The Manhattan Temple

Cecil Willis
Marion, Indiana

For several years the Manhattan, New York church, and their preacher, Burton Coffman has been trying to raise money by brotherhood solicitation to build a meeting house. Recently several of the religious journals have carried additional notices about their latest efforts to raise money.

Reuel Lemmons, FIRM FOUNDATION editor, recently said, "Burton Coffman and the Manhattan church is (sic) out raising money" (February 7, 1967). This announcement was not particularly surprising, since Burton Coffman and the Manhattan church have been out raising money nearly as long as some of us can remember.

The building project of the - Manhattan church has been underway for more than a decade. As I remember they paid $330,000.00 for a building site. That action alone should have raised a few eyebrows. A $100,000.00 building is considered adequate and super-adequate by most churches. A $200,000.00 building by most churches is considered an expendable luxury. And a $300,000.00 building by nearly any church would be considered a virtual temple.

But Manhattan put more than $300,000.00 in a building lot alone. Though the sectarian churches for a score of years have considered property on Manhattan Island too expensive to attempt to erect a building thereon, our brethren considered it absolutely essential. Manhattan embraces an area less than five miles square. There are a good many of us who have to drive more than five miles to worship, and many in the New York area who drive four or five times that far. But we had to impress the world, and build right in the middle of Manhattan Island, though real estate there is some of the most expensive in the world.

The brotherhood has already sent this church more than $1,000,000.00 with which to build a building. You would think a cool million bucks would build a "fairly suitable" meeting house for the two hundred people who comprise the Manhattan congregation. One also would think that with a $900.00 a week contribution this church could at least provide itself with a suitable meeting house. Churches usually can build for themselves any meeting house they need; they may not, be able to afford any meeting house they want.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to tell when Manhattan will have enough money. Each time they set a goal, they have no sooner obtained that than they set a new and higher goal which they expect the brotherhood to supply. Their $1,000,000.00 goal now attained, they have announced: "We are determined to raise another million dollars, or even more, if necessary . . ." They even have the audacity to state that "the wishes of the brotherhood . . . demand that we raise additional money . . . ... (GOSPEL ADVOCATE, January 26, 1967).

Following is a photograph of the Manhattan building now under construction and scheduled to be completed by the end of 1967. This building is called by Manhattan "Phase I of the building project ..." This $1,000,000.00 structure ought to be a little better than a rented storeroom, but it is not adequate for these 200 Manhattan people. They now expect the brotherhood to send them "another million dollars, or even more, if necessary . . ." They have rather rich tastes, particularly so, when they satisfy their tastes with-other people's money. They even boast, "No other congregation among us ever had so much support for such a purpose," but they now ask more than twice as much as any other church ever had.


For "Phase II" they tell us "another million dollars will be needed." They have requested that "every church of Christ in the nation" send them one-half of one Sunday's contribution. And, "Of course, other fund raising efforts will be intensified and continued also." They boast of the fact that this "little church" with the $900.00 a week contribution has paid all of the cost of fund raising. They have not used any money sent to them to beg more money. I guess this would be bad! Their counterpart in professional religious begging, the Highland Church in Abilene, Texas, has used more than $700,000.00 sent to them for the Herald of Truth to beg more money.

What is the object of this Manhattan project? B. C. Goodpasture says that failure to build this building "would cast a shadow on our image all over the world" (GOSPEL ADVOCATE, January 26, 1967). Burton Coffman said, "For churches of Christ to attempt to build on Madison Avenue and then not complete it would damage t1wir image for generations." So it sounds as though we are trying to do something about 4(our image" by erecting a $2,000,000.00 temple on Madison Avenue.

But we still cannot be sure "our image" is not going to be damaged. A few years ago maintaining our image was going to cost us $1,000,000.00. No maintaining our image is going to cost us "another million dollars, or even more . . ." It sounds something like blackmail to me. Either you fork over another $1,000,000.00 or your image is going to be damaged. But suppose these brethren decide they want to undertake "Phase 111" just as soon as the brotherhood supplies "another million" for "Phase II." Won't (tour image" be jeopardized again? Reckon the brotherhood might then have to send yet "another million dollars, or even more" to Manhattan to preserve our image?"

Never before has so much been done by so many for so few, who yet wanted so much more. And so the Manhattan temple makes its ways to the skies. It seems that I remember some people back in the Old Testament (Genesis 11) who were going to build a tower (temple) to make a name ("image") for themselves. People never learn, do they?

TRUTH MAGAZINE, XI: 7, pp. 2-3
April 1967