I absolutely do NOT support abuse of any kind. However, what I do support is the true message of Christ, which is love and restoration. When the scandal first surfaced, I believed the victims were telling the truth and still do. Abusing and misusing authority is wrong in all forms and according to the accusations, the pastor was out-of-order and in need of accountability.
I have never been a “fan” of Bishop Long, not for any reason in particular; he simply was not one of my favorite preachers. That is it. I do know that he has done great things for the community and Body of Christ at large. Hence, the many followers that still supported him and/or his ministry during and after he was disgraced.
The scandal-plagued minister was a controversial figure. He is accused of engaging in sex with four young men when they were just teenagers. As a result, Long was hit with several lawsuits stemming from the allegations. In May 2011, the Atlanta-based megachurch leader reached an out-of-court settlement with his accusers.
The scandal was humiliating and rocked the pastor to his core. He lost friends, gained enemies, and members of his church began to scatter. The consequence for his alleged actions was swift and painful. The world watched as his throne was snatched from under him. Many, who in times past had sung his praises, were now crucifying him to the highest degree.
The pastor remained out of the public eye for a lengthy season but returned to his church to attend both Christmas and New Year’s Eve services. In August 2016, a viral video showed the ill pastor looking frail but sounding upbeat. Around the same timeframe, in a statement posted to Instagram, Long said:
I am recovering from a health challenge that I trust God to deliver me from. It is unrelated to the eating for life diet consisting of mostly raw vegetables that I am continuing, as part of a holistic approach to good health.
Now, six years later, the man has died and it seems that the church has exchanged love for stones. Have we forgotten the central theme of grace and love? Jesus said when he came, so did grace and truth: This means truth without grace never looks like him. However, grace does not excuse his sin or remove the consequences. Ironically, many of the same Christians who seem to love David, have forgotten the despicable things he did in the midst of being a magnetic worshipper. Yet, in all of his mess, he still managed to be “A man after God’s own heart.”
How could God still call David a man after His own heart when he committed such terrible sins, including murder and adultery? The life of David, as depicted in scripture, outlines a portrait of success and failure. Without question, the Bible highlights the fact that David was far from perfect. Again, this is not an advocate for Long’s downfall, but it seems the church has exchanged love for stones and they continue to crucify the discredited preacher. He was publicly disgraced on a huge platform and now even in death, Christians continue to throw stones. The effects, however, add insult to the injury his family has already sustained.
Perhaps, my view of this tragic portrayal of events is a result of having lived through a church scandal. No, it was not the same ordeal, but it is reminiscent of the stones people hurled after my first pastor died. I cannot begin to explain how grateful I am that it happened back in the late 80s and by 1990, before social media, he was dead. Again, this took place long before news traveled as fast as it now does or who knows what might have come out of the walls for the public to judge.
Nevertheless, it was under his leadership that I learned the power grace and love and this has been the foundation for my own relationship with God. So, while I do not support Long’s sin, I also have no idea what conversations he had with God and possibly his accusers over the past six years. Call me superficial or whatever, but I refuse to exchange love for stones after the man has already suffered years of humiliation for his actions and “hopefully” repented.
Truth is, David shows us that people can be a serious mess and yet be a “man after God’s own heart.” The psalmist’s faith was tested on a grand scale, and he failed many times. However, after his sin, he sought and received God’s forgiveness. As a man after God’s own heart, David is the perfect example of love and grace.
The celebration of life for Bishop Edward Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church will take place on Jan. 25, 2017. His legacy, although powerful, will remain stained by the horrific scandal. It appears that the church has exchanged love for stones, however, my hope is that others will join together in a posture of prayer for Long’s family, followers, and the victims as they navigate this difficult time.
Opinion by Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
USA Today: Controversial megachurch Bishop Eddie Long dies at 63
Top Image Courtesy of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church – Flickr License
First Inline Image Courtesy of Petras Gagilas – Flickr License
Featured Image Courtesy of Azri – Flickr License