Kind of Red

September 30, 2010

A Long Way to Go

Filed under: Uncategorized — The Painted One @ 10:54 am

This past Sunday morning Bishop Eddie L. Long addressed his congregation and the public at large for the first time since the emergence of four civil suits, filed in Dekalb County last week, that alleged the bishop, “through manipulation, coercion, deception and fraud,” engaged in a sexual relationship with four young men while they were teenagers.  The suits name Bishop Long, New Birth, Inc., and the Longfellows Youth Academy as defendants, and further allege Bishop Long began a confidential relationship with the young men as their spiritual advisor, that he later lavished the young men with expensive gifts and exotic trips financed by funds from the church, then ultimately initiated a sexual relationship with each. The accusers allege Bishop Long preyed upon them as they participated in his Longfellows Youth Academy. The Academy, a ministry initiative under the purview of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, is a tuition-based program for young men, aged 13-18, which “purports to train young men to love, live and lead as they proceed on their ‘masculine journey.’” It has served as a means to guide young men for years, and all of the accusers participated at some point during their tenure at New Birth.

An image of Bishop Eddie L. Long allegedly sent to the accusers, signed with the signature, "Eddie L. Long, Amazed By His Grace."

This fact, that the accusers first encountered Bishop Long as young men seeking guidance from an influential father figure, made the disconcerting “details” in the suits all the more troubling.  The alleged misappropriations of church funds to bankroll these alleged dalliances is also unsettling.  Other evidence has also begun to leak to the public (e.g. pictures Bishop Long took of himself and sent to the young men via text message, accompanied by his signature “Eddie L. Long, Amazed by His Grace.”), which, at best, showcases serious lapses in judgment on the part of Bishop Long.  At worst, the allegations, when coupled with newly emerging evidence, depict a dreadful glimpse into a bishop who preyed upon some of his congregation’s most vulnerable members.

The staggering allegations rocked the Christian community in Atlanta and reverberated across the nation when first revealed.  Bishop Long has received an enormous outpouring of support from his followers nationwide and from notable celebrities, many of whom urge caution before rushing to judgment.  Bishop Long, at the advice of his counsel, has remained relatively quiet throughout the news of the accusations.  Nevertheless, his accusers have begun speaking to the public.  One of the Bishop’s accusers, Jamal Parris, recently spoke to a local news station, telling reporters, “I cannot get the sound of his voice out of my head, I cannot forget the smell of his cologne. And I cannot forget the way that he made me cry many nights when I drove in his car on the way home, not able to take enough showers to wipe the smell of him off of my body.” Another accuser, Spencer LeGrande, said he decided to speak out after learning of the allegations of others.  He said, “They said bishop has been accused of something, and my heart dropped.  And that was my time that God told me to release what I had to say.” Bishop Long elected not to address these allegations with specificity, but he spoke out again Tuesday saying if the media reports were true, “I’d be scared to show up, I’d be scared to look at you. But there’s something in me bigger than the situation.”  Bishop Long has continued to deny the allegations, though his remarks on Sunday, and again Tuesday, did not address them with the particularity many desired.

Bishop Eddie L. Long, left, and President George W. Bush circa 2006

For those who are unfamiliar, Bishop Eddie L. Long is the pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, Inc. When  Bishop Long assumed the pastorate in 1987, the congregation had roughly 300 members.  He subsequently grew the fledgling flock into a congregation literally 100 times its previous size, with a 240-acre campus, syndicated TV shows, an array of community programs and ministries, satellite churches in other cities, and a congregation boasting upwards of 25,000 members.  Through the years, he has risen to prominence as a key national figure who led thousands and counseled influential celebrities, athletes and political leaders. When responding to criticism of his extravagant lifestyle, he once famously quipped, “We’re not just a church, we’re an international corporation,” He went on to say, “We’re not just a bumbling bunch of preachers who can’t talk and all we’re doing is baptizing babies. I deal with the White House. I deal with Tony Blair. I deal with presidents around this world. I pastor a multimillion-dollar congregation.”

