Eddie Long Taking Time Off From US Megachurch
Megachurch leader Bishop Eddie Long announced Sunday he’s taking time off to focus on his family after his wife filed for divorce.
Long’s spokesman, Art Franklin, said the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church leader told his congregation during church services that he will continue to serve as senior pastor at the church in Lithonia just outside Atlanta. But Long said he needs a sabbatical.
Franklin declined to say how long the pastor’s sabbatical from the church would be. He said Long and his family "are asking for privacy and sensitivity to their family."
The divorce filing comes more than a year after allegations last year that Long used his lavish lifestyle and position of spiritual authority to lure four young men into sexual relationships. Long settled the cases but has never admitted to any wrongdoing. Details of the settlement were not disclosed.
The scandal has tainted Long’s reputation as an influential spiritual leader who transformed his suburban Atlanta congregation of 150 into a following of 25,000 members and an international televangelist empire that included athletes, entertainers and politicians.
Long’s wife, Vanessa Long, filed a petition for divorce Thursday in DeKalb County Superior Court to end her 21-year marriage to the embattled minister. The church sent out a press release Friday morning saying Vanessa Long planned to withdraw her petition, but her attorney said later in the day that she had changed her mind.