Bishop Eddie Long, with his wife, Vanessa, by his side, addressed a group of reporters at a press conference at his megachurch, the 30,000-member New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia, Sunday after delivering his first address to his church since sexual coercion allegations had been leveled at him. Like the 20-minute sermon/speech he gave, the 5-minute press conference shed little light on the sex scandal itself. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Eddie Long vowed to “fight vigorously” the charges of four young men that he had abused his position of spiritual leader and authority figure to coerce them into sexual relationships.
Eddie Long told reporters that he had been advised by his lawyers not to speak to the allegations specifically. He referred to the allegations of the four men as an “attack” and echoed in a more succinct fashion the address he delivered to his congregation an hour before. He said that he would have his case heard in a court of justice and not in the court of public opinion.
Bishop Eddie Long also told reporters that New Birth Missionary Baptist Church would continue its international charity work. The megachurch is the center of a sprawling American and international media empire. It not only encompasses the Lithonia megachurch but several branches in other cities. The church also runs several schools and is affiliated with charitable works that have built hospitals and a hospice in Africa.
Long’s short press conference followed the first address to his congregation since the scandal began Tuesday when sex scandal allegations were made against him by two young men who were once members and/or employed by the megachurch. The two lawsuits would grow to four by Friday. All four lawsuits allege that the victims were coerced by Bishop Eddie Long into sexual relationships. The claims include descriptions of oral sex, touching, and masturbation. One of the accusers claimed that he was seduced by Long on a trip to South Africa when he was 17. Other allegations include trips, lavish gifts, and the payment of college tuition. The men claim that sex was engaged in at various locations: on the aforementioned trips, at the megachurch itself, and (in one claim) in Long’s own home. In addition, New Birth Missionary Baptist Church was named in the lawsuits as well, the accusers claiming that the megachurch, through its members and employees, were complicit in Bishop Long’s sexual proclivities and did nothing to stop them.
The sex scandal has shocked the Atlanta religious community and the world, not so much that the pastor was involved in a sex scandal but that it involved men. The Bishop las long been a vocal opponent of gay rights issues and gay marriage. While speculation has run rampant about the scandal, there are those that openly support the beleaguered pastor, some even believing that the allegations are fabrications. Others believe he should step down until the matter is resolved, but the massive attendance at the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church Sunday seemed to indicate that most parishioners were willing to back their Bishop.
Long has vociferously denied all the allegations made against him. Although he and his lawyers have admitted that, over the years, the Bishop has gone on numerous trips domestically and abroad and in the company of various groups and a number of men, there has never been anything such as has been suggested in the allegations.
During the morning address to his parishioners, Long told them that he would fight and compared the coming battle to the biblical struggle between David and Goliath. “But this thing I’m going to fight. I feel like David against Goliath, but I’ve got five rocks and I haven’t thrown one yet.”
He ended his morning service with a promise that he would be there “today and every Sunday morning. And I’ll be here next week.”
The megachurch pastor’s later press conference was broadcast live via CNN.