Manual of The Mother Church


Manual of The Mother Church

The Manual of The Mother Church by Mary Baker Eddy is the governing document, or in effect constitution, of the Christian Science Church.

The "Church Manual" or "Manual" went through 88 revisions during Eddy's lifetime. The 89th edition incorporates revisions said to be in process prior to Eddy's death but apparently lacked her formal final sanction. A small minority of Christian Science adherents reject it for that reason; the majority tend to be either unaware of them or regard the changes as not of significant consequence.

The Manual consists of sixteen articles of various by-laws addressing subjects from church structure to discipline and individual practice. Its appendix also includes provisions for membership application, church service order, and a Deed of Trust for the church's land conveyance. Christian Scientists almost universally hold the Manual in high regard with respect to religious practice also.

While Eddy's Manual established limited executive functions under the rule of law in place of a traditional hierarchy, the controversial 1991 publication of a book by Bliss Knapp led the then Christian Science Board of Directors to make the unusual affidavit during a suit over Knapp's estate that neither acts by it violating the Manual, nor acts refraining from required action, constituted violation of the Manual. A second, traditionally-minded minority held that the Board's act in publishing Knapp's book constituted a fundamental violation of several by-laws and its legal trust, automatically mandating the offending Board's resignations under Article I, Section 9.

Many of the first minority who reject the 89th edition also believe that Eddy intended various requirements for her consent (in their view, "estoppels") to effect the church's dissolution on her passing, since they could no longer be heeded literally. Ironically, one of the stronger arguments against this position came from Bliss Knapp, who claimed that Eddy understood through her lawyer that these would not constitute an impediment to normal operation after her death.

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