Bishop Eddie Long has had a rough 48 hours.Â First two men, then one other young man has filed civil suit against the Bishop and his New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta, alledging that Long coerced the young men into sexual relationships.Â The details are sordid.
The secular media is all over this story.Â The Christian media, not so much.Â I haven’t seen any blog (at least in our circles) touch the story.Â I’m not sure anyone knows what to say.Â If the allegations are true, it is horrible.Â If the allegations are false, its a whole different kind of horrible.
Here are some random thoughts:
1.Â Maybe the reason we’re not talking about this (yet) is that Bishop Long is not in most of our camps.Â But Long is a huge figure in the African American church.Â Do a twitter search on Bishop Eddie Long and watch the tweets float past.Â They are all over the place, but the African American community is all abuzz, especially the African American Christian community.Â I saw one tweet last night from a women saying something like “Not my husband will never go to church with me… and I was so close”.Â This story has huge implications, not only for the black church, but also for Atlanta and the church in general.Â Whether true or false, it’s another black eye on the church that the media loves to report.
2.Â As I said, it’s too early to know if these allegations are true.Â Our culture today requires that you only have one person make an accusation.Â That’s all you need.Â There doesn’t need to be an ounce of truth to it… the story still goes public and ruins your reputation.Â The difference here is that there are three different people making the same accusations.Â Sure, there could be some conspiracy here; but it makes it more difficult when you have three people saying the same thing.Â That’s a problem.
3.Â To complicate things in this case, you also have alleged lavish trips on private planes to exotic places, money changing hands, and a twisted spiritual justification aspect.Â When you add in each of these elements, it just makes the story that the alleged victims tell, as a whole, seem more believeable.Â Suddenly, ‘you took the kid to New Zealand for his birthday on your private jet’ (which should be easy to prove/disprove) makes ‘you coerced him to have sex with you’ seem more believeable.
4.Â One of the lawyers filing the case yesterday also released a few pictures of Long that were, well… weird.Â These pictures were allegedy sent to the victims on their cell phones.Â They picture Long, looking buff, in really tight shirts.Â Again… could be totally innocent… but just weird.
5.Â Some would argue that this is the secular media going wild on a story.Â I would say… not really.Â This is they type of story the media loves, not because it’s about a Christian, but because of the duplicity and conflict in the story.Â Bishop Long is an outspoken advocate against homosexuality and gay marriage.Â To have allegations that he’s been involved in homosexual relationships IS a news story.
6.Â For the record, I was able to be on a short group conference call with Bishop Long a couple of years ago.Â A mutual friend is a close friend of the Bishop.Â Bishop Long talked briefly about the program that is now in question.Â To hear him speak of the program was exciting, to be honest.Â He told how they find the young, underpriveleged boys and identify their future potential.Â They pay for their education, mentor them in the Word, and prepare them to be pastors.Â He (Bishop Long) would pour his life into these young men to help prepare them.Â He was very passionate about the program and about the results they were getting.Â If any (ANY) of these allegations are true… something went terribly wrong.
So… what can we learn from today’s situation, whether it is true or not?
1.Â (And this won’t affect 99.9% of us).Â I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… lose the private plane.Â Nothing good has ever come from a private plane (as far as I can tell) for a pastor, other than saving a few minutes at the airport, and making yourself look elitist.
2.Â Prepare yourself for allegations.Â Allegations about pastors come all the time, in all size churches.Â People will allege anything from sexual relationships to lying, cheating, and theft.Â That’s why it is so important to live a life far above approach.Â As a pastor or church staff member, someone is watching you at all times… when you mow your yard, when you shop at Walmart, when you’re driving your car.Â Don’t give them any ammunition. I just ran a story about a pastor who left because he put personal expenses on the church credit card and kept the points for his personal use.Â Even something like that is a crack in the door that can ruin you.
3.Â Show others that you’re accountable.Â Part of the lawsuits in this case are pointing fingers at those around Long that should have stepped in and done something.Â The allegation is that Long’s people knew and allowed these relationships to happen:Â They were enablers.Â For example, one case states that Long’s people knew that he shared a hotel room with these young boys.Â Big mistake.Â Surround yourself with people that have your best interests in mind.Â Surround yourself with people that will tell you no.Â Surround yourself with people who will hold you accountable, not cover your tracks.
4.Â Have a plan for how your church will deal with allegations when they come up.Â What if someone in your congregation accused you of having an affair?Â How would your church structure handle the situation?Â In my church world experience, there are hardly any churches who know how they would handle a situation like this… and because of that… when the situation hits, they handle it poorly.
5.Â Tell the truth.Â When allegations come, please… just tell the truth.Â The only thing worse than the allegation being true is trying to cover your tracks and being found out to be a fraud and a liar ON TOP of the allegations.Â I don’t know that this is the case in the Eddie Long story… and I pray it’s not.Â Long cancelled a radio interview and press conference where he was to speak today, and instead sent his lawyers out to do the press junket.Â That only stirs up controversy more.
Those are my thoughts this morning, as blurry as they may be.Â I truly hope this story is proven wrong.Â Time will tell, I guess.
Here’s the latest CNN story…