OFFICIALS of the Christian Science Church yesterday restated their conviction that spiritual healing has an important role to play in humanity's search for better health. Members of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, gathered at The Mother Church in Boston yesterday for the denomination's annual meeting. In accordance with church bylaws, the meeting featured no debates or votes. Members instead heard progress reports on the church's worldwide activities.
The Mother Church, the denomination's central organization, is run by a self-perpetuating five-member board of directors, which interprets church bylaws and oversees denominational policies. The 2,600 local Christian Science churches in 68 countries, however, have a congregational form of self-government.
"We simply cannot stand by and think that Christian Science has nothing to contribute to this international concern - the search for health," the Christian Science Board of Directors told the members in its report. "The teachings of Christian Science, the Comforter, are essential to society's full resolution of the problem."
Special statement issued
The board also issued a special statement, "Humanity's Quest for Health," which has been published in a special issue of the denomination's weekly magazine, the Christian Science Sentinel. The board noted that "today, Christians of many denominations are actively involved in healing services and prayers for the sick. People around the world have found Christian healing a practical possibility."
"The record of health and well-being for those who have turned to Christian Science for help is, when fairly considered, quite remarkable," the directors said. "A few highly publicized prosecutions, when the record hasn't been perfect, have caused profound self-examination by members of the Church. But an honest examination of the breadth and general consistency of Christian healing as practiced by Christian Scientists shows a contribution to the health and well-being of society that deserves considerat i
on rather than organized bigotry and repression."
The board yesterday also announced increased sales of the denomination's textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by the church's founder, Mary Baker Eddy, although noting that they are "still very modest in number."
Nathan Talbot, manager of Christian Science Committees on Publication, described his department's efforts to explain Christian Science to the press and public, and to work with legislatures and health authorities to secure legal recognition of Christian Science healing.
"Vigorous efforts in recent years to rip provisions out of state laws that accommodate spiritual healing have been largely ineffective," Mr. Talbot said. "While a few laws have made the acceptability of spiritual healing less clear, over 100 new laws around the country in the last two years have strengthened the role of spiritual healing in society."
The clerk of the church, William Moody, spoke on the "vital importance of each member as a healer."
He said that applications for membership in The Mother Church have been steady, and that for the semiannnual admission in July, applications "are up slightly over the same time last year." The new members live in 55 different countries, with 13 percent in Africa, he said. (Church bylaws prohibit publication of total membership figures.)
New members had told of healings by prayer of diabetes, malaria, skin disease, hernia, and cancer, Mr. Moody said.
More than 2,000 letters a month are pouring in to the church as result of its shortwave religious broadcasts, Moody said. He described the church's "Countdown to Peace" effort in the United States before and during the Gulf war. This included a toll-free number providing a daily Bible reading on peace which received more than 105,000 calls, many from non-Christian Scientists, he said.
Church Treasurer Donald Bowersock denied published reports that church finances are in poor condition because of its new television programming. On the contrary, he said, "the church is not bankrupt and there is no debt other than normal payables and capital leases. We have not and will not run out of money." Mr. Bowersock announced that "per capita contributions this year are up over all previous years both in absolute amount as well as the size of the average gift."
Bowersock said church operating expenses for the fiscal year ending April 30 were $115 million compared with $100 million for the previous year. Investments in equipment and facilities were $13 million compared with $8 million the year before; the church's working fund balance on April 30 was $117 million compared with $145 million the year before and $168 million two years ago. He recalled that church members have been asked to contribute $37 million to replenish funds used to build the church's three s
hortwave transmitters, and said 8 percent of that money has been received to date.
Netty Douglass, manager of the Christian Science Publishing Society, the church's printing and broadcasting arm, told the meeting that The Christian Science Monitor, both in print and broadcast forms, had garnered numerous journalism awards over the past year. The society's most significant event of the year was the launching on May 1 of The Monitor Channel on cable television, Ms. Douglass said: "Our targets for commitments to carry The Monitor Channel were met."
TV move defended
She defended the move into television against criticism that the church "should not be in the television business."
"Are we really in the television business, or are we making use of a technology called television to reach a broader audience with a respected and honored publishing enterprise, to make constructive use of a form of communication that will serve to raise consciousness, to enlighten, to inspire?" Douglass asked.
Presiding over the meeting was the new president of The Mother Church, Jill Gooding, a Christian Science practitioner and teacher, and a former member of the board of directors.