IN light of growing questions regarding Christian Science and its century-long practice of spiritual healing, the 95th Annual Meeting of members of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, held in Boston yesterday emphasized the Biblical instruction ``Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.'' During the meeting, it was noted that several criminal prosecutions of parents are under way in the United States for relying on Christian Science healing. Yet, members were reminded, in recent months charges were dropped in two of the cases.
``In this advancing era, spirituality can no longer be dismissed as incompatible with civilization and the individual and collective progress,'' the Christian Science Board of Directors stated in a new publication entitled ``Christian Science: A Report for the '90s, Looking Ahead to the 21st Century'' and issued in time for the Annual Meeting. ``Spirituality is civilization's best friend,'' the board added. ``Prayer is the God-given means for cultivating that spirituality and applying it to all human needs.''
The meeting of members of The Mother Church, as outlined in the Church Manual by Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, calls for ``reports of treasurer, clerk, and committees, and general reports from the field.'' This year's meeting included live broadcasts in English, German, and Spanish over the church's worldwide shortwave radio network.
Donald Bowersock, treasurer of The Mother Church, reported that the church, including its television and shortwave subsidiary, The Christian Science Monitor Syndicate, has no indebtedness of any kind. In response to assertions in the press, he said, ``We will never jeopardize the Church's ability to meet its obligations.''
He also told the members that all restricted funds of The Mother Church have been used only for the purposes intended. He reported a decrease in the book value of working funds from $168 million in 1989 to $145 million in 1990 as planned in support of continued start-up and growth in new activities at The Mother Church.
Expenses for the fiscal year that ended April 30, 1990, were $108 million, down from $138 million in April 30, 1989. Mr. Bowersock added that expenses were up from the $94 million forecast at last year's Annual Meeting because of a decision to accelerate new TV programming on the Church-owned Channel 68 in Boston.
In his report to the meeting, Nathan Talbot, manager of the Committees on Publication, pointed out that there is growing interest in the feasibility of spiritual healing as a responsible approach to dealing with society's escalating health needs.
Mr. Talbot said: ``Gradually, society is discovering that its own Christianity has something more practical, more immediate, than most Christians have realized. Christianity includes a science of spiritual healing. And our church is here to foster and encourage for all Christians, the science that rightly belongs to all Christians.''
Virginia Harris, clerk of The Mother Church, reported on recent visits to Eastern Europe, where there has been official recognition of Christian Science after many years of being forbidden. In the case of East Germany, this recognition was the first to be granted to any religion in 38 years.
``I remember so well,'' she told the Annual Meeting, ``the faces of over 150 friends crowded into a small room and flowing out into the hallway and coat room. The joy and expectancy of their faces, the strength that brought them through years of having to hold Christian Science close to their hearts, the years of not being free to share or talk about Christian Science and yet seeing their lives still attest to its power and effectiveness.''
Mrs. Harris also reported on a number of youth meetings The Mother Church held in Latin America. She talked about similar meetings being planned in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Europe and pointed to a growing willingness among Christian Scientists to face outward and expand their sense of community.
It was also announced that Netty Douglass has become manager of The Christian Science Publishing Society. She will continue to serve as president and chief executive officer of The Christian Science Monitor Syndicate Inc. She succeeds John Hoagland Jr., who stepped down as manager yesterday to become chairman and chief executive of Monitor Television Inc., which will launch The Monitor Channel on cable television in 1991.
Reports from the field included healing and church activities of note from Brazil, Nigeria, Canada, Honduras, West Germany, and the United States. Included was a report from Togo in Africa, where, following a military coup, all Ghanaians were under suspicion including several Christian Scientists. Church services weren't allowed. Two Ghanaians mistakenly injured by police were healed through Christian Science and church services resumed.
The Annual Meeting was opened by David Sleeper of Dallas, Texas, outgoing President of The Mother Church. The new President is J"urgen Kurt Stark of Boston. A native of East Germany and a Bible scholar, Mr. Stark is in the full-time healing ministry of Christian Science. He brings to the one-year appointment many years of service to The Mother Church, especially in overseas activities.