the broadcasting debacle also sparked a minor revolt among some prominent church members. In late 1993, a group of Christian Scientists filed suit against the Board of Directors, alleging a willful disregard for the Manual of the Mother Church in its financial dealings. The suit was thrown out by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts in 1997, but a lingering discontent with the church's financial matters persists to this day.
Membership decline and financial setbacks
In spite of its early meteoric rise, church membership has declined sharply over the past eight decades, according to the church's former treasurer, J. Edward Odegaard. Though the Church is prohibited by the Manual from publishing membership figures, the number of branch churches in the United States has fallen steadily since World War II. Dr. Stephen Barrett has reported that since 1971, the number of practitioners and teachers in the United States listed in the Christian Science Journal (April 2013) has fallen from nearly 5,000 to just over 1,000 and the number of churches in the United States has fallen from about 1,800 to about 900. In 2009, for the first time in church history, more new members came from Africa than the United States.
In 2005 the Boston Globe reported that the church was considering consolidating Boston operations into fewer buildings and leasing out space in buildings it owned. Church official Philip G. Davis noted that the administration and Colonnade buildings had not been fully used for many years and that vacancy increased after staff reductions in 2004. The church posted an $8 million financial loss in fiscal 2003, and in 2004 cut 125 jobs, a quarter of the staff, at the Christian Science Monitor. Conversely, Davis noted that "the financial situation right now is excellent" and stated that the church was not facing financial problems.
- Christian Science - description of the beliefs/principles termed Christian Science.
- Christian Science Reading Room
- Reader (Christian Science Church)
- Jewish Science
- List of Christian Scientists (religious denomination)
- List of Former Christian Science Churches, Societies and Buildings
- New Thought
- Principia College, a college for Christian Scientists in Elsah, Illinois
- The Church Of Christ, Scientist (Christian Science)
- Edward L. Queen, II; Stephen R. Prothero; Gardiner H. Shatuck, Jr. (1 January 2009). The Encyclopedia of American Religious History. Infobase Publishing. p. 253. ISBN 978-0-8160-6660-5. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
- Mary Baker Eddy. Manual of the Mother Church, 89th Edition, page 58, Article XV "The Christian Science Pastor" Ordination. Section 1. First copyrighted 1895
- Stephen Gottschalk. "Christian Science Today: Resuming the Dialogue" Republished, with permission, on religion-online.org from Christian Century, December 17, 1986, pps. 1146-1148. Accessed Feb. 27, 2010
- "Guidelines for submitting testimonies" Christian Science Journal web site
- Robert Peel. "Spiritual Healing in a Scientific Age (1987) ISBN 978-0-06-066484-8
- A Century of Christian Science Healing (1966) ISBN 978-0-87510-067-8
- Church Manual, page 92, Article XXX, Section 8.
- Church Manual, page 89, Article XXIX, Section 2.
- Church Manual, page 84, Article XXVi, Section 4.
- Church Manual, page 85, Article XXVI, Section 9.
- Church Manual, page 86, Article XXVII, Section 3.
- "Ex-anchor cites interference at Monitor" The Baltimore Sun September 2, 1992. Accessed Feb. 27, 2010
- Peter Steinfels. "Fiscal and Spiritual Rifts Shake Christian Scientists" New York Times (February 29, 1992)
- Press release Stanford University. December 16, 1993
- "Appellate Brief No. SJC-07156" (pdf). COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT. Retrieved 2011-08-20.
- The Christian Science Journal November, 2010
- Christian Science Statistics: Practitioners, Teachers, and Churches in the United States
- Christa Case Bryant, "Africa contributes biggest share of new members to Christian Science church" Christian Science Monitor (June 9, 2009). Retrieved March 16, 2012
- Boston Globe October 13, 2005 p. A1
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The Christian Science Church
- Information on Christian Science and official Christian Science Church-sponsored Web sites
- The Mary Baker Eddy Library for the Betterment of Humanity
- Spirituality.com The official website of the Christian Science Publishing Society
- The Christian Science Monitor (International Daily Newspaper)
Writings of Mary Baker Eddy
- Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures at Project Gutenberg
- Pulpit and Press (6th Edition) at Project Gutenberg
- Rudimental Divine Science at Project Gutenberg
Criticism of Christian Science
- Apologetics Index on Christian Science
- Christian Way: Former Christian Scientists for Jesus Christ
- Branch, Craig (1997), "Christian Science", Profile (Watchman Fellowship ministry)
- Children's Healthcare Is a Legal Duty
Biographies, Histories and Commentary
- "Mary Baker Eddy: Christian Healer (Twentieth-Century Biographers Series)Yvonne Cache Von Fettweis* (2010)
- "Rolling Away the Stone: Mary Baker Eddy's Challenge to Materialism (Religion in North America) Stephen Gottschalk (2011)
- Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Discovery; Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Trial; and Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Authority comprise the three-volume biography of Eddy favored by Christian Scientists. It was written by Christian Scientist, scholar and longtime Mother Church employee Robert Peel. It is the church's de facto "official biography" of Eddy, though it was not published by the church.
- The Life of Mary Baker G. Eddy and the History of Christian Science by Willa Cather and Georgine Milmine (1909) began as a famous Muckraking magazine series 1907–08. Scholars who are not Christian Scientists rely on it, but church members strongly disfavor it. It was reprinted by the University of Nebraska Press in 1993.
- God's Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church by Caroline Fraser (2000), a biography of Mary Baker Eddy and a history of the Christian Science church from its founding to the present day, with a detailed section on the "child cases" of the 1980s. Fraser was raised in Christian Science, but later left the church.
- Christian Science Mark Twain's famous, vitriolic 1907 polemic mocking Mary Baker Eddy, her writings, and the church's financial arrangements.
- Mrs. Eddy, the Biography of a Virginal Mind Book by Edwin Franden Dakin (1929); C. Scribner's Sons.