|Eddie Lee Long|
May 12, 1953 |
Huntersville, North Carolina, U.S.
|Alma mater||North Carolina Central University & International College of Excellence|
|Employer||New Birth Missionary Baptist Church|
|Spouse(s)||Dabara S. Houston (1981–198?)
Vanessa Griffin (1990–)
|Children||Edward, Eric, Jared, and Taylor|
Eddie Lee Long (born May 12, 1953) is the senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, a megachurch in unincorporated DeKalb County, Georgia. When Long started as pastor for New Birth Church in 1987, there were 300 church members, which grew to 25,000.
During this time, Long was found not guilty in Senate investigations concerning whether he personally profited from his church's tax-exempt status. Also, civil lawsuits were filed against him alleging sexual abuse of multiple underage male members of his parish. Long has denied wrongdoing through his attorneys and privately settled the lawsuits out of court for undisclosed amounts.
Early life and education
Son of Hattie Long, Eddie Long attended North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina where he received a bachelor's degree in Business Administration in 1977. In 2008 he donated $1 million to the university to establish a professorship in his name, saying "I am making (the donation) from my own personal income," which comes from various real estate ventures and also as royalties from his books.
Long claims to hold a doctorate in "Pastoral Ministry" from the unaccredited International College of Excellence, which is not recognized by either the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or United States Department of Education, the two institutions responsible for recognizing educational accrediting institutions in the United States (see Accrediting Commission International).
Life and ministry
Following his dismissal from Ford, he moved to Atlanta to study theology and became the pastor of a small Jonesboro, Georgia church. In 1987 he became the pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, which at the time had around 300 members. Under Long, membership grew to 25,000. The church may be considered part of the Bapticostal movement.
Long married Dabara S. Houston in 1981 and they were divorced soon afterwards. The couple have a son, Edward Long. Houston said she was the victim of "cruel treatment" and was afraid of Long's "violent and vicious temper," according to Fulton County Superior Court records. She and her son allegedly "had to flee the couple's Fairburn home in order to ensure their safety". Long vigorously denied the allegations and in 1985 Houston was awarded custody of the then 2-year-old son.
Subsequently Long married Vanessa Griffin in 1990. After he was accused of sexually molesting young fatherless boys in the church, she filed for divorce in December 2011. On the same day New Birth's public relations firm claimed that she had rethought her decision and would withdraw her petition: "Upon further prayerful reflection Vanessa Long is withdrawing the divorce petition". However Vanessa's attorneys later confirmed that she would continue with the divorce.
In response, Long stated that he would be taking a leave of absence from his ministry in an attempt to save his marriage, and that "he needed time to take care of 'some family business.'"
Additionally, later that same month, New Birth Christian Academy, founded by Long, announced it was closing due to lack of donations and "sending hundreds of students scrambling to find a new school by the following week", in the wake of Long's marital and sexual problems.
On February 17, 2012 one of Long's lawyers, Lawrence Cooper, confirmed to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Vanessa Long had asked that the divorce petition be dismissed. Cooper declined to say if the Longs were reunited. In an emailed response to the AJC, Vanessa's lawyers declined to comment.
On September 5, 2012, during the Heart to Heart Women's Ministry Conference at New Birth, Vanessa Long stated that while she struggled with the decision to divorce Long following those multiple accusations of sexual misconduct with male minors, she ultimately chose to return to her marriage and to the New Birth family so she could share her experience and offer guidance for others.
Long's sermons, writings and teachings emphasize a "chain of command" between certain superiors and subordinates characterized by "respect, submission and obedience." Long sees the first link in the chain as being a man choosing to be respectful, submissive and obedient to God. A woman chooses to be respectful, submissive and obedient to her father or husband. To live otherwise is to be outside of the divinely established order, and will result in the loss of spiritual and natural benefits.
In 2006, Long was chosen by the family of Martin Luther King, Jr. to host and officiate the funeral for Mrs. Coretta Scott King, wife of the late civil rights pioneer. The event was attended by four Presidents (George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter).
Long was a prominent supporter of George W. Bush's faith-based initiatives. His ministry received a $1 million grant from the U.S. Administration of Children & Families. Rev. Timothy McDonald suggested a link between Long's anti-gay activity and the grant saying "If you look at the black pastors who have come out with the faith-based money, they're the same ones who have come out with campaigns on the gay marriage issue."
On January 31, 2012, a video was released depicting a ceremony at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church wherein Messianic Jewish preacher Ralph Messer presented a Torah scroll to Long, wrapped him in it, and symbolically elevated him to a position of spiritual kingship before a cheering congregation. Some Jewish leaders objected and characterized the ceremony as disrespectful to the Jewish faith and traditions.
