MY CHURCH is in a mess created by a host of interlocking fiscal and theological troubles. Most distressing to the serious student of Christian Science is the theological turmoil we are in over the place of Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the denomination.
The church's century-plus history has been fraught with controversy about Mrs. Eddy. Outside critics have unjustly vilified her; well-meaning insiders have incorrectly deified her.
In the past, deifiers have met with solid resistance, first from Mrs. Eddy herself, and later from the church's directors and editors of its religious magazines. But these persistent folks have given today's directors an offer they could have and should have -- but have not -- resisted.
If -- and only if -- the directors would publish a book which deifies Mary Baker Eddy, they would get a legacy approaching $100 million. The Christian Science Publishing Society has not only published the book, but has sent copies to every Christian Science reading room in the world, causing the four editors of the church's religious magazines to resign Feb. 27.
And now for the fiscal mess. Today's church officers plunged the church into broadcast media activities costing about $10 million a month, on top of some $100 million in capital expenditures.
This caused the directors and the treasurer to withdraw money from pension funds as well as from a special endowment fund restricted to aiding the print edition of the Christian Science Monitor.
On March 9, 1992, the directors notified church members that the cable channel was for sale, and that it will cease operation if not sold by June 15. And then they "borrowed" some $40 million more from restricted funds to compensate broadcast employees.
In addition, they have barraged church members with letters and memos justifying their actions, and they have labeled critics as "dissidents" and "enemies." For their part, a handful of teachers and practitioners of Christian Science have called for the church officers to resign and turn the church over to those unsympathetic to their broadcasting and publishing activities.
What a mess! Yet, many Christian Scientists are reluctant to reject what is patently at odds with the church's basic beliefs. What keeps all of the church's teachers and professional healers from rising up in a body to reject the wanton spending, the trivializing of Mrs. Eddy's legacy and the declaration by the church officers that what the world needs from the Christian Science church is around-the-clock television shows and radio programs?
I would argue there are three reasons why there isn't more public outcry from Christian Scientists.
First, we all believe in the power of prayer. We've seen it work in our lives. Most of us have more than once directly witnessed the effect of prayer correcting and healing a specific sin or disease. I, for example, was healed solely through prayer of massive head injuries, a fractured jaw, internal injuries, and gangrene as the result of a life-threatening automobile accident. The healing was certified to by medical authorities.
Second, the directors and officers of the church may, as they did with the four editors of the religious magazines, publicly humiliate those who disagree with them, and may even place those they call dissidents on probation, refusing to let teachers teach or to let healers list themselves as practitioners in the monthly magazines. So many critics believe the hassle is just not worth it. They pray quietly for God's disposal of events.
Finally, it seems almost impossible to a great many Christian Scientists that those in the church's highest offices would ever deliberately do wrong. Also, they don't feel it is their task -- or even their right -- to judge what the church officers do. ("Judge not that ye be not judged" could well be the motto for many.) The theological arguments don't interest or disturb them. That's not what they come to church for. They come for peace and the assurance that God is governing their lives.
The need now is for my church to put the money-changers out of its temple and return to its spiritual inner core. There's healing work to be done for individuals as well as for the world's critical problems.
Cynthia Parsons, former education editor of the Christian Science Monitor, has been a member of the church for 49 years. She writes from Chester, Vt.