Christian Science practitioner

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A Christian Science practitioner is an individual who prays for others according to the teachings of Christian Science.[1] Treatment is non-medical, rather it is based on the Bible and the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (1875) by Mary Baker Eddy (1821–1910), who said she discovered Christian Science in 1866 and founded the Christian Science church in 1879. According to the church, Christian Science practitioners address physical conditions, as well as relationship or financial difficulties[2] and any other problem or crisis. Practitioners are either "listed" or "unlisted," a designation that refers to a form of international accreditation maintained by The Mother Church, in Boston, Massachusetts. "Listed" practitioners are included in the directory of Christian Science practitioners on the church website, and printed in the Christian Science Journal.

System of accreditation[edit]

Any student of Christian Science may take patients, but only those "listed" as practitioners in the worldwide directory published in The Christian Science Journal and on the Christian Science website are regarded by the church as experienced healers. The church writes that, to become listed, applicants are interviewed, and must provide references from "three patients who can confirm a complete healing through [the applicant's] prayerful treatment."[3] Applicants must also have taken "primary class" instruction by an "authorized teacher of Christian Science" under the aegis of the Christian Science Board of Education, as stipulated in the Manual of The Mother Church, which governs all activities of the church.[4] An authorized teacher is one who, having had primary class instruction and a minimum of three years' experience as a practitioner, has completed the normal course. Normal class instruction is held once every three years and is limited to 30 pupils. Primary class is held once a year by each teacher and is also limited to 30. According to the Manual, those who complete the normal class receive the certificate "C.S.B."[5] Tuition for both classes is fixed by the Manual at $100.[6][7]

Class instruction[edit]

Primary class instruction is held all over the world, wherever authorized teachers of Christian Science live or decide to teach; the normal class is held by the Christian Science Board of Education in Boston, Massachusetts.[8] The Board selects a teacher, who usually teaches the normal class just once in a lifetime, and is not identified until several weeks after the class has ended.

Teachers are prohibited from soliciting students;[9] rather, students apply to a teacher for primary class, which is taken just once in life, except in the event that a teacher's credentials are withdrawn.[10] Each teacher maintains an "association" of students, which grows in size over the years. Each teacher meets annually with the entire association[7] for an all-day lecture designed to renew and further the students' understanding and practice of Christian Science.[11]

Primary class is a two-week course of "comprehensive study of the nature of God and man",[12] as described by DeWitt John, a Christian Science teacher who taught the 1982 normal class.[13] The class follows the chapter "Recapitulation" from Science and Health, using the Bible and all Eddy's published works as research and reference to explain the chapter.[12] Following hours of class time, students are given hours of homework, both reading and written assignments. John writes, "The instruction is so deep and absorbing that it often changes one's outlook and leaves an impression that lasts a lifetime. ... [It] has special impact because of its systematic and thorough character and because it is based upon years of actual experience on the part of the teacher in the practice of Christian Science healing."[12] Severin E. Simonsen, a Methodist minister converted to Christian Science, wrote, "I have sat for months in class rooms listening to learned professors and able teachers, but I never supposed it to be possible for any human being to teach and unfold to his students, in the short space of two weeks, all that [our teacher] imparted to us."[14] Students completing the course receive the certificate "C.S." and are referred to as having been "class taught".

Practice and ethics[edit]

The work of a Christian Science practitioner, according to John M. Tutt, a medical doctor who left medicine and became a Christian Science practitioner,[15] is that of "friend", "helper" and "persuader".[16] He says that the practitioner-patient relationship is critical and requires "the same spirit of cooperation" as with a medical doctor. Rather than the "mere reading of citations furnished by the practitioner or the perfunctory repetition of the letter[, it] means the determined effort to give the lie to the lie and to feel the power of Christ operating to heal and save."[16] As "persuader", Tutt writes, the practitioner's "healing ministry is convincing proof of the power of the Christ to reform the repentant, taking away the sins of worldliness and opening the portals of spiritual life. He is most persuasive in the spiritual thought he thinks and in the consequent spiritual life he leads."[16]

Practitioners are required to maintain the confidentiality of their patients' private communications. In cases where the patient's recovery is "chronic" or if the practitioner fails to bring about a recovery, he is required to lower the bill.[17] Combining Christian Science treatment with medical treatment is not recommended by Science and Health[1] and traditionally, practitioners have withdrawn from cases where the patient undertook medical treatment, except where it was clear this was against the patient's will. As noted by Robert Peel, Christian Scientists are "not 'against doctors'... [but] experience has shown that any attempt to combine Christian Science with medical treatment is likely to lessen the efficacy of each, since they start from exactly opposite premises."[18] Some practitioners no longer give up such cases, although they may change the nature of their prayer, a loosening of standards precipitated by several well-publicized deaths under Christian Science treatment, including those of children.[1]

Numbers in the United States[edit]

Year Practitioners Change
1956 8,300[19] n/a
1971 4,965[20] Decrease41%
1976 4,302[20] Decrease14%
1979 3,878[20] Decrease10%
1986 3,700[19] Decrease5%
1991 2,237[20] Decrease40%
1996 1,802[20] Decrease20%
2005 1,161[20] Decrease36%
2016 942[20] Decrease19%

Notable Christian Science practitioners[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Vitello, Paul. "Christian Science Church Seeks Truce With Modern Medicine", The New York Times, March 23, 2010.
  2. ^ "Christian Science practitioners" Archived 2012-02-24 at the Wayback Machine,
  3. ^ "Application for Advertising as a Christian Science Practitioner" English version, June 2012 Archived 2013-12-03 at the Wayback Machine The Mother Church website.
  4. ^ Dickey, Adam. "The Mother Church And The Manual" The Christian Science Journal (April 1922). Retrieved May 8, 2013
  5. ^ Manual of The Mother Church, 89th edition. First published in 1895. pp. 90-91
  6. ^ Manual, p. 91
  7. ^ a b Manual, p. 84
  8. ^ Manual, p. 90
  9. ^ Manual, p. 87
  10. ^ Manual, p. 85
  11. ^ John, DeWitt. The Christian Science Way of Life (1962) Prentice-Hall, p. 71. Retrieved May 8, 2013
  12. ^ a b c John, DeWitt (1962) pp. 70-71
  13. ^ "The 1982 Normal Class" The Christian Science Journal (February 1983). Retrieved May 8, 2013
  14. ^ Simonsen, Reverend Severin E. From the Methodist Pulpit Into Christian Science (1928), p. 150. Quoted in: Peel, Robert. Years of Authority Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York. (1977), p. 191.
  15. ^ Plagenz, George. "Does prayer actually heal our ills? The Nevada Daily Mail (January 5, 1996). Retrieved June 15, 2013
  16. ^ a b c Tutt, John M. "The Role of the Practitioner" Christian Science Sentinel (June 12, 1965). Retrieved June 16, 2013
  17. ^ Manual, page 46.
  18. ^ Peel, Robert. Spiritual Healing in a Scientific Age, Harper & Row (1987), pp. 40-41.
  19. ^ a b DART, JOHN (1986-12-20). "Healing Church Shows Signs It May Be Ailing". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2015-09-27.
  20. ^ a b c d e f g "Christian Science Statistics: Practitioners, Teachers, and Churches in the United States". Retrieved 2015-09-27.

Further reading[edit]

  • Schoepflin, Rennie B. Christian Science on Trial: Religious Healing in America. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002.

External links[edit]