For a few weeks in January/February 2012, religious news outlets were dominated by stories and video clips of a Close Encounter of the Weird Kind between a Black Bapticostal Bishop and a lily-white pseudo-Jewish quasi-Messianic self-ordained Rabbi.
And therein lies a tangled tale, which will take three or four blog entries to untangle. Today’s entry:
The Black Bapticostal Bishop: Eddie Long
Eddie Lee Long (born May 12, 1953) is the senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, a megachurch in unincorporated DeKalb County, Georgia, United States, near Lithonia. When Long started as pastor for New Birth Church in 1987, there were 300 church members. Since his installation, membership has grown to 25,000.
Eddie Long attended North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina where he received a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in 1977. …
Long holds a doctorate in “Pastoral Ministry” from the unaccredited International College of Excellence…
Eddie is part of what is often termed the “Word Faith” … or “name it and claim it” … movement. (For a detailed overview of this movement, see my Field Guide to the Wild World of Religion profile of the movement.) He considers the famous “Velcro Bishop” T. D. Jakes as his prime mentor, and travels in the same circles as Benny Hinn and the rest of the Word Faith/Prosperity Gospel stable of televangelists. His “theology,” such as it is, is centered solidly around the Prosperity Gospel. As one article titled “Head-LONG into HERESY” put it…
Long has a Bentley ($350,000) with bodyguards. He wears clothes that display his prosperity theology. Long who once wore a Jewish star necklace around his neck instead of a cross and had a handkerchief sticking out from his suit pocket in the shape of a crown (TBN Sept. 7, 2003) is adorned with expensive tailored suits, a Rolex watch, gold necklaces, and diamond bracelets he steps up to the pulpit to show them how it works.
Some typical Eddie quotes (see the article linked for the names of the tapes that were the sources for these quotes):
“We don’t want to accept that God calls us gods!…But just as soon as you realize that, ‘I am a god.’ And as revelations reveal, ‘I am a king.’ He is King of kings. He is God of gods!”
…”Yes! Ye are gods!”
“I don’t make poor gods! You know why some of you haven’t got a financial breakthrough? It’s because, first–You ain’t recognized who you are. And you don’t recognize as a god you have territory. So God cannot release your wealth because you still don’t know you have a territory.. But just as soon as you realize that, ‘I am a god.’ And as revelations reveal, ‘I am a king.’ He is King of kings. He is God of gods! But you know what? Some of you still, you will go to work and mess this up in a testimony. ‘I was at church and Bishop Long said — I ain’t say you were gods! God said it! Show them the Scripture.”
“You need to understand when folk start talking about stuff and how evil things are. You’ll look at them and say, ‘But, I ain’t going out like that!’ Well how come? Because, I’m god! I’m little ‘L.’ I’m not going out like men. I believe what God said about me! How you going to kill god? That’s a good question. How you going to kill god? How you going to kill him? So if you look like Him then you’ll talk like Jesus. What did Jesus say? ‘Ain’t nobody going to take my life. When it’s time to go I’ll lay it down.’ But ain’t nobody taking my life”
“My whole objective in life is to be His image, His duplicate, His witness and to show folk what He look like because, before nobody seen Him. Somebody say, ‘I want to see God.’ Here He is, look at me!”
“You’re not a king if you don’t have any spoils! You’re not a king if you’re not ruling and conquering and having dominion! Where you’re taking finances out of the world’s system and bringing it into the Kingdom! …Praise-A-Thon is not a telethon! It is a reporting of the kings of what they have done!”
“You have been saved too long to be broke!…You wanna know why you broke? Cause you’re friends are broke and you assemble around that problem…The door was open. Which means you already rich. You decided to live poor! You already healed! You decided to be sick!…God ain’t broke!…And it won’t, it does not take Him a long time to fill your pockets.”
“Do you believe that this situation can change? Then speak to it!…Talk your way out of it. Prophesy your way out of it. Stop looking at what you see and call what you want it to be. You’re on fertile ground and whatever you speak got to happen! Whatever you say got to happen!”
Well, you have to admit Eddie’s methods (in spite of his lousy grammar…) have gotten him out of being broke, and filled his pockets. He lives in a million dollar home.
He drives in that $350,000 Bentley convertible.
In fact, Eddie’s ministry was one of the six included in a Senate investigation opened in 2009 by Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa which tried to determine whether those ministries were “improperly using their tax-exempt status as churches to shield lavish lifestyles.” The other five were “Paula White, Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar, Eddie Long, Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn. Three of the six – Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland and Creflo Dollar – also sit on the Board of Regents for the Oral Roberts University.”
Up until that investigation, most public exposure for Long and New Birth Church was pretty positive. For instance in 2006:
Over 14,000 people gathered for Coretta Scott King’s eight-hour funeral at the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia on February 7, 2006 where daughter Bernice King, who is an elder at the church, eulogized her mother. The megachurch, whose sanctuary seats 10,000, was better able to handle the expected massive crowds than Ebenezer Baptist Church, of which Mrs. King was a member since the early 1960s and which was the site of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s funeral in 1968.
