Christian Science Church Holds Annual Meeting

Church plans bookstore edition of textbook, `Science and Health'

ONE hundred years after the cornerstone of their church was laid, members of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, gathering for its Annual Meeting here June 6, were reminded of another centennial in Christian Science history:

In 1894, Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Christian Science Church, designated the Bible and her textbook, ``Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,'' as ``the only pastor'' of the religion's Mother Church and its branches around the world.

Accordingly, many of the reports presented by new President Ruth Elizabeth Jenks, Board of Directors Chairman Virginia Harris, and other church officers focused on the ways this literary pastor guides the church, and on ways that Christian Scientists can ``share this pastor with a yearning world,'' in Mrs. Jenks's words.

Mrs. Harris announced that the church would publish a new edition of Science and Health for bookstore sales to first-time readers, starting next fall.

Harris recounted the Bible story of a sick woman who, squeezing through a crowd that surrounded Jesus, touched his garment and was healed. Many people are mentally reaching out today for spiritual values and healing, she said, as seen in ``research being done on prayer by medical and mind/body institutes; the stream of books on spirituality and health...; or the millions of dollars spent on alternative healing methods....''

Harris challenged her listeners: ``As contemporary spiritual healers, are we there with our pastor, in the crowd, listening and responding?'' (See interview, right.)

The clerk of The Mother Church, Olga Chaffee, stated that ``branch churches and societies are exploring fresh ways for the services, Reading Rooms, and lectures to be more relevant and accessible to their communities.'' New members from more than 50 countries joined The Mother Church last year, she announced.

Victor Westberg, The Mother Church's manager of Committees on Publication, described efforts to correct misinformation about Christian Science and to counter legislative attempts to limit reliance on prayer in healing children. To help journalists understand Christian Science, Mr. Westberg reported, his office has published a new media guide.

Besides continuing efforts in some state legislatures to remove accommodations for spiritual healing from child-abuse laws, the federal Department of Health and Human Services is pressuring 41 states and the District of Columbia to eliminate such accommodations, Harris said. To resist this campaign, she said, committees on publication from 27 states recently went to Washington to meet with members of Congress, and members of the Board of Directors have met with congressional leaders, a top White House aide, and United States Attorney General Janet Reno.

In his report on church finances, Treasurer John Selover said income for fiscal year 1994 was $74.9 million, roughly the same as the preceding two years. Expenses for 1994 were $63.3 million, compared with $64.2 million in 1993 and $215.5 million, including costs to shut down television activities, in 1992.

Owing primarily to accrued television shutdown obligations, the church's unrestricted funds on hand on April 30 was negative $70.8 million - improved $43.9 million from the negative $114.7 million of two years ago. The church has $115.9 million in restricted funds on hand, Mr. Selover said. The church's only external indebtedness is $800,000 in equipment leases, but it has internal obligations of $4.5 million to The Trustees under the Will of Mary Baker Eddy and $42.5 million to the pension reserve. The pension reserve will receive principal repayments of $1 million this coming year, Selover said. He added that ``obligations to our retired employees have been fully met through current earnings of the pension reserve.''

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