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Questions & Answers

Q&A about the Christian Science Board of Directors wearing multiple “hats”

From the May 2014 issue of The Christian Science Journal

Q: Sometimes questions arise in the thought of Church members about the Christian Science Board of Directors wearing multiple “hats”—that is, holding more than one office—within the Church organization. Since members don’t always write about their concerns, they may not receive the answers that would be helpful. For that reason the Board of Directors is glad to provide to all Journal readers some of the extensive background information available on this subject. 

A: We can understand anyone’s deep desire to make sure Church Manual provisions are followed, and genuinely welcome the opportunity to share some of our thoughts with you, as well as some background provided by The Mary Baker Eddy Library and from the Church’s historical records. These were certainly helpful to us in making careful decisions, and we trust they will be helpful to you as well.

The Board has spent considerable time thinking through this topic, especially valuing the individual roles of the officers of The Mother Church as outlined in the Church Manual. Throughout the history of The Mother Church, members of the Christian Science Board of Directors have filled more than one post at the same time.

The practice of electing one individual to the offices of both member of the Christian Science Board of Directors as well as Clerk of The Mother Church was actually in place during Mary Baker Eddy’s lifetime and continued after her passing in 1910. When the Christian Science Board of Directors was created through the Deed of Trust in 1892, one Director, William B. Johnson, was the Clerk. He remained Clerk until his resignation in 1909. His successor on the Board, John V. Dittemore, was also appointed Clerk, and remained Clerk until November 1917, when Charles E. Jarvis, who was not a Director, was elected to the office.

We have found that having a Director serve in the role of Clerk facilitates the extensive collaboration that is required between those offices. For example, correspondence from the Clerk must be consistent with the message of the Church as a whole, and having a Director as Clerk has made it simpler and more efficient to share that consistent message. Truly, the Directors and Clerk work together to bring the broader mission of the Church to bear in the activities they directly oversee. And each Director is just as accountable to the whole Board and the Church Manual as he or she would be if a non-Director were managing a given activity.

Similarly, the Christian Science Board of Directors works closely with the Board of Education. Church historical records show that during 1944–1975, members of the Board of Directors were elected to the office of President of the Board of Education, beginning with George Wendell Adams in 1944.

By having Directors in roles such as Clerk, President of the Board of Education, and Christian Science Publishing Society Trustee, we have found a valuable simplicity and unity of purpose that enable us to focus more specifically on the healing mission of our Church. This may explain why this outcome has often been chosen at different times by the Board of Directors, who prayerfully and thoughtfully fill these roles. Some of these appointments may be temporary and will change as needs of the organization change.

All of that being said, we reevaluate roles each time new appointments are made and will keep your comments in thought as we go forward. We look to God and the teachings and directives of Christ Jesus and Mary Baker Eddy to guide us in all our decisions. Although reasonable people can differ and have varying perspectives on the human decisions that an organization has to make on a daily basis, we all love and honor the Church Manual, the Science that Mrs. Eddy revealed through her writings, and the Church structure she founded.

We value your commitment to Church and can feel the love and fidelity that prompt your letters to us, whether raising questions, telling of healings, or just appreciating the worldwide family of Christian Scientists of which you are a part.

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