“Understanding the Religious Gulf between Mary Baker Eddy, Ursula N. Gestefeld, and Their Churches”
Voorhees, Amy B. “Understanding the Religious Gulf between Mary Baker Eddy, Ursula N. Gestefeld, and Their Churches.” Church History 80, no. 4 (2011): 798–832.
Voorhees claims that the commonly mischaracterized and consequently overlooked relationship between Eddy and her former student, Ursula Gestefeld, should be re-examined because of its rich theological and biographical potential. Typically, the swift and public rift between the two has been identified as a personal quarrel later codified in separate religious organizations. But Voorhees argues that the common scholarly narrative was wrongly shaped by Charles Braden’s brief 1963 account which describes Mary Baker Eddy as abruptly denouncing the promising Gestefeld, cutting her off before sealing such tendencies in a centralized church organization. Voorhees’s closer look at their correspondence indicates a mutually respectful relationship before they parted ways on grounds of theological differences—Gestefeld’s theosophical eclecticism versus Eddy’s unorthodox Christian particularism. Re-thinking this relationship alters the traditional conclusion that Eddy’s exclusion of powerful women was based on authoritarian reasons and provides a clearer understanding of the terrain occupied by both Christian Science and New Thought. The article includes nine sections, including an examination of Gestefeld’s religiosity, the meaning of Gestefeld’s deep disagreement over Eddy’s role as Christian revelator, and their mutual rejection of each other’s religious claims.
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