Sunday, September 26, 2010
Sexual Deviant Atlanta Pastor Backed By Demented Congregation
(AP Photo/John Amis, Pool)
Bishop Eddie Long prepares to speak at a news conference, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2010, at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta. Bishop Eddie Long, the pastor of a Georgia megachurch accused of luring young men into sexual relationships, has told his congregation of thousands that all people must face painful and distasteful situations.
LITHONIA, Ga. — Casting himself as the Bible's ultimate underdog, Bishop Eddie Long went before thousands of faithful supporters at his megachurch Sunday and promised to fight accusations that he lured four young men into sexual relationships.
"I feel like David against Goliath. But I got five rocks, and I haven't thrown one yet," Long said in his first public remarks since his accusers filed lawsuits last week claiming he abused his "spiritual authority." He stopped short of denying the allegations but implied he was wronged by them.
"I have never in my life portrayed myself as a perfect man. But I am not the man that's being portrayed on the television. That's not me. That is not me," he said.
Long's brief addresses to the congregation at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church were met with thunderous applause and an outpouring of support during services that were equal parts part rock concert and pep rally. The sanctuary was nearly filled to its 10,000-seat capacity for both the 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. services. Many lined up two hours before the doors of the church opened.
Long became one of the country's most powerful independent church leaders over the last 20 years, turning a suburban Atlanta congregation of 150 to a 25,000-member powerhouse with a $50 million cathedral and a roster of parishioners that includes athletes, entertainers and politicians. And there was almost no sign Sunday that his flock wanted to turn him away.
Followers prayed, sang and embraced one another as they rallied around their senior pastor. Wearing a cream-colored suit as he exhorted the crowd into a frenzied state of denial, the Reverend Long told his flock, "The devil made me do it."