the blog of DC Drinking Liberally

July 18, 2007

Uptown Theater Lost to McLean Bible Church?


Uptown Theater signI just saw this message on the Cleveland Park e-mail list:

It appears that our neighborhood theater will soon be no more. I just received a call from a City Paper reporter asking what I knew about the sale of the Uptown to the McLean Bible Church (nothing until he
called). Here’s a link to the church’s website with information about their planned use:

Off the top of my head, I don’t see much of a “regulatory hook” for this, other than the fact that the church will have to get Historic Preservation Review Board approval for any changes to the exterior. I believe the commercial zoning that applies to this area probably permits this use, whether it’s considered “religious” or not. […]

Bruce Beckner
Commissioner ANC3C05

That’s certainly depressing news, much worse than Yenching Palace’s imminent transformation into a Walgreen’s. It will be interesting to see how the Cleveland Park community reacts.

Update (11:03pm): See the comments. It appears the situation is not as dire as initial reports suggested. Is this the City Paper’s idea of a practical joke?


  1. Yikes. Are we sure it’s a sale? I just perused the church’s website, and they are talking about holding weekly services there. Perhaps the Uptown will be a church on Sundays only? We can hope…

    Liz7:57 pm

  2. Keith,

    I am writing to clarify our, McLean Bible Church’s, intended use for the Uptown Theater. We are not purchasing the theater. We are simply renting it on Sunday mornings. As such, our use will not limit public use of the theater. We realize the place that the Uptown holds in the heart of the community and are committed to developing services and ministries that are fitting for the Uptown and for Cleveland Park.

    Mike Hurt
    McLean Bible Church
    Director of Community Campus Development

    Mike Hurt8:00 pm

  3. Thanks for the clarification, Mike. I’m glad to hear it. Word has now gotten back to the Cleveland Park list. That should help prevent the story from spinning out of control.

    Keith10:50 pm

  4. I wonder why the ANC commissioner, an elected official, didn’t bother to check any facts before posting this as a fact. A reporter calling for verification doesn’t really count as a relaible source, and neither does Mr. Beckner, apparently. One phone call to the Church, which was listed on the link he provided in his post, would have cleared up the matter. Isn’t this the job of an ANC Commissioner?

    I wouldn’t normally be so annoyed by this, but issues on the list serv seem to build and build until the original issue becomes obscured. Thank you, Keith, for actually taking the time to send a simple email to clear up the matter. Perhaps you should make a run for Commissioner when it’s next up for grabs. You’ve already done more than the current one.

    —Gina Mundaca • 9:27 am, July 19

  5. I agree that it’s unfortunate that bad information was spread, Gina, but I’m afraid I was a conduit as well. I didn’t e-mail the church. Mike Hurt ran across this post (probably by searching blogs) and replied with his comment. Thus my post did provide an opportunity for the correction, but that part wasn’t really my doing.

    So thanks for the vote of confidence, but I don’t think I’d be a very good ANC representative. I wouldn’t write off Bruce Beckner on the basis of one mistake, and I don’t live in his district anyway.

    Keith9:39 am, July 19

  6. I object strenuously to an anti-gay church which tells gays they can “pray” their way “out” of homosexuality at the Uptown Theater. I will never give that theater another PENNY as long as their building supports an anti-gay “ministry.”


    —Albert • 12:17 pm, July 20

  7. Mr. Beckner is a mediocre ANC Commissioner in a city filled with such volunteers at the ANC level. His spite towards his next door neighbor, a pre-school is unbounded. He even fought his constituents on the installation of sidewalks in his single member district because of the pre-school.

    He is unresponsive to his constituents (unless they too spite the pre-school) and is otherwise undistinguished in his service.

    Actions such as the irresponsible posting on the neighborhood listserv speak to how sophisticated he really is.

    —Maia • 9:03 pm, July 21

  8. What about parking?!

    —Katherine • 2:58 pm, July 22

  9. This child is nothing more than a vehicle for “Jews For Jesus” and its hidden reason for wanting to locate where it will is that Cleveland Park is the Jewish stronghold of DC. I think it is self-evident Lon Solomon thinks he has a calling to convert the Jews of DC city.

    —Rob • 7:15 pm, July 25

  10. I think Mclean Bible Church is a cult and I am strongly opposed to it opening a new “campus” in the Uptown Theatre. Lon Solomon has been quoted as trying to “encompass the metro area with a circle of faith” which I think is completely wacko. I really dislike the idea.

    —Katherine • 7:42 pm, August 2

  11. I think they should invest money in building new churches instead of taking the theatre buildings…

    Andy12:48 pm, August 14

  12. For God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never find God through human brilliance, and then he stepped in and saved all those who believed his message, which the world calls foolish and silly. // This so-called`”foolish” plan of God is far wiser than the wisest plan of the wisest man, and God in his weakness–Christ dying on the cross–is far stronger than any man. 1 Corin 1:21,25

    Cheers to Mclean Bible for perseverance– prayers go out to you this day and your leadership:)

    —Jensina • 10:03 am, October 18

  13. I have lived in DC for 7 years and attended Mclean Bible Church for 6 out of those 7 years. I love the church and I believe it is having a wonderful impact in the area. If MBC is allowed to use the theater on Sunday mornings, I will travel less than 2 miles to get to church instead of 17.

    MBC does not want to buy the theater. They are planning on renting it on Sunday mornings for church services. It is my understanding that the theater is looking for some additional income. MBC has the ability to help them pay their bills and remain the beautiful historic theater that they have been for years. Isn’t that great?

    And I can’t see how parking will be any different than if there were a movie playing. Many of the people that will attend are metro riders that don’t have cars.

    And what do people do after they get out of church? They eat lunch! This will be wonderful for the local restaurants and businesses.

    Not to mention, the church has already started doing community service projects in the area.

    If God doesn’t want MBC at the Uptown, he will provide another location. But I don’t think the community should be so hasty in their decision making. MBC isn’t “out to get you!” We have a life-changing message to share can do a lot of good in the community.

    —Heather • 11:27 am, October 30

  14. Heather, I agree that the parking issue seems bogus, except that people are understandably worried about the way the city ignores illegal parking by church attenders, which could lead to innocent people having their cars blocked in on Sunday mornings.

    If MBC is just having services, then I don’t think it will cause much friction, but the “community service projects” and “life-changing message” are exactly the sort of things that make people, including the large Jewish community in Cleveland Park, uneasy about MBC’s possible arrival. People do not like to be proselytized, and if MBC members start bothering other people then they’ll have brought the hostility on themselves.

    Keith11:47 am, October 30

  15. Keith, I hear you about the parking. I have seen churches put out orange cones and double park. I don’t know if they do that on their own, or if they have permission from the city, but it is a bit irritating.

    In my opinion, MBC tends to be very conscientious about things that may or do cause friction (like parking/traffic). And they address the issues by coming up with alternatives and making sure that church attenders are aware of the situation.

    As for the community service projects, if community members don’t want their lawns raked, their school grounds cleaned, or turkeys delivered for Thanksgiving, they may politely decline.

    And church isn’t mandatory either. As with anything else in life, it’s a choice each individual makes. If you’re interested in learning more, please join us. We’d love to have you! If not, we won’t harrass you. That doesn’t mean we’re not going to advertise that we’re there, but we won’t harrass. Conservatives get such a bad rap sometimes… ;)

    —Heather • 10:26 am, October 31

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