Eddie Long, the anti-gay preacher who was accused of sexually abusing four young men in his youth ministry, announced today he is taking a leave from his Atlanta megachurch to spend time with his family.
“I’m still your pastor, you will receive my direction,” Long told the congregation at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church.
Vanessa Long, who has been married to the pastor for 21 years, filed divorce papers last Thursday, but withdrew them a few hours later.
But Vanessa Long’s change of heart was short-lived. Friday, her lawyers announced the divorce was back on.
“Mrs. Long continues to hope that this matter may be resolved expeditiously, harmoniously and fairly; however, she has determined that dismissal of her divorce petition is not appropriate at this time,” her attorney said in a statement.
Long’s accusers say he coerced them into sexual relations when the they were teenagers. The preacher settled with the accusers for an undisclosed amount last May. Some suggest he spent nearly $2.5 million to end the lawsuit. This summer, at his first public appearance after news of the allegations broke, Vanessa Long stood by her husband’s side.
The church is trying to put a good face on the most recent developments, and today told its Twitter followers, “The enemy wants us to think it isn’t well.”
Eddie and Vanessa Long have three children together, and he also has a son named Edward from his previous marriage.
New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, which has more than 25,000 members, has been rocked by the scandal involving their “bishop.”
Elder Bernice King, daughter of slain civil right leader Martin Luther King, left the church this summer but denied she left because of the allegations surrounding Long having sex with young men in his youth ministry.
Long has a long history of preaching again gays, gay sex and gay marriage. He once led a march against gays through the streets of Atlanta, and described homosexuality as a “spiritual abortion.”