Eddie Long Takes Break from New Birth Pulpit

Scandal-ridden Bishop Eddie Long has temporarily stepped down from the pulpit of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church to take care of “family issues” — his wife Vanessa’s filing for divorce from the troubled prosperity preacher. After some confusion in the press about whether First Lady Long had withrdrawn the divorce request, her lawyer confirmed the filing of divorce papers, and said that any further statements, if any, would come from her lawyers. If the divorce goes through, it will Long’s second marriage to end in divorce. His first marriage ended with claims of maltreatment and a “violent and vicious temper” exhibited towards his first wife, Dabara S. Houston.  

Meanwhile, Bishop Long was left to address the issue before his Sunday congregation at New Birth, and a gathering of protesters holding “Bishop Long must go” signs in front of his Atlanta megachurch. According to the blog PimpPreachers.com, a group of protesters were “Occupying New Birth” and demanding that Long leave the church he has pastored since 1997. At its peak, New Birth boasted 25,000 members, a figure that sank as Long was accused of sexual abuse and assault by young male congregants last  year, claims Long settled in secret in May. The Occupy group passed out flyers which read, “The People must rise up and occupy the pulpits, the tithe money bank accounts and portfolios of the clergy class.” The group says it represents an organization based in Memphis called Commission Holding Religious Institutions in Sacred Trust, (CHRIST).

Inside New Birth, Eddie Long told his congregation that “Imo take a little time off to work with my family.” You have to wonder why it took his wife’s divorce filing for him to finally make this decision. Claiming that Vanessa was his “spiritual rock,” Long said, “I love her, I love my children, we’re gonna work it out.” Long characterized his stepping down as “not stepping down, but stepping up,” ostensibly to take care of his family, and also told the church, “I’m your father and she’s (Vanessa Long) your mother.”

Clearly, it took a payout of millions of dollars, lawsuits, and a divorce filing for the good Bishop to figure out that it was time to get out of the pulpit. For a man who consistently preached about the roles of men and women in marriage, Long’s track record is dismal. Worse, he may be lying not only to his parishioners, but to himself, about who he truly is as a person. One hopes that this time away from the pulpit will provide Long time not just to heal his family, but for him to find out who he really is, and stop fleecing his flock in the process.

 

Anthea Butler [@AntheaButler] is a Contributing Editor to Religion Dispatches. Her forthcoming book, in’The Gospel According To Sarah: How Sarah Palinin’’s Tea Party Angels are Galvanizing the Religious Right will be out in 2013.