The Church of Christ, Scientist
(Christian Science) & homosexuality
About Christian Science:
The formal name of the denomination is the Church of Christ,
Scientist. However, most people refer to it as the
Christian Science church; they refer to its members as Christian
The movement was founded by Mary Morse Baker Eddy (1821-1910). At the age of 41, she sought a cure
from a lifetime of poor health from a healer, Phineas P. Quimby
(1802-1866). He had
developed a method of natural healing. that emphasized the role of the human mind in achieving bodily health.
She later had a fall and was so seriously injured that she believed she was
dying. On what she thought to be her deathbed, she
read a passage in the Bible about one of Jesus' healings. She suddenly realized that healing comes not from internal
bodily processes, nor from the power of a person's mind. It comes from the Divine Mind, God. She
was instantly cured!
Mrs. Eddy later wrote her main book now called "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures."
It is still in print.
1 She later founded The Mother Church, The First Church of
Christ, Scientist in Boston, MA. She also founded The Christian Science Monitor,
an internationally distributed secular newspaper.
The church went through a period of rapid growth during the first half of the 20th
century. Membership leveled out by 1950 and has since gradually declined. "...the
closing of hundreds of branch churches over the past two decades suggests that attrition
is the biggest threat the Church faces." 2 More information on Christian
On 2004-JUN-28, we asked the Mother Church for more specific information on
the church teaching and homosexuality. We did not receive a response to, or
acknowledgment of, our Email.
Teachings of the Church about homosexuality:
At the time that the first draft of this essay was placed online in 2004, the Church of Christ, Scientist did not currently appear to treat
homosexuality as a prominent concern. However, by early 2010, the matter seems
to be heating up.
The Church's main emphasis is on spiritual growth
and healing. They Church appears to have made major changes in recent decades
towards accepting sexual minorities as both members of the Church and as
employees in the Mother Church. However, this more inclusive stance is not
necessarily shared by the individual field churches. Some gays and lesbians have
felt unwelcome in some local congregations because of their sexual orientation.
Church and members' attitudes towards homosexuality:
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
"....abnormality in matters of sex is a delusive aberration, while,
humanly speaking, normalcy is natural. Everyone has a responsibility to society
and an obligation to aid in the betterment of the human race. But homosexuality
leaves to the institution of the human family no legacy of improvement, tending
toward a higher and more spiritual life. When homosexuals come to grips with the
problem and do not seek to legitimize perversion, they can be helped to
understand their true natures as children of God and be freed of this
aberration. But when sexual indulgence enters into a male-and-male or a
female-and-female relationship, it ceases to be to be normal and natural; it
then becomes perversion. When man's perfection is understood in [Christian]
Science, it can be proved that one is not condemned by birth to be second-class,
a deviate, or an outcast from society." 13
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." 15
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:
"I can say emphatically from what I've observed and experienced that a
person's sexual orientation is simply not an issue at the church - in
employment or membership consideration. I can also say that at no other time
in the past 20 years have people from all walks of life - gay and straight -
been more welcomed and warmly embraced by The Mother Church than they are
today. And from conversations I've had with church officials, I know that
the welcome is nonjudgmental and profoundly sincere, based on a simple
principle established by church founder Mary Baker Eddy - 'Love is impartial
and universal in its adaptation and bestowals'."
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
Information about Christian Science and homosexuality on the Internet:
||On 2005-APR, a search of their
official web site at: http://www.tfccs.com turned up only three passing references to homosexuality:|
Two refer to a lecture
that Joni Overton-Jung gave to a group of
teens in Alpharetta, GA where they "discussed many issues from a
spiritual perspective, including: fitting in, beauty, grades, studying for
exams, even homosexuality." In an Email, she wrote: "We talked
at length about understanding our spiritual identity, a deep, grounded, and
God-based sense of who we are -- an identity that transcends gender,
biology, or sexual orientation. We discussed how growing in an understanding
of our spiritual completeness brings clarity, freedom and peace to any issue
or avenue of our lives."
The other is in an article by Nathan A.
Talbot in The Christian Science Journal for 1997-SEP titled: "Chastity:
a source of stability." He lists "...a number of societal issues ' infidelity, divorce, sensuality, homosexuality, polygamy,
domestic violence --" which have impacted "the institution of marriage."
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 Christian Science gay-positive support group:
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.
An incident involving the marriage of a lesbian Christian Scientist:
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
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.
Hal Gimlin of North Carolina, is a life-long
Christian Scientist and one of Clementson's students.
"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
The couple has since bought a townhouse in
Massachusetts and plan to settle there. 10
Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, (1875 and later editions). You can see some book reviews or order a copy from the Amazon.com on-line bookstore.
Caroline Fraser, "Suffering children and the Christian Science church," Atlantic Monthly, 1995-APR.
"Church of Christ, Scientist," at: http://www.tfccs.com
John Strausbaugh, "Healed: They're Here. They're Queer. They're Christian Scientists. Get Used to It," Page 7, New York Press,
2001-JUL-3, at: http://www.nycsgroup.com/
"Summary of Religious Views on Homosexuality," University of North Carolina - Greensboro, at:
Emergence International has a web site at: www.emergence-international.org
"California Christian Science Calendar of Events, June 2002," CSeNews.com,
Joan Laguardia, "Lesbian, church split; Cape woman won't 'repent' marriage," News-Press, 2004-JUN-24, at:
"Teacher banned from Christian Science church," Fox 12, Oregon, 2004-JUN-24, at:
"Lesbian Christian Scientist Kathleen Clementson barred from teaching after wedding partner," QueerDay, 2004-JUN-24, at:
"Christian Scientists," Ethnicity Online, at:
Tom Taffel, "Letter to the Christian Science Board of Directors,"
Neil H. Bowles, "Only one kind of man," Christian Science Journal,
Bob Minnocci, "The Mother Church and gay marriage," Bay Windows
Online, 2004-JUL-14, at:
Linda Rodriguez, "Gay Christian Scientists seek a warmer welcome.
Emergence International works to increase gay visibility within church," Bay
Windows Online, 2004-OCT-21, at:
"Christian Science," Wikipedia, at:
Louis Carlson, "Considering same-sex lifestyles," tmcyouth, 2007 until at
least the end of 2009, at:
Tom Taffel, "Open Letter to The Christian Science Board of Directors," NY
Christian Science Group, 2006-NOV-14, at:
Tom Taffel, "Letter to the Christian Science Board of Directors,
"A session with the Christian Science Board of Directors" Podcast, tmcyouth,
Copyright © 2004 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2004-JUN-28
Latest update: 2010-JAN-03
Author: B.A. Robinson