The Church of Christ, Scientist
|1960s and 1970s: John Strausbaugh published an article in the New York Press which
described the history of the New York City Christian Science Group, an
independent support group for "lesbian, gay, bisexual, & transgender
people, their friends and supporters."
He referred to a 1967 article in the Christian Science Sentinel
titled "Homosexuality Can be Healed." He also cites other
articles through the 1970s "which used terms like 'promiscuous,'
'bizarre,' 'abnormal,' 'immoral,' 'unseemly,' 'unhealthy,' 'unnatural,'
'cursed' and 'perverted' to describe gays and lesbians." It is
difficult to fault the Church for their position. Such
beliefs were nearly universal among religious groups at the time. It was
only in 1973 that the American Psychiatric Association
deleted homosexuality from its list of mental
|1980: Neil H. Bowles' article in the Christian Science Journal
|1985: Emergence International -- a gay-positive group for
Christian Scientists -- was founded. "Martin," is a
long-term member of Christian Science and organizer of the group. He said at
a 2004 conference that Emergence International was formed "after
self-identified gays were finding themselves being thrown out of their
congregations on the basis of their sexuality."
|1996: The Church originally had only three requirements for
membership: the applicant had to believe in the church's doctrines, to not
be a member of another faith group, and to have passed their 12th birthday.
In more recent years, additional qualifications were added, including
freedom from "adultery, promiscuity and homosexuality" as well as
refraining from "alcoholic beverages, tobacco and drugs." In the
1996, the Mother Church returned to Mrs. Eddy's original Application for Membership
and removed the exclusion of homosexuals. Some
individual branch churches may still continue with membership forms which
the additional restrictions. 4,12 |
|1997: Tom Taffel wrote a personal letter to Virginia S. Harris,
Chairperson of the Christian Science Board of Directors, in which he discussed
why he, as a gay man, "felt compelled to withdraw from church membership." He
felt abandoned by his church home when the Board equated homosexuality with
sin. He suggested that the decline in church membership might be related to
the addition of questions concerning adultery, promiscuity, homosexuality,
alcoholic beverages, tobacco and drugs to church membership application forms.
He asked for a response to his letter. The board acknowledged receipt of his letter three months later, but did not engage any of Taffel's points. 19
|2004: Ethel Baker, manager of local activities for the Christian
Science Mother Church in Boston, MA, said: "There's no question specified
in the Church's manual about sexual orientation." She said that the
Church's position is to not take a position. Members are expected to work
out their own questions of human sexuality. Referring to the membership or
employment in the Mother Church, she said that sexual orientation is: "...just
not an issue." She concluded: "We're not even individually to judge
each other - that's just not Christianity. That's the only way that we'll
begin to move forward - that non-judgmental, unconditional love of each
|2004: Bob Minnocci, an active Christian Scientists for over two decades and an
ex-employee of the Mother Church wrote in mid-2004:
|2006: Tom Taffel of The New York City Christian Science Group
for lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender (LGBT) people, their friends and
supporters wrote a letter to Tom Black of the Christian Science Board of
Directors. Much of the letter discusses Black's presentation on
opposite-sex marriage in late 2005 at the Ninth Church of Christ Scientist,
San Francisco, which Taffel feels is biased.
|2007: Lois Carlson posted an
essay "Considering same-sex lifestyles" on the tmcyouth (The
Mother Church Youth) blog. It expresses concerns over young people whose
"sense of identity is anchored in their sexual expression." She writes:|
"I know for from experience when you base your sense of identity on sexual expression of any kind, those feelings can be very manipulative and disorienting. What keeps coming clear is that the key to happiness is to challenge the assumption that physical longings?of any kind?dictate our experience or thought."
This posting triggered many dozens of thoughtful responses for at least the
next three years. They are well worth reading. They may accurately represent
the beliefs of youth in the Christian Science movement and may indicate the
future course of Christian Science.
|2008: The tmcyouth website contains a podcast of a question & answer session between youth attending the Christian Science 2008 Spiritual Activist Summit in Australia and the Christian Science Board of Directors. One of the main question related to homosexuality. One board member recalled a statement by Jesus that humans in Heaven will act as the angels -- that is, be asexual beings. The implication is that sexual orientation and gender identity will not matter. Another board member felt that as Christian Science members more fully live their spiritual ideals, there will be much less emphasis on their sexuality. Each individual will develop a more direct connection with divine wisdom. Thus, there is no need for the directors to establish a binding church policy on homosexuality. Members can be trusted to listen to God and follow their highest sense of right. 20|
|On 2005-APR, a search of their
official web site at: http://www.tfccs.com turned up only three passing references to homosexuality:|
On 2010-JAN, another search turned up no
|A summary of views on homosexuality by
different religions is maintained by on the University of Northern
Carolina's web site. Under "Christian Science" they state: "Since
Christian Scientists believe that sexual activity is primarily for
procreation, homosexuality has no place in the life of a proper Christian
Scientist. The church has fired employees for being gay." They do not
cite any sources. 5|
|Ethnicity Online, a web site that promotes "cultural awareness in
healthcare," states: "The Christian Science Church is uncomfortable with
homosexuality but, on the whole, does not openly condemn it."
