Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 18, 1963

That Manhattan Project Again

Lowell Blasingame

For the past eight years the Manhattan church of Christ has had plans for building in New York City. During this period she has played the role of a sponsoring church, doling out thousands of dollars in other areas, while at the same time begging the brotherhood for a million dollars to build for herself. In her attempt to fleece the brotherhood out of a "Million for Manhattan," she has subjected brethren to appeals of super-salesmanship, pathetic begging, and a plan for putting the Manhattan church in the real estate business.

In April 1961, Manhattan's appeal was, "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 that "no little mission on the outskirts of the world could take the place of a demonstration where all nations could see it." Of course, poor Paul in his own hired house, Acts 28:30, in Rome, the capitol of the world then, didn't know the importance and value "of a demonstration where all nations could see it" or we might have had Vatican City instead of Catholics! We were told that if the deadline for building was not met, it would be comparable to Dunkirk, that our whole mission program everywhere might be compromised and that we might suffer a psychological set-back that could last a generation. Remember, brethren, these were not the words of Capone trying to sell some "speak-easy" on its need for Capone's product, but brethren in Manhattan selling the brotherhood on their need for a "Million for Manhattan."

After the super-salemanship pitch came the pathetic pleading. In brochures that followed, we were told, "This job does not belong to us in Manhattan alone. It is a task which concerns every true Christian throughout the country." We were told that Manhattan alone couldn't do it, that "three hundred people are not enough to do this job." Just think of it. In 1961 Manhattan had an annual budget of $30,000 and in 1962 her budget was nearly $50,000, yet she could not build herself a suitable building in which to meet!

In February 1962, came the plan. A brochure from — Manhattan pictured a sixteen story skyscraper with the upper twelve stories being converted into residence apartments and sold for an estimated $1,800,000. These apartments were to be sold, "thus removing the church altogether from the real estate phase of this project." This was an admission that their plan involved them in the real estate business but they did not intend to stay in it and besides, they were going to save us a half million dollars with this plan! "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." This was the "dual-purpose" plan, a skyscraper with residence apartments occupying the upper twelve stories and the church the bottom four.

Now comes the heart breaker! After all this figuring to save us that half million, they've dropped the plan. Here in June 1963, comes another brochure from Manhattan featuring a "Bright New Look On Madison Avenue" and "It's A Single-Purpose CHURCH For Manhattan!" It seems that brethren waited too long in sending money to Manhattan, the real estate market dropped so they can't save us that half million and now the plans have been changed because it is no longer "economically feasible" to build a dual-purpose skyscraper. Besides, they tell us that they never did really want that anyway. All they want now is a single-purpose building with a "fellow-ship room" below that will seat five hundred people. It seems that they have gone out of the real estate business on top and opened up a restaurant on the bottom. Since they dropped the other because it was no longer "economically feasible," not because they thought it unscriptural, I suppose that they think this "fellowship room" that will seat five hundred will be. They ought to be able to put every cafe in a country mile out of business with it!

The appeal now is changed on the time element. No longer is it 'Defeat.... Worse Than Dunkirk?" if the money doesn't come in before a certain deadline, now "Manhattan Elders are not fighting any deadlines." We are told that they would like to have the building before the World's Fair next year. In fact, there is apparently only one part of the appeal that remains unchanged. That's the part about letting "our wonderful brotherhood" comply with "Step one" which "is to raise another $250,000." It seems that since they haven't used any of our building money for promoting, they are also determined not to use any of their promoting money for building; so they are willing to keep promoting if we will keep sending the money for their building.

So far as I can determine from information in the Manhattan brochures, these brethren aren't meeting in catacombs, or out in the open, or even in rented facilities. It seems that this whole "Million for Manhattan" project is (1) to keep from losing the restoration plea, (2) to keep our mission efforts in the Northeast from being compromised, (3) and to demonstrate a building before people of other nations that come to New York City so we won't have a "psychological setback that might last a generation!"

— Grenada, Mississippi