Bishop Eddie Long defied critics who said his church is collapsing by announcing Sunday that the Lithonia, Ga.-based megachurch is starting a New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala.
The announcement of the start of New Birth Birmingham comes just weeks after news broke that New Birth plans to open a satellite location in Denver. New Birth, a predominantly black congregation, also has locations in Charlotte, N.C., and Oakland, Calif.
Besides the Birmingham church announcement, Long also revealed in his sermon that New Birth was audited in 2009 and 2010.
“We just got our audit back, certified audit back from 2010 and 2009; we already had 2010 totally clean audit from an independent auditing firm,” said Long. “All your money is being done right and calculated right.”
He asked members of his Atlanta megachurch to donate $500 to $1,000 as seed offerings.
The announcements of the start of New Birth locations in Denver and Birmingham came just weeks after Long arrived at a settlement with four young men who accused him of sexual misconduct. All four plaintiffs were former members of New Birth. They accused the megachurch pastor, who espouses the prosperity gospel, of lavishing them with gifts and abusing his spiritual authority to lure them into sexual relationships.
Since the case was settled outside of court, the details of the scandal will remain confidential.
But even if the exact details of the case remain unknown, the scandal itself has nonetheless adversely affected the church. The faith website Elev8 reported that a source said some members at Long’s church are ready to find another congregation because of the sex scandal and other problems.
New Birth elder Rev. Bernice King, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s youngest daughter, announced her intention to depart from the church on May 30, which will likely cause other members to follow. Her departure has not been tied to the recent lawsuits. King has said she is leaving to start a new ministry.
The source also said there has been a significant decrease in the church’s revenue.
“Attendance is down, forcing the church to make dramatic cutbacks,” said the source to Elev8.
In March, New Birth announced that it will cut staff and reduce employee salaries by 10 percent because revenue was down. The church attributes the decrease in funds to the economic downturn.
And another reason why people are leaving, according to the source, is because Long lacks humility as seen in his lavish lifestyle that provoked the Senate to investigate the church several years ago.
“Now there are a whole bunch of people trying to figure out what their place is, what’s going to happen to the church and what’s going to happen to them,” said the church source to Elev8.