It has been several weeks since we first learned of the accusations of sexual misconduct against Bishop Eddie Long of the 35,000 member New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta.
If you missed the week-long media reports, here’s the story in a nutshell: Four young men from Bishop Eddie Long’s church filed lawsuits against Long, his church (New Birth missionary Baptist Church) and their youth ministry (Longfellow Youth Academy), accusing Long of sexual misconduct with the knowledge, support and assistance of certain church and youth ministry administration and officials. The lawsuits state: Bishop Long has utilized his spiritual authority as Bishop and leader of Defendants’ ministries to coerce certain young male members and employees… into engaging in sexual acts and relationships for his own personal sexual gratification.
Things are quiet now. The media has abandoned the story for the latest political news leading up to the November elections. They must have agreed with Long that “…this should be dealt with in a court of justice and not by public opinion.”
I also agree.
If guilty as accused, legally, Long did nothing wrong. As a society, we have agreed, at least in the State of Georgia, that 16 year olds are able to have consensual sex with adults, no matter how much older the adult is.
If guilty as accused, morally, Long did nothing wrong. As a society, we have agreed, at least in popular opinion, that sex between two people of the same gender is morally acceptable.
So, I agree with Long. He should not be tried in the court of public opinion. If he is guilty as accused, the ‘public’ per se is not who he has offended. It is the young men and the spiritual/Christian/religious community whom he has offended, and that is where the trial should be. The Bible says that when a brother offends another, bring it before the Church. I’d like to see this case brought before the Christian community, especially the African American Christian community, and have it discussed, debated and tried there. But, to do that, we will need access to the evidence.
Unfortunately, I do not think the real evidence will ever see the light of day. I believe it’s only a matter of time before Long settles the cases. And as part of the settlement, any evidence will be locked away. Civil suits are about money. So as long as the money exchanges hands, there is no need for a trial. But, a trial is exactly what the Christian community needs to see the evidence.
Why is trying this case important to the spiritual/Christian/religious community? Because it brings up so many issues that the Church needs to deal with: homosexuality, worshiping pastors and the exorbitant lifestyles of preachers, just to name a few. This could be an important teachable moment for the Church, allowing the discussion of the important spiritual issues of our times. If the evidence is covered up or locked down, we will miss this opportunity to save others like the four accusers and abuses from the pulpit will continue. Very soon, the Christian Church will have the same stain of sexual improprieties as the Catholic Church.
Robinson, LeGrande, Parris and Flagg, I urge each of you and your attorney not to settle these cases. Your ‘pain’ as one of you said, was not in vain. This is an opportunity to change the very foundation of the Church, especially the Black Church. Stick it out. Don’t settle for the money. Your trials were ‘for such a time as this.’ Continue through the process and allow the Christian community to have the truth behind your cases.
Do not allow Long and New Birth to hide behind the law with statements like “With the advice of counsel I am not going to address the allegations and attack levied against me.”
Do not allow Long and New Birth to hide behind his faith with statements like, “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.”
Do not allow Long and New Birth to hide behind religion with statements like, “I feel like David against Goliath. But, I got five rocks and I haven’t thrown one yet.”
Do not allow Long and New Birth to hide behind the truth with statements like “I’m going to fight and fight very vigorously against these charges.”
Please keep these cases before the public and the church and force Long to either deny the accusations outright or repent and ask his heavenly Father and those he has offended for forgiveness.
I know victory is what you’re after, and truth will get it for you. But, if Long settles these cases and the Church is not allowed to see the evidence, it might be a victory for each of you, but Long will continue to preach and his ministry will grow even larger. And if he is guilty as accused, it is only a matter of time before another young man is offended.
Settling without having the evidence made public not only puts more young men in danger, but it endangers the spiritual lives and faith of the tens of thousands of Christians who attend New Birth, and the millions of the faithful who watch his international ministry on television and buy his books and tapes. Preventing this should be your driving force. In the end, you all will be rewarded. (And I’m sure you’ll get paid, too.)