The Marlène F. Johnson Fund provides grants to individuals for worthy scholarly projects on Christian Science history, teaching, religious practice, healing ministry, and church experience. The purpose of this financial support is to enable grant recipients to give substantial time to the research and writing involved in these projects.
The grant program reflects the underlying spiritual perspective of the Fund. Fund officers are committed Christian Scientists and members of the Church of Christ, Scientist. Like all the Fund’s initiatives, however, the grant program was established to promote serious and legitimate scholarly work, not merely apologetics for a religious viewpoint.
Grant applications are considered on their merits. Grants are not limited to Christian Scientists or to members of the Church of Christ, Scientist. Irrespective of their religious or academic background, the Fund seeks in grant applicants the same basic respect for the subject that has characterized the most insightful scholarly studies on other religious groups, from Perry Miller’s on Puritans several generations ago to Stephen Stein’s on Shakers or Jan Shipps’ on Mormons in recent decades.
The Fund encourages projects that will credibly engage both scholars and thoughtful lay readers, both Christian Scientists and the wider public. In some cases, the subjects are proposed by individual applicants; in others, by the Fund. The maximum grant is $20,000. The number of grants given in any given year is limited.
In reviewing grant applications Fund officers consider a range of criteria, including the applicant’s scholarly credentials, experience, previous published work, the character and potential significance of the proposed work, and the relevance of the project to the Fund’s mission.
Scholarly credentials. Academic qualifications are an important but not exclusive factor in grant decisions. Lack of an advanced degree does not automatically preclude a grant; in some cases other aspects of an applicant’s experience may be relevant. Similarly, a prior record of scholarly publication is not an absolute prerequisite for a grant, but evidence of an applicant’s readiness to undertake serious work of a scholarly nature is.
Character of the proposed project. Fund officers place a premium on evidence of fairness, scholarly integrity, and original insight. As an article in The New England Quarterly pointed out many years ago, meaningful scholarly work on Christian Science still requires a commitment to look beyond stereotypes and widely-held “distorting myths.” Fund-supported work should do more than merely recycle prevalent academic assumptions.
Potential significance. In gauging the potential significance of a grant project, Fund officers consider issues of timeliness, feasibility, likelihood of publication, scholarly credibility, and interest to readers from varying backgrounds.
Relevance to the Fund’s mission. The most basic considerations are those relating to the Fund’s particular mission: Will the proposed work help bring clarity to public and academic perceptions of Christian Science? Does it engage current scholarly perspectives? Will it help Christian Scientists to better understand their own faith tradition? Grants are not given for projects that have only a marginal relation to Christian Science or the scholarly purpose of the Fund, or for work that has a focus foreign to the character or high moral standard of Christian Science.
Financial need. Fund officers take into account the level of assistance required to complete a project. A fair question is, would the project get done without financial help from the Fund? The Fund does not give grants for undergraduate or graduate tuition, course-related assignments, or dissertation research. Graduate students are eligible for grants to support specific publication-related projects.
The Fund respects the rights of authors and recognizes the responsibility of each author for his or her own work. While encouraging consultation of a natural sort with grant recipients, Fund officers assume that grant recipients may bring differing viewpoints to their work. Fund officers may in some instances question the premises of a project being proposed in a grant application, but the Fund does not place constraints on the conclusions reached in grant-supported work.
The submission period for grant applications is January 1 to March 31. The Fund normally responds to applications by mid-May.
Applicants should submit the following materials to the Fund for review:
- A project proposal of not more than four pages, double-spaced.
- The proposal should summarize the nature and scope of the project, research sources, timetable for completion, publication prospects, and potential significance for scholarship on Christian Science.
- Curriculum vita detailing academic background and experience, publications, relevant lectures or papers presented.
- Photocopies of one or several published articles, chapter from the proposed project, or other writing samples.
- Two or three references, preferably from recognized scholars.
“By this time it should be possible to look back across the intervening decades of war, holocaust, revolution, depletion, pollution, across the constantly accelerating cultural change and moral ferment of society, to see Mary Baker Eddy in something other than the terms of either the yellow journalism or the denominational hagiography of her day.”
— Robert Peel, Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Authority, 1977.