(Be sure to read the earlier episodes in this series before you get to this one: The Black Bapticostal Bishop, Yogis, Swamis—and Rabbis, Have Shofar, Will Travel, Have Torah, Will Travel, and Doin’ the Torah Wave.)
When we last met Black Bapticostal Bishop Eddie Long of Atlanta, his rising star in the Black Bapticostal galaxy was becoming a tad tarnished.
In 2009, his ministry was one of six that came under scrutiny of a Senate investigation into the finances of megachurch/megaministry pastors or televangelists, questioning if and/or how much they might be using non-profit ministry funds to finance personal lavish lifestyles.
In October 2011 a number of the parishioners in his 20,000+ New Birth Missionary Baptist congregation were bringing suit against him for persuading them to invest in what ended up being “little more than a fraudulent Ponzi scheme.” At least a million dollars of their retirement savings had been wiped out in the fiasco that began in October 2009 when Bishop Eddie had introduced them to a financial con man.
But by October 2011 this Ponzi Problem, and even the Senate investigation, had turned out to be minor blips on the Problem Radar for Bishop Eddie. You may remember from Episode 1 of this series that B.E. (married to second wife Vanessa, and the father of four sons) had been prominent for years in the anti-gay movement: “In 2004, he led a march with Bernice King to her father’s Atlanta grave to support a national constitutional amendment to protect marriage ‘between one man and one woman.’” So imagine the surprise of his supporters and admirers in September 2010 when they awoke to media reports of the following, as chronicled on Wikipedia:
On September 21 and 22, 2010, Maurice Robinson, Anthony Flagg, and Jamal Parris filed separate lawsuits in DeKalb County Superior Court alleging that Long used his pastoral influence to coerce them into a sexual relationship with him.
On September 24, Spencer LeGrande, a member of a New Birth satellite church in Charlotte, North Carolina, filed a similar suit, making him the fourth man to file a lawsuit claiming sexual misconduct by Long. The plaintiffs state that Long placed the men on the church’s payroll, bought them cars and other gifts, and took them separately on trips to destinations such as Kenya, South Africa, Turks and Caicos Islands, Trinidad, Honduras, New Zealand, and New York City. The lawsuits stated that Long would “discuss the Holy Scripture to justify and support the sexual activity.” Flagg’s suit claims that Long presided over a “covenant” ceremony between the two of them; Flagg’s attorney said that the ceremony was “essentially a marriage ceremony, with candles, exchange of jewelry, and biblical quotes.”
Long denied the allegations through his attorneys and spokesman. In a prepared statement, Long said, “I have devoted my life to helping others and these false allegations hurt me deeply.[…]But my faith is strong and the truth will emerge. All I ask for is your patience as we continue to categorically deny each and every one of these ugly charges.”
The allegations were that Long had begun showing a very special, personal interest in each of them when they were in youth programs of the Church before they were of “legal age” for sex in Georgia, but had then waited until they were of age to actually make the sexual advances. A few days after the fourth man’s accusations were filed, Long spoke on a Sunday morning to his congregation:
There have been allegations and attacks made on me. I have never in my life portrayed myself as a perfect man. But I am not the man that’s being portrayed on the television. That’s not me. That is not me.
By the counsel of my lawyers, they have advised me not to try this case in the media. I am not gon’ try this case in the media. It will be tried in the court of justice and dealt with in the court of justice and please understand because that’s the only place I think I’ll get justice, but being in the hands of God.
Please hear this. Please hear this: I’ve been accused. I’m under attack. I want you to know, as I said earlier, I am not a perfect man. But this thing I’m gon’ fight.
And I want you to know one other thing. I feel like David against Goliath, but I’ve got five rocks and I haven’t thrown one yet.
He punctuated with emphasis his plans later that day:
At a media conference afterward, Long made a short statement with his attorney by his side but did not take questions.
During the brief press conference, Long said, “I am going to fight, fight very vigorously.”
But something happened between September 2010 and May 2011. Long never did toss even one those rocks (an obvious reference to David’s “five smooth stones” readied against Goliath.) Nor did he fight … not vigorously, and, in fact, not at all. As the Wiki article linked above notes:
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on May 27, 2011, that the lawsuits were settled out-of-court; terms were undisclosed. Later reports indicated that although not a plaintiff, there was a potential fifth accuser who participated in the settlement discussions.
Yes, indeed, there was a fifth accuser.
In the midst of the case, just as a settlement was being discussed, [Centino] Kemp, who was never a member of the church and lived in Florida and North Carolina, appeared in Atlanta, joined the suit “unofficially,” and received $94,000 without ever officially becoming an “accuser,” Fox 5 reports.
Kemp had never been a member of the church, but claimed a six-year sexual relationship with Long.
In May of 2011, an out-of-court settlement was reached between Long and his accusers in which each was to receive undisclosed sums of money as long as the case was not discussed. Sources estimate the cost of the settlement to have been around $15 million.
Yes, Kemp joined the private discussions “unofficially,” but never filed suit. Yet still got some “settlement money.” Many wondered why his presence would have such influence. Others didn’t wonder at all, especially after seeing Kemp’s photo…
And the photo of the Tatoo on Kemp’s wrist…
One source says Centino Kemp, who was raised in the Bahamas, met Bishop Eddie Long years ago during a visit to New Birth while he was a teenage student in a Florida college.
The relationship meant enough for him to tattoo Eddie Long’s name on his wrist, followed by the words, “Never a Mistake, Always a Lesson.”
Early on in the scandal, most New Birth Missionary Baptist parishioners were adamant that their bishop couldn’t possibly have been involved in any same-sex hanky-panky. That position became a little harder to defend when the lawyer for the accusers soon released some interesting photos that Bishop Eddie had sent to the young men via smartphone—
It’s a little difficult to picture most Baptist pastors feeling a need to send Spandex Beefcake pics of themselves in their bathroom to young male parishioners. Especially a pastor who seemed to love really, really modest clerical robes …
Evidently his wife Vanessa (shown above) thought that a bit difficult too, especially after the settlement with the accusers. In December 2011, she filed for divorce. It’s not possible to get inside the mind of a woman in such circumstances, so it’s not possible to conclude why, a few months later, in February 2012 she withdrew the filing.
Maybe remembering those pathetic faces Eddie often put on at church during the height of the scandal finally made her feel pity.
Then again, she withdrew her filing “without prejudice” … meaning she could re-file it any time at will.
Given Bishop Eddie’s lack of candor about this exceedingly compromising set of circumstances, from start to finish, his next entry into the Internet Circus World via a viral Youtube video came as a real surprise to most folks. The video, made on January 29, 2012, at a New Birth church service, showed a bizarre ceremony in which pseudo-Messianic Jewish Rabbi Ralph declared the “Kingship” of Bishop Eddie “Spandex Beefcake” Long.
Strange Bedfellows indeed!
Stay tuned for the Rest of the Story of this Dubious Duo in the next episode of this saga.