U.S. Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, and their wives attended. The Ford family was absent due to the illness of President Ford (who himself died later that year). Former First Lady Barbara Bush, had a previous engagement and also did not attend. Numerous other prominent political and civil rights leaders, including then-U.S. senator Barack Obama, attended the televised service. [Wikipedia]
Eddie got real chummy with then-President Bush:
Eddie had long been praised by many conservative religious leaders for his outspoken leadership in the efforts to stem the spread of “gay marriage” rights: “A 2007 article in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s magazine called him ‘one of the most virulently homophobic black leaders in the religiously based anti-gay movement.’”
In 2004, Long led a march with Bernice King to the grave of her father, Martin Luther King, Jr. The march was a protest against same-sex marriage and in support of a national constitutional amendment to limit marriage rights to couples comprising “one man and one woman.” [Wikipedia]
But it’s been downhill for Eddie since 2009.
There was the financial scandal that devastated some of his parishioners, described in this October 2011 article:
Bishop Eddie Long is embroiled in another lawsuit; this time from his own parishioners who accuse him of using his influence to endorse a financially troubled company, which they claim was little more than a fraudulent Ponzi scheme.
The 10 current and former members of Long’s New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Georgia allege the Bishop persuaded them to invest in a scheme that wiped out at least $1 million in their retirement savings.
In October 2009, Long invited Ephren Taylor to a three-day financial seminar called the “Wealth Tour Live.” Taylor convinced members at the seminar to invest in “socially conscious investments” that would provide “guaranteed income,” according to the lawsuit filed in DeKalb County State Court.
However, it transpires Taylor was not licensed to sell investments and his company City Capital Corp was insolvent, information Long and New Birth should have known, according to the lawsuit filed in DeKalb County State Court.
“The entire Wealth Tour Live event and subsequent investments made by plaintiffs turned out to be nothing more than a fraudulent scheme designed to perpetuate an ongoing Ponzi scheme,” said the lawsuit.
One church member, Lillian Wells, 60, says she lost her entire life savings of $122,000, and her home is now facing foreclosure next month.
“Long used his power and authority to coerce plaintiffs and other church members to trust defendants Ephren Taylor” and his companies, said the lawsuit.
Earlier this year, the megachurch pastor posted a video on YouTube video asking Taylor to return the money.
“Please do what’s right,” Long said, addressing Taylor in the video. “You’re a great fellow, a great man and you do great things. Let’s settle this so these families can move on.”
Although it is unclear whether Long participated in the scheme, or if he knew of City Capital’s financial standing, but the lawsuits contents both the church and Long were compensated for soliciting the investment.
“Socially conscious investments”? Well, a February 2011 report by Fox News of Atlanta was a little clearer about just WHAT folks had been investing in:
Atlanta’s Fox 5 aired an extensive investigative report last week about the latest controversy swirling around Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, a mega-church based in Atlanta.
Earlier this month, Long posted a YouTube video asking that Ephren Taylor of Capital City Corporation reimburse Long’s New Birth Missionary parishioners for $1 million in investments that they had made. Taylor shot back with a press release saying that parishioners had already been contacted regarding reimbursements and that Long was engaged in character assassination.
According to the Fox 5 investigation, Long allegedly told his congregation that everything Taylor said was based “on the word of God.” Trusting churchgoers thought that their investments would be sound, based on their pastor’s endorsement.
Taylor allegedly said that when he was in high school, he created a $3.5 million dollar company that was a website that sold job postings for high school kids. His new idea, which he sold as an investment opportunity to Long’s congregation, was sweepstakes video game machines. While the paperwork stated that there was no guarantee about investment returns, investors from the church received certificates of guarantees that promised that they would receive revenue that was equal to or greater than the amount invested.
The company that sold the game machines was indicted for operating an illegal gambling enterprise. Last September, Fox 5 revealed that police in Virginia raided a number of sweepstakes store fronts and charged 11 owners and companies with illegal gambling.
City Capital sent a letter to investors promising to pay back 100% of the investments in cash or stock , but according to Fox 5, the stock may be worth pennies.
Long refused to talk to reporters, but in his video, claimed that he received no “financial blessing or gift” from Ephren Taylor for promoting the Capital City investment opportunity. Taylor countered, saying that Long had received a cut of all books and cds sold to church members. A spokesperson for Long told the news station that this money was collected only to pay expenses.
Parishioners invested substantial sums of money, with some investments ranging from $10,000 to over $200,000, representing their lifetime savings.
That kind of scandal would have normally been enough to keep a Bapticostal Bishop’s lawyers pulling their hair out. Unfortunately for the Bishop … and his long-suffering lawyers … it was the least of his problems at the time.
But that is another story for another day. Stay tuned for the next Wild World blog entry which will introduce the other player in the Strange Bedfellows Saga, the lily-white pseudo-Jewish quasi-Messianic self-proclaimed Rabbi.