That Manhattan Project Again

Lowell Blasingame
Grenada, Mississippi

Since 1955 the brethren in New York City have been trying to fleece the brotherhood out of a "Million for Manhattan" for a meetinghouse. While begging the brotherhood for a million dollars to build, she has also played the role of a sponsoring church and doled out hundreds of dollars to other places. It would seem that brethren unable to build for themselves would be in no position to help others. In her campaign to raise a "Million for Manhattan" she has employed appeals of super-salesmanship, pathetic begging and a plan for putting Manhattan church in the real estate business.

In April, 1961, "It is 'now or never for Manhattan church of Christ! The church must start construction on the proposed new building during 1961 or risk losing the right to build on part of their Madison Avenue building site." This was the "Defeat... Worse Than Dunkirk?" appeal in which we were told "no little mission on the outskirts of the world could take the place of a demonstration where all nations could see it." Just think, brethren, if Paul had had the vision and foresight of these brethren and had seen the importance "of a demonstration where all nations could see it," rather than teaching in his own hired house in Rome, Acts 28:30, he might have started something that would have resulted in our being the proud owners of Vatican City today instead of the Catholics! We were told in this appeal from Manhattan that if the deadline was not met that it might be "Defeat... Worse Than Dunkirk?", that our whole mission program everywhere might be compromised and that we might suffer a "psychological set-back that might last a generation." These were not the words of Capone trying to convince some "speakeasy" on his product but Manhattan selling us on their need for a "Million For Manhattan."

Following the super-salesmanship came the pathetic pleading. Brochures that followed said, "This job does not belong to us alone. It is a task which concerns every true Christian throughout the country." According to her reports in 1961 Manhattan had an annual budget of $30,000 and in 1962 that it was nearly $50,000. In spite of this we were told that Manhattan alone couldn't do it, that

"Three hundred people are not enough to do this job." Just think about it, three hundred members, an annual budget of nearly $50,000, and they can't build themselves a meetinghouse!

So in February, 1962 came the plan! Brochures from Manhattan pictured a sixteen story, dual-purpose building, the upper twelve stories being converted into residence apartments and being sold for an estimated $ 1,800,000. These apartments were to be deeded to the owners "thus removing the church altogether from the real estate phase of this project." This was a tacit admission that their proposed plan involved the church in the real estate business but, "It will save the church a half million dollars to do it this way. The real miracle is that it can be done at all." Now, who could be so naive as to insist on the need for having scriptural authority for such a "bargain" as this???

But now comes the heart breaker! In June 1963, another brochure comes from Manhattan featuring a "Bright New Look on Madison Avenue" and "It's a Single-Purpose CHURCH for Manhattan! " After figuring out how to save us half a million dollars these brethren have dropped the plan. They dropped it not because they decided that it was unscriptural for the church to go into the real estate business but because the real estate market dropped in New York and it is no longer "economically feasible" to build this dual-purpose building. Instead of this dual-purpose building, they want a "single-purpose" building with a "fellowship room" under it that will seat five hundred. It seems that they have decided to drop the housing venture on top in favor of a feeding venture on the bottom! This size church restaurant ought to be "economically feasible," in fact they ought to be able to put every restaurant in a country mile of them out of business with it.

These brethren tell us that they would like to have the building before the World's Fair next year, however, "Manhattan Elders are not fighting any deadlines," so I guess that it won't be "Defeat .... Worse Than Dunkirk?" if they don't get it by then.

There is one part of this appeal the, re mains unchanged. That's the part about letting "our wonderful brotherhood" comply with "Step one "which" is to raise another $250,000." It seems that these Manhattan brethren haven't used any of the money sent to them by the brotherhood for their promotions and since they haven't promoted with any of the brotherhood's building money that they don't want to build with any of their promoting money! They are willing to promote "step one" if the "wonderful brotherhood" will take it, which means send Manhattan another $250,000.

As far as I can determine from Manhattan's brochures, they aren't destitute. They aren't even having to meet in the open, or from house to house or even in rented facilities. It seems from what they have said in their brochures that the whole idea behind this "Million for Manhattan" project is, (1) to keep from loosing sight of the restoration plea, (2) to keep our mission efforts in the Northeast and the whole world from being compromised, (3) and to demonstrate a building before the people of other nations that come to New York City so we won't have that "psychological setback that might last a generation"! Tommy-rot! What these brethren need more than that "Million for Manhattan" is a good diet of sound doctrine for a while.

Truth Magazine VII: 11, pp. 23-24
August 1963