Bishop Eddie Long should reveal the truth about what happened in the case with four young men and seek forgiveness from his supporters, a CNN contributor who formerly attended Long’s church said Saturday.
Long, pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga., reached a settlement with the men, who accused him of luring them into sexual relationships, last week after three months of private mediation. On the following Sunday, the bishop addressed his megachurch but made no mention of the settlement.
“Sorry Bishop, as a man of God who is the shepherd of an international ministry, you cannot be let off that easily,” said Roland S. Martin in an op-ed for CNN Saturday.
“I get the whole issue of settling a lawsuit to risk further damage and put the issue behind you,” he continued.
“But when 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.”
Martin said he has been following Long’s ministry for years, and attended New Birth for three months in 2000 while he was doing a television project. He even tithed to the church and purchased Long’s books and sermons.
He said he has a reasonable expectation for Long to be “a stand-up man and speak truthfully and honestly about what has happened.” The commentator also pointed out that his thousands of followers also deserved to hear the truth directly from him.
Private mediation was the wrong route, according to Martin.
“If you are truly innocent of such heinous allegations, you don't go behind closed doors. You defend yourself publicly and shame those who try to muddy your name and derail your ministry,” he said.
Martin, who has watched Long’s sermons on Trinity Broadcasting Network, said the preacher also failed to live up to his own teaching.
“He has stood in the pulpit and demanded accountability of others, but clearly believes a different set of rules applies to him.”
“I know all about forgiveness. It is one of the tenants of being a Christian. But I am not to forgive foolishly,” Martin stated. “If Long wants forgiveness, he needs to be open in discussing what really happened – or didn't happen – with those young men and allow all of us to decide for ourselves whether we are willing to grant it.”
The accusers in the case, Anthony Flagg, Spencer LeGrande, Jamal Parris and Maurice Robinson, alleged in their lawsuits that the New Birth MIssionary Baptist pastor lured them into sexual relationships when they were teens. They allege that the preacher, who was like a father figure to them, took them on overnight trips, gave them money and lavish gifts, coerced them into engaging in sexual acts, and abused his spiritual authority.
When the allegations of sexual misconduct became public in September, Long stood before his 25,000-strong congregation and reporters and vowed that he would "vigorously" fight the charges.
In a resolution statement on the Long case, a spokesman for Long said he would not be able to “discuss any details regarding the resolution or the resolution process, as they are confidential."