|An article on Christian Science in Wikipedia states:|
"There are no specific references to homosexuality in the writings of Eddy. Her writings prescribe the living of a morally decent life, which is not an explicit condemnation of homosexuality, but it may account for some of the discomfort with homosexuality seen within some Christian Science communities. There is some dissent among Christian Scientists as to what exactly the position with regard to homosexuality ought to be; in this matter, as in others (such as abortion), the Church chooses not to have an official position, as it is considered that each individual Christian Scientist should seek their own highest sense of right through prayer." 16
A support group for Christian Scientists, called Emergence International was founded in 1979. 6 It is an "association of Christian Scientists, their families and friends, who provide spiritual and educational support to lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals as they deal with homophobia and heterosexism."
They hold a conference annually in October. They have organized local groups in some cities. They once published two periodicals: Emerge! and In Between Times. However, these have been discontinued with the creation of their web site. The site contains many testimonials of Christian Science healing of homophobia, anger, depression, etc. One mentioned that: "the prayerful work revealed to me that I don't need to be healed of homosexuality any more than I need to be healed of having blue eyes." None of the content cites a person's conversion from a homosexual to a heterosexual orientation.
For ten years, Kathleen Clementson, 62, had taught a two-week class in spiritual healing in Fort Meyers, FL. The class is the first class that individuals take when they wish to become a Christian Science practitioner. She appears to have been well known in the Christian Science church. She was a member of the Christian Science Board of Lectureship. She delivered public lectures such as one on "Spirituality and healing" at the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco in 2002-JUN. 7 That lecture was sponsored by the First Church of Christ, Scientist, San Francisco. (See Reference 7 for her photo. We cannot reproduce it here for copyright reasons.)
Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage since 2004-MAY-17. Three days later, Kathleen married her fianc?Suzanne Nightingale, 49, at a beach in the state after having waited the minimum interval required by law. The Associated Press (AP) took photographs of the wedding which they sent to news outlets worldwide. The AP allegedly reported that she had claimed that her marriage had the prior support of the Church of Christ, Scientist.
The Mother Church in Boston, MA, sent her a letter on 2004-MAY-28. Gary A.
Jones, manager of the Committees on Publication, allegedly denied her
statement about church support. He wrote: "You
have not asked for the support (or approval) of your marriage from The Christian
Science Board of Directors, and it has not been given to you."
By JUN-08, the Board had sent her a letter stating that she had abused her role as a teacher. She would only be allowed to continue teaching if she repented, served a three-year probation, and severed all ties with her former students. Some news reports mention that the Mother Church had planned to issue a formal public statement on this incident, but later reversed its decision.
One interpretation of these events has been widely circulated by the media and on the Internet. It is that the Mother Church allegedly:
|Considers same-sex marriage to be unacceptable.|
|Wants Ms. Clementson to terminate her marriage through divorce or separation.|
|Wants her to repent of what it consideres to be her sin of homosexual behavior.|
Another interpretation is that Ms. Clementson misrepresented the stand of the church by allegedly stating that her marriage had received the prior support of Mother Church. They expected her to repent of the sin of misrepresentation, and to repudiate her statement.
On 2005-APR-23, we asked clarification from the Mother Church as to which interpretation is correct. We do not expect a response.
A governing board member at her home church in Cape Coral, FL, said that it would accept the Mother Church's decision. Clementson responded by returning her teaching credentials and leaving the church. She said: "I don't feel I have anything to repent for more than anyone else." She also said: "I feel no anger to the mother church. To tell you the truth, I think this is a wonderful opportunity to bloom and be out of the jurisdiction of the mother church. This is going to open the door to new possibilities for me." 8
The Mother Church has since ruled that all of her former students, dating back through a decade of her teaching, are now regarded as having received no primary instruction. They can no longer advertise as Christian Science practitioners in The Christian Science Journal, or take annual refresher courses. 9
Hal Gimlin of North Carolina, is a life-long Christian Scientist and one of Clementson's students. He said:
"I love my religion. I'm not thrilled with what is going on. I think they overdid it....To me it's just a non-issue. When I was in class, I had no idea one way or the other about her sexual orientation. She is the same person to me that she was before. She'll still be my teacher, and she'll still be my practitioner....All the Christian churches in the world are having to deal with this." 8
The couple has since bought a townhouse in Massachusetts and plan to settle there. 10
Copyright © 2004 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2004-JUN-28
Latest update: 2010-JAN-03
Author: B.A. Robinson
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