Yesterday was one of the most tensely anticipated days in contemporary church history. Sunday, September 26, 2010, was the day when Bishop Eddie Long announced that he would address the allegations of sexual misconduct filed by four young men against him personally, the New Birth Baptist Church (Lithonia, GA) where he has served as pastor for 26 years, and Longfellows Academy, a mentoring program for young men.
The 8:00 a.m. service began with nearly 500 men flooding the New Birth altarâ€”praying and praising. By 8:30 a.m., the 9,000-seat church was nearly full. Supporting ministers on the platform included Pastor AndrÃ¨ Landers (Higher Living Christian Church, Hampton, GA) Pastor William Murphy (dReam Center, Atlanta, GA) and Elder Bernice King (New Birth, Lithonia).
Bishop Long entered the sanctuary at approximately 8:45 a.m. with his wife, Vanessa at his side, along with them were Bishop Long\’s ministry sons, Bishop C. Carl Smith, (New Birth, Pittsburg, CA) and Bishop Terrell Murphy (New Birth, Charlotte, NC). Immediately, Bishop Long came to the podium, but it took about five minutes for the â€œWe love you Bishop!â€ shouts to subside.
After he briefly greeted the members and visitorsâ€”now filling the edifice to the rafters, Bishop Long presented a message: â€œHow to Handle Painful & Difficult Situations.â€ He spoke about the reality, remedy and response to life\’s inevitable pain, and offered an acronym based on the word, â€œpower.â€ P-Prayer, O-outreach (continue to minister to the lost), W-Worship, E-Encourage, R-Resolve (resolve that your strength is in the Lord; resolve to continue to have faith in God).
Without much hesitation, Bishop Long then soberly stated that he would address the situation that he knew everyone was there to hear aboutâ€”the allegations. He reiterated that his attorneys had advised him not to â€œtry the case in the media.â€ He stated, that the case would be tried in a court of justice, not in the court of public opinion.
Bishop Long then made this statement:
“I have never in my life portrayed myself as a perfect man. But I am not the man that’s being portrayed on the television. That’s not me. That is not me.â€
â€œI\’m going to fight this thing,â€ he said.
â€œAnd I want to add one more thingâ€¦I feel like David against Goliath, but I’ve got five rocks and I haven’t thrown one yet.”
With that, he placed the microphone on the podium, walked over and took Vanessa by the hand and departed the sanctuary. The ministers followed and the service was virtually over at that point.
Some members noted that although Bishop Long acknowledged his humanity, he did not confirm his innocence. It was clear, however, that the members of New Birth were fiercely supportive of Bishop Long.
Other Christian leaders are extremely concerned about the situation at New Birth, which is one of the top 5 Black megachurches in America. Some suspect that the young men were â€œaidedâ€ by a large, well-financed organization to bring this level of attention to this case. After 26 years of service, one thing is certain, this case will not erase the blessings that Bishop Long has been instrumental in bringing to millions!