From left Bishop Eddie L. Long, Usher, Ce Ce Winans, Rev. Jesse Jackson and Pastor Donnie McClurkin

Within church circles, Bishop Long often represented the strength, insight and leadership of a godly man, with thousands pointing to him as an example that men, both old and young, should aspire to emulate.  Moreover, Bishop Long’s ministries have proven capable of achieving what many churches can only imagine, attracting men to church in droves, and transforming their lives as a result of their participation.  Consequently, his status as a leader and molder of men has triggered some of the greater sense of shock and dismay amongst those who have benefited from his ministries.  Moreover, his fervent, outspoken stance against homosexuality made the allegations that surfaced last week completely unthinkable for most of Bishop Long’s congregation.

This scandal involving Bishop Long has again shed light on the taboo of homosexuality within the black church and its crippling code of secrecy amongst many congregants.  As I have written previously, most churches in our community do not do or say enough regarding sex.  Even fewer address homosexuality in a responsible, biblically sound manner. Malik Washington offered similar sentiments when he wrote for NPR’s Tell Me More Blog earlier in the week.  He said, “[O]ur [belief that our] unwillingness to speak about [homosexuality] sustains its inability to exist is also incorrect. No, speaking things into existence does not work in reverse.” As he went on to write, the allegations levied against Bishop Long did not surprise some, because we have seen similar occurrences before.  He continued to argue that those who did not know remained ignorant because “[they] didn’t want to know. “  Regardless of whether Bishop Long’s counsel proves the present allegations false, they bring attention to patterns of abuse and neglect that plagues churches across America.  Such abuse and neglect continues to pervade houses of worship in large part because the self-imposed taboo of sex and sexuality amongst many black churches has rendered many of them impotent when forced to confront sexual impropriety.

On its face, I pray the allegations are false due to the level of influence Bishop Long has wielded over the past several decades and the irreparable harm it would cause to the faith of many who have been impacted by his ministries.  An unfortunate truth with regard to this scandal is that it “[has] given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme.” Christianity once again has been marred by the sullied reputation of one its leaders.  If any good comes from it, the scandal allows for bishops, pastors and elders alike to revisit the level of access they offer their congregants, while also providing a key reminder for churchgoers across the country that they worship God and not the person selected by God to deliver His Word from the pulpit.  Notwithstanding, if the allegations do prove true it would signal a pattern of reprehensible, inexcusable, despicable behavior on his part, such which is never an accurate reflection on the “Good News” of Jesus Christ, and such that would disqualify Bishop Long from the works of ministry.  In short, as Kai Wright of The Root offered, if the allegations are true, Bishop Long is nothing short of a sexual predator who used The Bible, his church and his position of power to prey upon boys.

Jesus offered a stern warning to those who “offend one of these little ones which believe in [Him]”, (there are also stern warnings against harming God’s messengers peradventure the accusers fabricated their allegations).  Furthermore, the Bible clearly articulates the standards a bishop, pastor or preacher of the Gospel should uphold.  Suffice to say, Bishop Long would have much to account for both on this earth and in the hereafter if even a hint of these allegations are true.  Nevertheless, the inability (or sheer unwillingness) of some messengers to practice what they preach does not negate the truth of the message.  What is right is right if no one is right, and what is wrong is wrong if every one is wrong.  God is still perfect, His Word is still true, even if we have a long way to go in showing that to the rest of the world.  I invite you to join the conversation, and share how this scandal has impacted you.

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3 Comments »

  1. […] a year ago, I wrote about the controversy circling Bishop Eddie L. Long concerning the emergence of four civil suits, filed in Dekalb County, alleging that the bishop, […]

    Pingback by A Long Way to Go (Ctd.) « Kind of Red — July 29, 2011 @ 4:42 am | Reply

  2. […] to conceal it from the public.   The pattern of behavior sadly bears striking resemblance to other sexual abuse scandals. Joe Paterno early in his coaching […]

    Pingback by Lie Down with (Nittany) Lions « Kind of Red — November 11, 2011 @ 1:29 pm | Reply

  3. […] scandals involving allegations of sexual molestation of young boys at the hands of Jerry Sandusky, Bishop Eddie L. Long, Bernie Fine, clergy within the Catholic Church, figures in entertainment and politicians.  […]

    Pingback by CONQUEST's R.A.G.E. Review | Gospel Rap Fan — April 2, 2012 @ 8:52 pm | Reply


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