Church of Christ, Scientist

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Church of Christ, Scientist
Christian Science Church and Reflection, Boston, Massachusetts crop.JPG
The First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston, the mother church and administrative headquarter
ClassificationChristian new religious movement
ScriptureScience and Health with Key to the Scriptures and Bible
RegionUnited States
FounderMary Baker Eddy
Origin1879; 143 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". 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.

In the early decades of the 20th century, Christian Science 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. Headquartered in Boston, the church does not officially report membership, and estimates as to worldwide membership range between 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, is widely known for its publications, especially The Christian Science Monitor, a weekly newspaper published internationally in print and online. 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[edit]

Christian Scientists believe that prayer is effective.[clarification needed][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 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 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]

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[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.

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.

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.[14] He was replaced in the second by the Christian Science Monitor's former Moscow correspondent, David Willis.[15] 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 Boston television station WQTV and set up a studio 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.[16] 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.[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]

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.[20] 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.[21]

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.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Spiritual Healing - Woking".
  2. ^ "The Church Of Christ, Scientist (Christian Science)".
  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" The Baltimore Sun September 2, 1992. Accessed Feb. 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. ^ The Christian Science Journal November 2010
  21. ^ 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
  22. ^ The Boston Globe October 13, 2005 p. A1

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