Bishop Eddie Long case: Will it alter black church's view of gays?
Bishop Eddie Long, one of the most powerful men in the black megachurch movement, faces allegations of taking sexual advantage of two teenage boys. In 2004, Long created a ministry to 'deliver' men from homosexuality.
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On "The Frank and Wanda Morning Show" on Atlanta's V-103 station, host Frank Ski, one of Long's parishioners, said much of the reaction has been disbelief. If true, "it's going to cause a lot of destruction in our community," a caller told Mr. Ski during the show.Skip to next paragraph
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The two young men alleged that Long instructed them as "spiritual sons" to "follow their master," while enticing them "with cars, clothes, jewelry, and electronics," according to the two lawsuits filed by a 20-year-old and a 21-year-old that describe events going back to 2008. More damaging, potentially, to Long is that one of the men said Long used Scripture to justify their sexual relationship, which the men allege included kissing and oral sex.
Church spokesman Art Franklin told the V-103 morning show that Long categorically denies the allegations, adding, "The plaintiffs, these are not innocent victims. ...I just caution people to consider the sources and their motives."
In June, one of the men was arrested for allegedly burglarizing Long's office, taking an iPhone and an iPad, according to police. The man's lawyer has said it was an attempt to retaliate against the pastor for what had happened.
Long, who is married, built his megachurch on his prodigous charisma, often defending his ostentatious lifestyle, which includes a $350,000 Bentley and a $1.4 million home. Close friends of Long told CNN Tuesday that the pastor has become more humble in recent years, even complaining of a sense of loneliness. One way Long connects with his church members is by talking about his failings, including a first marriage and rejection from his father, writes CNN's John Blake, who covered Long during a stint as religion reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The Long story may not ultimately challenge the "don't ask, don't tell" view of homosexuality in the broader black community, says Mr. Lee at Tulane. But it could have a powerful impact on many blacks struggling with their sexuality, he says.
"The fact that this story is out there is going to help many black Christians in these churches who are struggling, who are being prayed over and fasting to try to get rid of these same-sex urges," he says. "They may look at a powerful man like Long, that if he can wrestle with same-sex urges and indulge in them, that means there's nothing wrong with a lowly Christian who's not a preacher to have these urges."