Manhattan, Yesterday, Today and

Norman E. Fult
Dyersburg, Tennessee

Burton Coffman, preacher at Manhattan in the Gospel Advocate of April 18, 1968, says formal opening of the Phase I building is set for June 30. It only cost $1,100,000 so that they merely missed the anticipated cost by $300,000. So they borrowed $400,000 which "is beyond the ability of Manhattan congregation to repay by itself."

Coffman says, "This break-through for churches of Christ in New York City was made possible by gifts from thousands of Christians and hundreds (1,600 according to the Gospel Advocate, January 26, 1967 NEF) of congregations all over the brotherhood totaling $1,300,000. Manhattan gave $300,000." Now add this plus $400,000 borrowed and you should get $2,000,000. The writer stated, "Land and all, the total plant, as it now stands, is worth $2,000,000." Same figure we got, BUT LOOK! He says, "The current value of this project is easily worth at least $1.50 for every brotherhood dollar contributed." That sounds odd when it sounds as though $2,000,000 was required to build and it is worth $2,000,000 now. That's just dollar for dollar.

But just suppose every $1.00 is worth $1.50 now. In a brochure they published in early 1959 they said, "Manhattan has at least $2.00 value to show for every $1.00 that brethren have given." That's a fifty cent decrease in value per dollar since 1959. Add to that the statement made in the January 26, 1967 ad carried in the Gospel Advocate to the effect that what had been contributed had been reduced in purchasing power by 50% due to inflation, and it seems very difficult to see how they arrive at the increase in value per dollar. Anyway, is the church in the investment business?

Back in the mid-fifties (January, 1956), the appeal began to be made for "A Million for Manhattan." In 1961, Manhattan began talking of a $500,000 (Contributions through 1961 were stated to be $554,000) need so they could build a "multi-million dollar structure" ($2,300,000) of sixteen floors, but they were to sell the upper twelve floors of apartments for $1,800,000. "Thus, the church will be out of the real estate phase of the operation completely," Coffman wrote in November, 1962. But by May, 1963 the building plans had been scuttled and a new picture appeared in their begging literature, a single purpose building. In addition to having a seating capacity of 1,000 it was to have a large "fellowship room for five hundred below the auditorium . . . Bible school and ministers' apartments . . . above . . . " and "raised to be clearly seen by all will be a baptistery" in the auditorium (Gospel Advocate, May 2, 1963). They wanted to build it before the 1964-65 World's Fair so it would be "EXHIBIT 'A'." It didn't materialize.

In the January 26, 1967 Gospel Advocate, a full page ad was headlined, "Why You Should Support the Manhattan Appeal for Another Million Dollars to Complete the Building." Notice "another million." It stated that Phase I was to be complete in 1967. At that time, "Over $1,000,000 has already been given," but "inflation has "reduced the purchasing power of the money by at least 50% . . ." the ad continued. A May 19, 1966 bulletin states, "The contract has been signed . . . construction begins at once with entry scheduled for September, 1967." The April 18, 1968 Advocate article says construction did begin July 1, 1966, but entry was due for April, the formal opening being set for June 30.

So Phase I seems to be a reality after thirteen years of begging and with the expenditure of $2,000,000 - $400,000 of which is owed which they can't pay themselves and knew they couldn't and didn't intend to. They're begging it, too! But building plans have changed again. The picture (Advocate, 1-26-67) is very different from that of May 2, 1963 or that of 1961. Coffman writes, "It rises thirty feet above the surrounding five story buildings," has "three levels of Bible classrooms, a minister's residence, a nursery, utility rooms, rest rooms . . . two auditoriums one which "seats three hundred fifty," and the other "seats two hundred . . . sixteen feet below street level" and "features the baptistery"

It would be interesting to know just how much has been wasted in architects fees on building plan changes (to say nothing of the cost of campaigning for contributions nationwide for thirteen years). And instead of 1,000 seating capacity for $1,000,000 they have a combined seating capacity, in two auditoriums on different floor levels, of 550 for $2,000,000. And that's only Phase I. "Very soon" they expect to go ahead with more. THE BEGGING ISN'T OVER YET!

So, on Madison Avenue and East 80th Street in New York, there stands a giant monument to the promotionalism and gullibility of the twentieth century churches of Christ. A monument the erection of which led Coffman to say, "At last, the church can move forward in New York." But we ask, "Forward to what?"

TRUTH MAGAZINE, XII: 11, pp.16-17
August 1968