"Humanity can't afford a continued drift toward the morally bankrupt doctrine that material pleasures are the sole or chief good in life," said the incoming Chairman of The Christian Science Board of Directors today.
"What we seek," said Jean Stark Hebenstreit, "is greater spiritual illumination that will enable us to help mankind find the way out of the fear, confusion, and conflict which seem to have engulfed the world."
More than 7,000 Christian Scientists from some 23 countries were present for the Annual Meeting of members of The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston. Mrs. Hebenstreit's remarks were part of her introduction to a symposium during which officers of The Mother Church gave annual reports.
"The major crises facing humanity today," Mrs. Hebenstreit said, "are not essentially political, economic, or social. They are essentially of a moral and spiritual nature. The world is being required to look to spiritual values, to demonstrate more willingly and effectively the true moral and spiritual precepts taught by Christ Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount."
The Sermon, as "a standard for mankind," was the theme of this year's Annual Meeting, the Church's 85th.
"This is not a time of denominational rhetoric or personal pleading," Mrs. Hebenstreit said, "but of the most honest and prayerful and profitable self-examination -- a time of gratitude for spiritual progress made during the past year, and a time of courage to welcome the demands for far greater progress Spiritward." The new Chairman spoke in The Mother Church Extension and, via closed-circuit television, to three other nearby auditoriums.
Saville R. Davis of Lincoln, Massachusetts, a former senior editor and correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor, was named President of The Mother Church for 1980-81.
In his brief message to the Annual Meeting he urged members to look beyond talk that "the rest of this century will be a time of danger, of massive global problems that are complex beyond imagination."
"It is our privilege," said Mr. Davis, "to look deeper -- to turn from mortal perceptions and ask: What is really at work in human consciousness? It is a transcendent spiritual force, the goodness of God expressed in the power of His Christ.
"Mankind is moving in new directions," the incoming President said, "doing its best to construct a world of equality and justice for every individual -- a world of universal freedom and blessing. That's what is really going on. And our Church plays a distinctive and powerful role in this transition."
Several points of 1979-1980 progress were noted by Church officers:
* In behalf of the Board of Directors, for example, Mrs. Hebenstreit reported The Mother Church totally free of debt.
* Treasurer Marc Engeler reported that Church funds had increased 181 percent since a low point in 1974.
* Clerk Robert Mitchell reported "good signs of progress and a marked increase in the flow of new [membership] applications from overseas countries. Africa and Latin America," he said, "continue their steady growth. More new branches in these areas are being recognized."
Mr. Mitchell spoke of reports of healing from throughout the field, adding: "We continue to find that growth is most rapid where healing is kept foremost in thought, proving the applicability and utility of Church."
Mr. Mitchell also told members that The Christian Science Board of Lectureship would have 12 new lecturers this year.
* Allison W. Phinney, Manager of the Committees on Publication, spoke of a "great, sensible brotherly love and unity which is springing up" in the Christian Science movement. "We are seeing that we arem a Cause," said Mr. Phinney, "and we're. . . going forward together. . . . We're seeing a fresh tide of evidence of Christian healing. As a Church, we're getting to the root of years of public indifference or hostility toward Christian Science which had been standing in the way of progress."
* The Trustees of The Christian Science Publishing Society announced that the audited circulation for both the daily and weekly editions of the Monitor is slightly up for the year March 1979 to March 1980.
Economies and streamlining, members were told, continue to battle publishing deficits and inflation. Monitor advertising activities have been centralized in Boston and the paper's electronic editing system is now fully operational.
The Monitor Endowment Fund, launched two years ago, continues to grow at a steady rate and stands ready, said Michael A. West, incoming Chairman of the Board of Trustees, "to help enrich the paper and strengthen its content" by meeting some costs through income from the Fund.
"We are enlarging our activities when ways are seen to meet a real need," Mr. West said. "This may be to upgrade quality or to reach out to our members and friends more effectively to bring the healing message to the world. We go forward with wisdom and expectation. We have the tools," the new Chairman said, "and we intend to finish the job."
New Readers for The Mother Church were also announced for three-year terms. Appointed First Reader was David C. Driver, a Christian Science practitioner and teacher. He is a native of New Zealand but a resident, now, of Seattle, Washington.
Gloria Virginia Ranck, also active in the public healing ministry of the Church, was named Second Reader. She is from Port Angeles, Washington.
Two special inspirational meetings, also related to the Sermon on the Mount theme, will be held today at 10:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Mrs. Hebenstreit will deliver the keynote message of the Board of Directors at the morning meeting.