Bishop Eddie Long announced on Sunday to his congregation and the world that he is taking a sabbatical in order to focus on his family after his wife recently filed for divorce after 21 years of marriage.
Even though Long is taking time off, he will continue to serve as senior pastor at the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, according to his spokesman Art Franklin.
Franklin also said that the Long and his family “are asking for privacy and sensitivity to their family.”
His wife Vanessa first filed a petition for divorce on Thursday. On Friday morning the church sent out a press release stating she planned to withdraw her petition, but later in the day her attorney announced that she had changed her mind.
In the petition Vanessa said that there was “no hope of reconciliation of the parties.”
Bishop Long released a written statement saying, “Vanessa and I are working together in seeking God’s will in out current circumstances.”
Long took over his congregation in 1987, when it had only a few hundred members. Through his strong message of conservative Christianity he was able to build a following of 25,000, and reach millions through his television evangelism.
However, his reputation has taken a hit following allegations of sexual abuse and bad investment deals. Last year four young member alleged that Long had given them gifts, trips and emotional and spiritual guidance that led to sexual relationships. Long settled the suit but denied the claims.
He was also sued by ten former members who claim that Long cost them their retirement savings after he coerced them into bad investment deals.
With Associated Press