Bishop Eddie Long, the Atlanta megachurch pastor who was embroiled in a sexual misconduct case with four young men this past year, announced Sunday that he is taking a break from the church – just days after his wife filed for divorce.
In front of thousands of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church congregants, Long announced that he will take time off in order to focus on his family.
“I’m still your pastor. You’ll still receive my direction,” Long said with his wife, Vanessa, and two of their children standing by his side, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. “You’ve given me some weeks to take care of some family business.”
The announcement comes amid a whirlwind of confusing and contradictory news that Vanessa Long filed for divorce. News broke Friday that Vanessa had filed for divorce Thursday, just to be contradicted hours later by the megachurch, which issued a statement saying that its first lady had experienced a change of heart and had withdrawn the suit. Shortly after the church statement, Vanessa’s attorneys released a separate statement clarifying that their client intends to follow through with the divorce.
“Consistent with her original statement made this morning, Mrs. Long continues to hope that this matter may be resolved expeditiously, harmoniously and fairly; however, she has determined that dismissal of her divorce petition is not appropriate at this time," read the statement by Vanessa’s attorneys.
It is unclear whether the divorce suit has now been withdrawn or not.
On Friday, Bishop Long issued his own statement amid the divorce news: “Vanessa is, and has always been, a loving, dedicated and committed wife and mother.”
“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.”
Long has made headlines over the past year for a lawsuit filed against him by four young men – all of who used to attend his church – accusing the preacher of abusing his spiritual authority to lure them into a sexual relationship with him.
The case was settled out of court in late May, and the plaintiffs were paid a large sum of settlement money. Long reportedly paid a total of $15 million to the four plaintiffs and a fifth accuser, Maurice Robinson, who was not named in the lawsuit. But In late September, however, Long requested that three of the men – Jamal Parris, Spencer LeGrande and Centino Kemp – repay the settlement money because the men allegedly broke the confidentiality agreement when they spoke publicly about the case.
Eddie and Vanessa Long have been married for 21 years and have three children together.