ATLANTA (WAOK/AJC)-Bishop Eddie Long is taking a brief leave from New Birth Missionary Baptist Church to concentrate on his family. Long made the announcement this morning before the congregation, many of whom have followed him from the time the church only had 300 members to see it transformed into one of the largest church congregations in Atlanta.
Church leadership is being very careful to use words that do not point to a resignation by Long. This statement was released by a church spokesman:
Rumors that Bishop Eddie L. Long has stepped down as senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church are completely false. As Bishop Long stated in his earlier comments, “Vanessa and I are working together in seeking God’s will in our current circumstances.” As any loving and committed husband would do, Bishop Long will take some time to focus on his family but he will continue to be the senior pastor of New Birth. Bishop Long and Vanessa Long are asking for privacy and sensitivity to their family, without the need for any further public comments at this time.
Bishop Long told the congregation he is still thier spiritual leader. “I’m still your pastor. You’ll still receive my direction,” Long said Sunday. “You’ve given me some weeks to take care of some family business.”
Long’s wife, Vanessa, filed for divorce late Thursday afternoon. Friday morning, via a statement sent by the church’s spokesman, she had apparently changed her mind but by the end of the day on Friday announced the divorce was on.
Long told the congregation several times during his Sunday sermon that he loved his wife and she loves him.
Long, with two of his two children standing by his side, reaffirmed he had no plans to resign, adding he had not “stepped down” but instead “stepped up.”
Membership at New Birth has declined since September 2010 when allegations surfaced from four former young male church members that Bishop Long used his role as spiritual advisor and “father figure” to lure them into sexual relationships through trips, cars and expensive gifts.
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