READER RESPONSE: Where Will Bishop Eddie Long’s settlement Money Come From?

Devin Robinson

Word has now been released that Bishop Eddie Long settled his case…

but what does that mean for the economy of New Birth? One of mistakes we tend to make in our community is failing to realize that churches are businesses. True they may be organizations that foster spiritual growth and development in our communities, but when the pastor leaves the pulpit and the choir removes their gowns, money is counted in the backrooms and decisions are made on what to do with it.

Like any other business, churches have utility bills and capital expenditures to satisfy. However, the uniqueness of a church is it is also a non-profit; which means there are regulations to abide by in order to keep its tax-exempt status. I recently asked a question to my Facebook friends, “Which is more important, the comfort of the pastor or the growth of the church?” Ironically, many felt the comfort of the pastor was more important. However, here’s the trick. A responsible non-profit allocates at least 70% of its revenue towards the programs it was formed to develop. The other 30% would go towards administrative costs. The pastor’s well-being should be in that 30%. Unfortunately we catch a case of spiritual vertigo and slide the pastor’s well-being into the 70%; programs the organization was built to build.

In that 70%, churches are to train drug users, convicted felons, orphans, domestic violence victims, and the homeless on Interviewing Skills, G.E.D. preparation, and financial literacy. In some cases they even provide jobs, housing, and good to those who need it most. These people then go on to become taxpayers, business owners, and voters within the Black community. We must admit, churches are a lifeline to the Black Economy. But what happens when that 70% is disrupted?

According to a study by Livesteez, Black churches have generated over $420 Billion since 1980. Based on these numbers, we would assume that $336 Billion went to building the Black community. Conversely, if we scale back those numbers, we would see that Black churches also claim to support relief efforts internationally, which throws up a severe smoke screen because most congregants are unable to personally travel to a small village in Angola to validate the church’s claims. Okay, I digress.

I painted this illustration for us to grab the concept that sometimes when churches claim to be Black, really aren’t if that 70% never makes it to the microcosmic Black community. Instead some of them are just half-baked Imperialistic organizations with Black preachers and Black people in the pews with much of their funds being filtered up to scratch the backs of its leaders; leaving the community itching.

Bishop Eddie Long allegedly used his influence to satisfy some twisted urges. Immediately after the allegations were made public, Long boastfully declared himself to be David with a satchel full of stones. Yet, as I remember the story in the Bible, David never settled! Long did. Long may now be slightly at rest, but the congregation and the on-the-fence believers are not.

Imperialism is when the benefits are consumed by the leaders. To me, here is where Long is demonstrating his leadership style to be as such, more about his comfort than the comfort and the image of the church body. The question is, where will the settlement money be taken from, the 70% or the 30%? Will it come from the serving of the community or the comfort of the leadership?

What we can expect to now see is skeptic corporate giving, members’ doubt in tithing, and the person who was heading to church the very next Sunday to become a part of the largest industry that brings relief to the Black community become discouraged. Even though there are church’s whose relief to the Black community falls below the 70%, the church’s are often the last hope for restoring the Black community and survival of its economy, but with self-centered decisions made by apathetic pastors we can only continue to expect the offering we put in the plate to go the stones in the pastor’s satchel but those stones may actually be Viagra.

What Do YOU think? Should Bishop Long’s Church pay for the settlement? Who should pay?