Georgia pastor Eddie Long, accused of coercing young males into sexual relationships, told his congregation Sunday that “this is probably the most difficult time” of his entire life, but that he intends to fight the allegations against him.
He said his first responsibility was his family, and the some 25,000 members of the Atlanta-area New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. However, he added that he would be “remiss” not to address “the world.”
“I’ve been accused, I’m under attack. I want you to know, as I said earlier, that I am not a perfect man,” he said. “But this thing, I’m going to fight.”
“And I want you to know one other thing,” he told the cheering crowd Sunday morning. “I feel like David against Goliath, but I’ve got five rocks and I haven’t thrown one yet.”
He then turned on his heel and walked away from the pulpit, ending his 20-minute address.
Long, who led the growth of the Atlanta-area New Birth Missionary Baptist Church to 25,000 members, spoke about the matter during the 8 a.m. worship service. He also scheduled a 10 a.m. news conference. The church also has an 11 a.m. service.
Throngs of worshippers packed into the church auditorium early Sunday, with lines of vehicles backed up for half a mile along the streets. Drivers said the turnout was unprecedented for the massive church.
The pastor, on the advice of his lawyers, has had little to say publicly until now.
“Let me be clear: The charges against me and New Birth are false,” Long said in a statement released Thursday. “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.”
The four men who brought lawsuits this week in DeKalb County, Georgia, State Court claim that Long took them on overnight trips to various locations within the United States and beyond, sharing a room and engaging in sexual contact with them, including massaging, masturbation or oral sex.
The lawsuit filed Friday by a Charlotte, North Carolina, man says Long used church money and other accounts to entice young men with cars, clothing, jewelry and electronics.
Long’s spokesman and church members say it is appropriate he first speak in detail about the civil lawsuits with his church family.
“I stand behind the bishop because of the leader that he is. He is a true leader. The word that he gives is so rich, it is so life-changing,” New Birth member Gary Foster Jr. told CNN Saturday night.
He and two other young church members said Long is family-oriented, a mentor and a respected leader who has helped families and individuals.
Gabrielle Richards, who has attended New Birth for nearly eight years, said she has seen no evidence that Long is a sexual predator.
A former New Birth employee said he hopes the allegations are not true, but he wants to hear from Long so that the “cloud of suspicion over him can be dispersed.”
“The information is certainly damaging,” Kevin Bond said. “The evidence … all of that is very troubling to many of us in the gospel community, the Christian community.”
A Facebook page in support of Long had more than 6,000 members Saturday night.
according to cnn.com