In addition to his troubled marriages, Long has been embroiled in other controversies.
Salary and Senate investigation
|Wikinews has related news: Senate committee investigating six televangelists|
On August 28, 2005 the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that during the period between 1997 and 2000, Long received more than $3.07 million worth of compensation and benefits from his eponymous non-profit charity, 'Bishop Eddie Long Ministries Inc.' Long contended that the charity did not solicit donations from members but instead gained its income from royalties, speaking fees and several large donations. In 2007, Senator Chuck Grassley announced an investigation into the tax-exempt status of six ministries under the leadership of Benny Hinn, Paula White, Eddie L. Long, Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar, and Kenneth Copeland by the United States Senate Committee on Finance. Long did not cooperate with the investigation, including refusing to disclose his salary. The outcome of the 3-year investigation was that there was no definitive findings of wrongdoing, and the pastors who refused to cooperate received no penalties. Donations to the church dropped significantly following the controversies surrounding Long's salary and church finances.
Teaching regarding sexual orientation
CNN has said "Long frequently denounces homosexual behavior." Long has ministered "homosexual cure" programs to recruit gays and lesbians for what he called "Sexual Reorientation" conferences and his church offers an ongoing "Out of the Wilderness" ministry to help convert homosexuals into heterosexuals.
In 2004, Long led a march with Bernice King to the grave of her father, Martin Luther King, Jr. The march was a protest against same-sex marriage and in support of a national constitutional amendment to limit marriage rights to couples comprising "one man and one woman."
In 2006, Long's appearance at Atlanta's Interdenominational Theological Center's spring graduation stirred up controversy, and led to some students discussing a boycott. Long's invitation prompted Black liberation theologian James Cone—who was scheduled to receive an honorary degree—to boycott the ceremony. Thirty-three graduating seniors sent a letter to the seminary's president "questioning Long's theological and ethical integrity to be their commencement speaker." Many students did not agree with Long's beliefs that God can "deliver" homosexuals and his teachings on prosperity.
Allegations of sexual impropriety and lawsuits
On September 21 and 22, 2010, Maurice Robinson, Anthony Flagg, and Jamal Parris filed separate lawsuits in DeKalb County Superior Court alleging that Long used his pastoral influence to coerce them into a sexual relationship with him. In June, one of the accusers, Robinson, had been arrested and charged with burglary in connection with a break into Long's office. An iPhone, iPad and other items—more than $1,300 worth—were taken from the office, according to the police report. On September 24, Spencer LeGrande, a member of a New Birth satellite church in Charlotte, North Carolina, filed a similar suit, making him the fourth man to file a lawsuit claiming sexual misconduct by Long. The plaintiffs state that Long placed the men on the church’s payroll, bought them cars and other gifts, and took them separately on trips to destinations such as Kenya, South Africa, Turks and Caicos Islands, Trinidad, Honduras, New Zealand, and New York City. The lawsuits stated that Long would "discuss the Holy Scripture to justify and support the sexual activity." Flagg's suit claims that Long presided over a "covenant" ceremony between the two of them; Flagg's attorney said that the ceremony was "essentially a marriage ceremony, with candles, exchange of jewelry, and biblical quotes."
Long denied the allegations through his attorneys and spokesman. In a prepared statement, Long said, "I have devoted my life to helping others and these false allegations hurt me deeply. [...] But my faith is strong and the truth will emerge. All I ask for is your patience as we continue to categorically deny each and every one of these ugly charges."
Roland Martin, a commentator for CNN and TV One, was scheduled to interview Long during a segment on the Tom Joyner Morning Show to discuss the two lawsuits. However, the lawsuit filed by Parris on September 22 prompted Long's legal team to cancel the Martin interview as well as a planned news conference; Long's attorney spoke to Martin on behalf of his client on Joyner's show instead.
On September 26, Long spoke to the New Birth congregation but he did not address the issue directly. Long spoke of painful times and said, "I've been accused. I'm under attack. I want you to know, as I said earlier, I am not a perfect man, but this thing, I'm going to fight." Long's unwillingness to address the accusations by name prompted a group of over 70 people, headed by the pastor of a small church in South Carolina, to hold a protest rally on the steps of the Georgia state Capitol on October 31, 2010, calling for Long's resignation.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on May 27, 2011, that the lawsuits were settled out-of-court; terms were undisclosed.
Later reports indicated that Centino Kemp plaintiff, was the fifth accuser who participated in the settlement .
On May 30, 2011, an episode of the documentary series Sex Scandals In Religion aired on Canadian television network VisionTV. It took an investigative look at the allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior by Long with young men in his care.
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