The decision for Bishop Eddie Long of Lithonia, GA’s New Birth Missionary Baptist Church to take a leave of absence has paraded major headlines for weeks now.This may not come be such a huge surprise to many, but speculation looms over the pending results of whether or not his church maybe set for extinction. This is especially true when the lines of the black church, the sanctity of marriage, and accusations of homosexual behavior are involved.
Bishop Long told the congregation he was taking a “leave of absence to attend to his family” as Vanessa filed on the grounds of the marriage being “irretrievably broken” and stating in the divorce petition that there was “no hope of reconciliation of the parties.” This brings their 21-year marriage, which bore 4 children, to a close.
Of course, a concern about the future of the church and its members are at a standstill, depending on the status of his absence, whether his leave is temporary or permanent. The sex abuse scandal with four young men accusing Bishop Long of buying them lavish gifts such as international trips, cars, money, jewelry, etc, and camera phone pictures spread out over the internet flexing with his Under Armor gear, left a split between the faithful–the faithful of the Word or to Bishop Long. While Bishop Long continues to proclaim his innocence, the situation was settled out of court and the remnants of the accusations remain a whisper amongst the followers.
Though it is well known that within the culture of black churches, homosexuality is a subject kept under the rug but rears its ugly head at times, it will be more interesting to see if the discord between Bishop Long and his wife will cause more of a rift in their congregation. Knowing that the church’s population is largely female, one of the answers to New Birth continuing to have life after the scandal from the support Long received from his wife. This may be look like the perfect Christian example of a woman “standing by her man” and being committed to the work of the church, some would say. However, without a female face and stance behind the Bishop at these final perilous momments, it will be interesting to see where people’s allegiance truly lies.