- (Photo: AP Images / John Amis, Pool)
Bishop Eddie Long’s church in Georgia announced on Sunday that New Birth Christian Academy, which was expected to close down after the Christmas break, will reopen this week.
The academy in Lithonia in eastern DeKalb County will reopen through a cooperative agreement with Aurora Day School, Art Franklin, spokesman of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta, said, according to Channel 2 Action News.
Franklin said the announcement was made during the Sunday worship service. Details of the agreement with the Aurora Day School, which has campuses in Tucker and Roswell, will be released during a press conference this week.
All students, including those previously enrolled, have been asked to come for enrollment on Wednesday, the day before the school is expected to reopen, Franklin added.
Last month, the academy sent a letter to parents stating that the school would not continue with classes after the Christmas break, citing decreased donations and enrollment, as well as a bad economy. It also said that school officials would help parents find other schools to enroll their children in for the duration of the 2011-2012 school year.
With the 18-year-old academy closing, more than 200 students found themselves without a school. Founded by New Birth Senior Pastor Eddie Long, the academy had an enrollment of 221, according to the Georgia Independent School Association.
The school denied any connection between the earlier decision to close and the recent scandals connected to Eddie Long, but some parents remained skeptical. “I don’t believe that. I believe that this last straw with the divorce, the sealed settlement, it just does not look good,” a parent had stated earlier to WSB TV.
In September 2010, four young men filed separate lawsuits against Long over allegations of sexual misconduct. The four, former members of the LongFellows Youth Academy who were selected by Eddie Long for mentoring, charged that they were coerced into sexual acts in exchange for cash, cars, lodging and lavish trips.
The case was dismissed last May after both sides announced that a settlement had been reached out of court. A fifth young man, who was not a member of Long’s church, also sued Long for similar allegations and also reportedly received settlement money.
Eddie Long made headlines again when his wife, Vanessa, filed for divorce in early December. But just hours later the same day, she issued a statement saying that “upon prayerful reflection” she had reconsidered filing for divorce and had withdrawn the petition.
Long took a temporary break from the pulpit in December to focus on his family. He returned to the church this month.
The well-known pastor is identified by critics as a prosperity gospel teacher. According to the Houston Chronicle, Long is a “flashy figure” in Lithonia, the Atlanta suburb where he lives and built his church. “He is often seen in a Bentley attended by bodyguards. He wears clothes that show off his muscular physique. He favors Gucci sunglasses, gold necklaces, diamond bracelets and Rolex watches. He lives in a 5,000-square-foot, five-bedroom house that he bought for $1.1 million in 2005.” In his sermons, he often tells his congregation that God wants them to be wealthy and asserts that Jesus was not a poor man, the newspaper added.
The megachurch claims to have 25,000 members. Long’s Emmy-Award-winning broadcast, “Taking Authority,” which airs on the Trinity Broadcast Network, reaches 172 countries and more than 270 million people.