Heal thyself, “Bishop” Long. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that homophobic megachurch pastor Eddie Long has announced that he is taking a leave from New Birth Missionary Baptist Church.

“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. She said Friday morning she had changed her mind but by day’s end announced the divorce was on.

“Vanessa is, and has always been, a loving, dedicated and committed wife and mother,” Bishop Long said in a statement Friday night. “My love for her is deep and unwavering. It remains our sincere desire to continue working together in seeking God’s will in these circumstances.”

It’s going to take a lot more than prayer to heal his family after the pathological and — in his own world view — sin he engaged in.

The beleaguered man in the pulpit made headlines this year for charges that he was a sex predator of young men that he ministered to in his church. This preening man-of-the-cloth sent phone pics of his buff bod, spandex-clad bod to the young men he groomed to be his victims.

Saying he would ‘fight this thing’ as ‘David vs. Goliath’ to the end, he instead settled with some of the young men who had given detailed accounts of his disgusting behavior and abuse of his role as a spiritual leader.

Long was sued in September 2010 lawsuit by former New Birth members Anthony Flagg, Spencer LeGrande, Jamal Parris and Maurice Robinson, who alleged the bishop used his influence, trips, gifts and jobs to coerce them into sexual relationships.

In the midst of the scandal, civil rights legend and LGBT ally Julian Bond flat out called Long a raving homophobe.

Bond, who was an early leader in the civil rights movement alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., amplified his remarks on the embattled anti-gay pastor. “He said that homosexuality is worthy of death. He is a raving homophobe,” said the civil rights legend former longtime Georgia legislator. “If [the allegations] are true, it’s just sort of typical of people who are raving homophobes who are secretly homosexual. And who are homophobes because they are filled with so much self-loathing and self-hate that they’ve got to let it come out in some way, and it comes out in homophobia.”

Jamal Parris, who was one of the young men who settled with the megachurch pastor after months of negotiations, was left scarred by the victimization by Long, and said this:

‘I loved him. I’m always going to have love for the things that he taught me…. You finally have a father that you’ve always wanted for and always dreamed of…. He would just walk away from you if you don’t give him what he wants. So you end up turning into something you never thought you would be, which is now a slave to a man that you love….

”So, while the media and the rest of the people around the city, around the country look at us like how could grown men let another man touch him, what you have to understand is this man has manipulated us since childhood…. This man turned his back on us when he had no more need for us. That’s not a father, that’s a predator…. You are not a man, you are a monster.”

“I cannot get the sound of his voice out of my head,” said Parris. “I cannot forget the smell of his cologne. And I cannot forget the way that he made me cry many nights when I drove in his car on the way home, not able to take enough showers to wipe the smell of him off of my body.”

“I loved him, I’m always going to have love for the things that he taught me. But how he left us hurt worse than anything I ever felt in my life. You finally have a father that you’ve always wanted for and always dreamed of. He would just walk away from you if you don’t give him what he wants. So you end up turning into something you never thought you would be, which is now a slave to a man that you love.”

The sorry spectacle of his flock defending Long throughout the scandal — up to today when they cheered that he was only taking leave, not stepping down — was jaw-dropping, cult-like behavior. In this September 2010 interview, CNN’s Don Lemon talked to three members & a former employee of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church who robotically defended their spiritual leader. In a newsworthy and landmark moment, Lemon revealed that he was the victim of a pedophile as a child. That caught their attention, but didn’t share their faith to even accept the possibility Bishop Long was capable of the grooming of the victims leading to the sexual predatory behavior.

 

This is the problem of all churches that, by design and theology, place the pastor/priest above the flock, and worse, deserving of prosperity even when some workshippers are of little means. It’s a vile circumstance because at what point are the congregants engaging in cult behavior versus voluntary call to prayer and worship together? I challenge anyone to watch this “Cross It Up” video and say you don’t see cult-like mindless devotion behavior going on.

Anthea Butler at Religious Dispatches on Bishop Long, “healing” his family and fleecing his flock:

According to the blog PimpPreachers.com, a group of protesters were “Occupying New Birth” and demanding that Long leave the church he has pastored since 1997. At its peak, New Birth boasted 25,000 members, a figure that sank as Long was accused of sexual abuse and assault by young male congregants last year, claims Long settled in secret in May. The Occupy group passed out flyers which read, “The People must rise up and occupy the pulpits, the tithe money bank accounts and portfolios of the clergy class.” The group says it represents an organization based in Memphis called Commission Holding Religious Institutions in Sacred Trust, (CHRIST).

Clearly, it took a payout of millions of dollars, lawsuits, and a divorce filing for the good Bishop to figure out that it was time to get out of the pulpit. For a man who consistently preached about the roles of men and women in marriage, Long’s track record is dismal. Worse, he may be lying not only to his parishioners, but to himself, about who he truly is as a person. One hopes that this time away from the pulpit will provide Long time not just to heal his family, but for him to find out who he really is, and stop fleecing his flock in the process.