(Photo: World Changers Church International via The Christian Post)
Creflo Dollar recently came out in support of his fellow preacher friend Eddie Long and rebuked those who left Long's church, calling them hypocrites.
"I don't know what is with the church. When you have a wreck, you expect for God to forgive you and everybody else," Dollar said as he addressed his 30,000-strong congregation last weekend.
"Don't let the preacher have a wreck now. Then you become self-righteous and you become judgmental and you're going to leave the preacher for his wreck when you [are the one who had] more wrecks."
Dollar leads World Changers Church International in College Park, Ga., located less than an hour's drive away from Long's New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia.
Both churches are among the largest in the country and draw mainly African-American attendees. Both preachers also subscribe to the controversial prosperity gospel, or the teaching that God wants to bless His followers to be rich both spiritually and materially.
Long just came out of a settlement with four young men who had accused the well-known preacher of abusing his spiritual authority by lavishing them with gifts and coercing them into sexual acts during overnight trips. The men, who were teens at the time the alleged acts took place, filed lawsuits last year. A settlement was reached out of court in May.
The New Birth pastor, who is married and has four children, has denied the allegations that he seduced the men and said there was no sexual contact. He did, however, admit that he gave the young men gifts, helped them financially and took them on trips.
He also defended himself before his congregation last year, saying he was not the man that the four accusers were portraying him as.
Though Long has been widely supported by his congregation through the ordeal, several recent reports indicate that many have left the megachurch.
But for those who were looking to settle at the nearby World Changers Church, Dollar had some harsh words for them: "I don't want you here."
"If you ... from that church that you know I'm talking about, you trying to join here, I don't want you to join here. You need to go and join where you supposed to be," Dollar said Sunday.
"Look at how you handled it. That's the hypocrisy of the whole thing; like you was flawless."
Though he didn't name names during his lengthy sermon, it was apparent Dollar was speaking about Long and New Birth.
"That preacher's still anointed to do what he was called to. He just had a wreck," Dollar stated. "The blood (of Jesus Christ) will take care of his issue just like it will take care of yours. And I just can't believe that people would leave their preacher because he had a wreck, instead of praying for him!"
"That pastor, he's loved them and he's taken care of them, given to them ... OK, so he had a wreck. You have some wrecks. I'm thinking 'man, the mercy of God showed on you but you couldn't show it to the preacher?'"
Earlier in his sermon, he spoke of believers who sin and a lot of times, it being like a car accident – or unplanned.
God's people are called to live holy lives and God's will is not for Christians to fall into sin, he stressed. Yet Christians are still in the flesh, live in a world that is hostile to the Gospel, and face daily temptations from the devil, Dollar said.
But he stressed to the congregation that if they get into a wreck, they have insurance – the blood of Jesus. He clarified at the same time that the insurance is to cover accidents and not lifestyles.
Addressing Long's case, without naming names, Dollar defended his "friend" and "brother in the Lord," saying "he's still going to go to heaven; he's cleansed; he's alright."
He also suggested that these kinds of "wrecks" will go away with time.
But one former attendee of New Birth doesn't believe Long should be let off or forgiven that easily.
Roland Martin, a CNN political contributor who attended the megachurch for three months in 2000, said Long carries a greater responsibility as a preacher.
"[W]hen you are a pastor who has preached against gay marriage and homosexuality, who has openly talked about the covenant between a husband and wife, who has talked about the importance of men leading their families as strong men of faith, there is an expectation on you that is greater than the average man," said Martin earlier this month.
Disagreeing with Long's decision to settle the matter privately, Martin commented, "He is someone who thousands follow, and they should hear the truth, and nothing but the truth, from Long."
"I know all about forgiveness. It is one of the tenets of being a Christian. But I am not to forgive foolishly. If Long wants forgiveness, he needs to be open in discussing what really happened – or didn't happen.
"[T]here is no way I can sit here and talk about the righteousness of ministers of the gospel (my wife is an ordained minister) and make excuses for Long or any other pastor in a similar situation."