Once the head of a vast media empire built on the gospel of wealth, Eddie Long’s fall from grace was quick. Last fall he was accused of sexually abusing teenage boys under his care, which lead to becoming the leading candidate for worst pastor of 2010 and some time away from the pulpit while settling the lawsuits.
Now Long is stepping away again, at least from his preaching duties. The New York Times reports that the move is to save his marriage, after his wife filed for divorce Thursday before recanting Friday.
Today Long told his dwindling congregation. From the NYT:
“Vanessa and I are working together in seeking God’s will in our current circumstances,” Bishop Long, 58, said in a statement issued by the church, New Birth Missionary Baptist Church.
During services on Sunday, he told congregants that he was still their senior pastor and would continue to provide spiritual direction, but that he needed time to take care of “some family business.” Members attending services pledged support and said they would stay until his return.
But that support does not include the many who have left New Birth Missionary, like Valencia Miller:
“The church needs a cleansing,” she said. “I’m real disappointed. He was a man we all looked up to.”
I’m not reveling in Long’s personal problems. But I can certainly understand, and share, Miller’s sentiment.
The reality, though, is that New Birth Missionary will never go back to the way it was. A lot of things lead religious congregations to split. Having the minister accused of sexual abuse has to be among the more difficult to reconcile because I’m sure that those who remained felt that those who left were disloyal to Long and New Birth Missionary.
Read the rest from the NYT here.