Church of Christ, Scientist

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Church of Christ, Scientist
The First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston, the church's administrative headquarters
ClassificationChristian new religious movement
ScriptureScience and Health with Key to the Scriptures and Bible
RegionUnited States
FounderMary Baker Eddy
Origin1879; 145 years ago (1879)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Congregationsapproximately 1750[1] worldwide (900 in the U.S.)
Membersestimates range from around 400,000 to under 100,000.

The Church of Christ, Scientist was founded in 1879 in Boston, Massachusetts, by Mary Baker Eddy, author of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, and founder of Christian Science. The church was founded "to commemorate the word and works of Christ Jesus" and "reinstate primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing".

In the early decades of the 20th century, Christian Science churches were founded 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. Headquartered in Boston, the church does not officially report membership, and estimates as to worldwide membership range from under 100,000 to about 400,000.[2]


The church building, Huntington Ave., Boston, 1900

The church was incorporated by Mary Baker Eddy in 1879, following a claimed personal healing in 1866, which she said resulted from reading the Bible.[3] 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".[4]

The First Church of Christ, Scientist publishes the weekly newspaper The Christian Science Monitor in print and online.

Beliefs and practices[edit]

Christian Scientists believe that prayer is effective for healing diseases.[5] The Church has collected over 50,000 testimonies of incidents that it considers healing through Christian Science treatment alone. While most of these testimonies represent ailments neither diagnosed nor treated by medical professionals, the Church requires three other people to vouch for any testimony published in any of its official organs, including the Christian Science Journal, Christian Science Sentinel, and Herald of Christian Science; verifiers say that they witnessed the healing or know the testifier well enough to vouch for them.[6]

Christian Scientists may take an intensive two-week "Primary" class from an authorized Christian Science teacher.[7] Those who wish to become "Journal-listed" (accredited) practitioners, devoting themselves full-time to the practice of healing, must first have Primary class instruction. When they have what the church regards as a 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 once every three years.[8][9] Those who receive a certificate are authorized to teach.[10] 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.[11]


Reflecting pool with high-rises in the background
Reflecting pool of the headquarters of the Church of Christ, Scientist. The Prudential Tower and 111 Huntington Avenue are in the background.

The First Church of Christ, Scientist is the legal title of The Mother Church and administrative headquarters of the Christian Science Church.[12] 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.

An international 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.[13]

Board of directors[edit]

The First Church of Christ, Scientist is the Mother Church and ad­min­is­tra­tive head­quar­ters of the Christian Science Church.

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.



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.[14] He was replaced in the second by the Christian Science Monitor's former Moscow correspondent, David Willis.[15]

In October 1991, after a series of conflicts over the boundaries between Christian Science teachings and his journalistic independence, John Hart[non sequitur] resigned.[16]

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.[17][18]

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.[19] The Destiny Of The Mother Church ceased publication in September 2023.[20]

Membership decline and financial setbacks[edit]

In spite of its early meteoric rise, church membership has declined over the past eight decades, according to the church's former treasurer, J. Edward Odegaard.[21] 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. In 2009, for the first time in church history, more new members came from Africa than the United States.[22]

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.[23]

Use of spiritual healing in place of medical treatment[edit]

In the United States, Christian Scientist parents whose children have died for lack of access to medical treatment have been the subject of considerable controversy. At least 50 Christian Scientists have been charged with manslaughter or even murder of children whose illnesses were otherwise curable using standard medical techniques. The outcomes of these cases have been inconsistent. Some courts have held that parents are free to refuse treatment for themselves on religious grounds, but cannot refuse treatment for their children, while others have found that religious liberty empowers parents to forgo seeking medical care for a child in favor of spiritual healing.[24]

The lack of consensus on whether Christian Scientist parents can be compelled to obtain medical care for their children is reflected in the laws of various U.S. states. As of 2016, 34 states and the District of Columbia recognized religious exemptions to state child neglect laws. Of those 34, 16 permitted courts to order treatment. A total of 16 states did not recognize any religious exemption. [25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Spiritual Healing - Woking".
  2. ^ "The Church Of Christ, Scientist (Christian Science)". Archived from the original on 22 February 2014.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Mary Baker Eddy. Manual of the Mother Church, 89th Edition, page 58, Article XV "The Christian Science Pastor" Ordination. Section 1. First copyrighted 1895
  5. ^ Eddy, Mary Baker. Science and Health. CSPS. p. 1. ISBN 9780879524371. Retrieved 3 February 2020.
  6. ^ "Guidelines for submitting testimonies" Archived 2006-03-24 at the Wayback Machine Christian Science Journal web site
  7. ^ Church Manual, page 92, Article XXX, Section 8.
  8. ^ Church Manual, page 89, Article XXIX, Section 2.
  9. ^ Church Manual, page 84, Article XXVi, Section 4.
  10. ^ Church Manual, page 85, Article XXVI, Section 9.
  11. ^ Church Manual, page 86, Article XXVII, Section 3.
  12. ^ "Visit The Mother Church". Christian Science. Retrieved 2021-12-04.
  13. ^ Monitor, The Christian Science (2012-03-12). "About Us". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 2021-12-04.
  14. ^ Larmer, Brook (30 May 1986). "Monitor broadcasting to gain TV station and shortwave radio". Christian Science Monitor.
  15. ^ Hughes, John (18 February 1993). "A Passion For Journalism". Christian Science Monitor.
  16. ^ "Ex-anchor cites interference at Monitor". Baltimore Sun. September 2, 1992. Archived from the original on March 14, 2012. Retrieved February 27, 2010.
  17. ^ Peter Steinfels. "Fiscal and Spiritual Rifts Shake Christian Scientists" The New York Times (February 29, 1992)
  18. ^ Press release Stanford University. December 16, 1993
  19. ^ "Appellate Brief No. SJC-07156" (PDF). COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-23. Retrieved 2011-08-20.
  20. ^ "A message from the Christian Science Board of Directors". The Christian Science Journal. 2023-10-01. Retrieved 2023-10-22.
  21. ^ The Christian Science Journal November 2010
  22. ^ Christa Case Bryant, "Africa contributes biggest share of new members to Christian Science church" The Christian Science Monitor (June 9, 2009). Retrieved March 16, 2012
  23. ^ The Boston Globe October 13, 2005 p. A1
  24. ^ "Christian Scientists in the Courts". Retrieved 2024-02-28.
  25. ^ Sandstrom, Aleksandra. "Most states allow religious exemptions from child abuse and neglect laws". Pew Research Center. Retrieved 2024-02-28.

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