Bishop Eddie Long may have just wrought the end to his Atlanta mega-congregation, the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. A source within New Birth says that the consequences of the Long sex scandal have amounted to a veritable “three strikes” against him.
Strike One — Church elders are abandoning Long– The resignation yesterday of Reverend Bernice King — Martin Luther King, Jr.’s youngest daughter — all but guarantees that other elders will leave. At the very least, some folks among the 25,000-member mega church are now planning their escape to a new church home as King, whom they refer to as their “ministerial beacon.” steps away.
Strike Two: Revenue for the church is down. New Birth Missionary Baptist Church collected nearly $20 million last year with more than a million dedicated specifically for Bishop Long, according to the source within the church. That million dollar-plus bounty, collected in appreciation for Bishop Long, is called a “love offering.” When Bishop Eddie Long spoke at his New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in the past, his 10,000-member congregation was often packed to the rafters and financial contributions flowed freely. Church sources now say “attendance is down, forcing the church to make dramatic cutbacks.” Despite Christian claims about living in an “alternative spiritual reality” in which congregants can give money with confidence, those worshippers have cut back severely on donations. This has forced the church to reduce salaries by ten percent and let go of two full-time employees. The work-week has been reduced from five days to four. The source at the church says the organization went into its cash reserves for another $18 million last year to cover its costs. New Birth issued a press release explaining that like many churches, “New Birth and its faith community have been impacted by the nationwide downturn in the economy.” Yeah, right.
Strike Three – Bishop Long’s lack of humility is an example of his complete arrogance. He is renowned for an extravagant lifestyle — drives a Bentley, drew $1 million in salary from his charity, has a nine-bathroom mansion — that had already come under investigation by the federal government. His politics have made him a prominent target as well. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, among others, has referred to Long as “homophobic” for his stance against same-sex partnerships.
Unfortunately, the shadow hanging over Long is growing longer. Sunday Morning’s sermon was a perfect example. He did not address the settlement at all. And that’s the reason he is in this situation: his complete disregard for his members and for the cloth he wears. It’s certain that additional elders will resign in the immediate future. The money being given for the settlement is rumored to be in the millions of dollars. The 41 ministries that Long runs will no longer be solvent.
Despite the church’s past economic and political power, it faces a uncertain future. It was a big deal in Atlanta society to be a part of New Birth. Members felt better about themselves because they were members.
Said the church source, “Now there are a whole bunch of people trying to figure out what their place is, what’s going to happen to the church and what’s going to happen to them.”