*Atlanta megachurch pastor Bishop Eddie Long is facing a lawsuit from former parishioners who say he encouraged them to invest in a company that was operating an alleged Ponzi scheme.
A dozen former members of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga., filed suit in DeKalb County court in late January. The suit says that Long’s assistant had been warned that businessman Ephren W. Taylor was running a $3 million capital deficit, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
After Long introduced the businessman as his “friend,” the former New Birth members lost more than $1 million investing with the self-described “social capitalist.”
“If Bishop Eddie Long hadn’t endorsed this they wouldn’t have invested,” Jason Doss, attorney for the former members, told the Journal-Constitution.
Long’s church has urged Taylor to repay investors with interest.
“We remain hopeful that Ephren Taylor and companies related to him restore the funds that were taken from congregants at New Birth and churches around the county,” New Birth said in a statement. “We continue to cooperate as the case proceeds.”
The Securities and Exchange Commission charged Taylor in 2012 with running a Ponzi scheme, and a civil case against him is pending. SEC officials said he promised to use investments for charity and to help economically challenged areas but instead diverted the funds he received after speaking to churches, including New Birth, to pay other investors and finance business and personal expenses.
“He preyed upon investors’ faith and their desire to help others, convincing them that they could earn healthy returns while also helping their communities,” said David Woodcock, director of the SEC’s Fort Worth Regional Office in Texas.
Long previously faced another suit from young men who accused him of using gifts and money to coerce them into sexual relationships. He settled those cases in May 2012.
*The divorce case between Georgia megachurch pastor Eddie Long and wife Vanessa Long has been closed and dismissed, according to the DeKalb County Online Judicial System.
However, there remains a possibility the case could continue in the future, says The Christian Post.
According to the online judicial system record, there are three new entries as of Feb. 13 related to the Longs’ divorce case with the descriptions “dismissal,” “certificate of service” and “dismissed without prejudice” noted.
“Dismissed without prejudice” means the case may be re-instituted or re-filed in the future. According to the Judicial Branch of Georgia website, “A dismissal without prejudice does not stop the plaintiff from re-filing the claim and proceeding as long as the claim is made timely (within the statute of limitations) and service can be secured.”
*By now King … er, uh, Bishop Eddie Long is used to apologies and looking dumb to the public.
He apologized to the Jewish community after being crowed king by Rabbi Ralph Messer at last Sunday’s service, as we reported.
“The ceremony was not my suggestion, nor was it my intent, to participate in any ritual that is offensive in any manner to the Jewish community,” Long wrote in a letter sent to Bill Nigut, Southeast Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League.
Footage of the ceremony went up on YouTube and caught the eye of thousands of viewers who have had quite a mix of commentary.
But the ADL was quite appalled by the pageantry and the wrapping of Long in a Torah scroll while being carried on a throne.
Nigut commented that so-called rabbis like Messer are folk to keep a watchful eye of.
But Messer believes all has been misunderstood (like most things Long does).
“It was simply a way of bringing honor to a man who had given his life to the Lord and had given so much to his church, the Atlanta metro area and throughout the world,” he said.
And to avoid burning any more bridges, Long denounced his kingship.
“I denounce any action that depicts me as a king, for I am merely just a servant of the Lord.”
*The Atlanta Journal-Constitution spoke to Jewish leaders who are highly offended and speaking out against a ceremony held Sunday at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, in which Bishop Eddie Long was wrapped in a sacred Torah scroll and carried upon a throne.
“He’s a king. God has blessed him,” said Rabbi Ralph Messer before covering Long in a scroll “[that] may still have the dust of Auschwitz and Birkenau.” Messer referred to the Nazi extermination camps in Poland where millions of Jews were murdered during the Holocaust.
A Torah’s use in a ceremony ordaining Long as “a king” is offensive to many Jews, said Bill Nigut, Southeast Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League.
The ceremony at Long’s Lithonia church, viewed more than 139,000 times on YouTube, “in no way represents any Jewish ritual that I’m familiar with,” Nigut tells the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We do not proclaim individuals to be kings.”
Messer said his parchment, a handwritten copy of the holiest book within Judaism, was 312 years old. His mention of Auschwitz-Birkenau implied the scroll was one of those recovered from the death camps when they were liberated by the Allies toward the end of World War II.
It’s impossible to authenticate Messer’s claim without examining the texts up close, said Rabbi Joshua Heller of Congregation B’nai Torah in Sandy Springs. While rare, Torahs can be easily purchased, even on eBay, he said.
“There are a fair number of Torah scrolls that survived the war,” said Heller, adding roughly 1,500 were rescued from Czechoslovakia alone.
More disturbing was the use of this particular Torah in an inappropriate setting, experts on religion say.
“The connection of the Torah scroll to the Holocaust and then to Eddie Long is incomprehensible to me,” said David P. Gushee, a professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University. Gushee is a scholar of the Holocaust and has visited Auschwitz several times.
“What was the point? Was it to signal that Eddie Long was suffering persecution like the Jews at Auschwitz?” Gushee asked.
Messer’s son, Minister Russell Messer of Simchat Torah Beit Midrash in Parker, Colo., said his father purchased the parchment and relied on the word of its seller regarding its provenance. “It came through that generation of Europe,” the younger Messer said.
Russell Messer said that in the next two days, his father — who has no formal rabbinical training — plans to post on his organization’s website the full video of his sermon along with additional comments regarding Sunday’s service.
When asked for comment about the event, New Birth emailed a statement Thursday in which Ralph Messer said critics misunderstood his intent.
“My message was about restoring a man and to encourage his walk in the Lord,” Messer said. “It was not to make Bishop Eddie L. Long a king.”
The YouTube video indicates otherwise, Heller told the AJC.
“We wouldn’t wrap a Jewish person in a Torah scroll and declare him king,” he said. “As a Jew, I find that use of symbols very off-putting.”
The messenger is as controversial as the message, Jewish leaders say.
Rabbi Ralph Messer
Ralph Messer, according to a biography on his organization’s website, is “pioneering a work to bring the ‘Good News’ of Yeshua (Jesus Christ) in the Torah to the ends of the Earth.” He is active in the Messianic Judaism movement, which fuses evangelical Christian beliefs with elements of Jewish tradition.
“The Jewish community does not associate itself with the Messianic congregations,” Heller said. “We don’t feel like this does due justice to either the Jewish or Christian community.”
Messer’s biography says he has ties with prominent evangelicals including the Rev. Kenneth Copeland of Lubbock, Texas, and Paula White, pastor of a charismatic mega-church based in Florida. It says he has made frequent appearances on the Trinity Broadcasting Network.
In his statement Thursday, Ralph Messer said Sunday’s presentation “was simply a way of bringing honor to a man who had given his life to the Lord and had given so much to his church, the Atlanta metro area and throughout the world.”
“Lifting him on the chair was to acknowledge and honor him,” he said, adding it is consistent with rituals performed at Jewish weddings and Bar mitzvahs.
Russell Messer said that his father and Long “just got to know each other in the last six months.”
Long was appointed New Birth’s pastor in 1987 when the church had only 300 members. By its 10th anniversary, New Birth reported a membership of roughly 18,000, peaking at 25,000.
But in September 2010, Long was sued by four former church members who alleged he used his influence, trips, gifts and jobs to coerce them into sexual relationships. The suit was settled in May. The church’s attendance has declined since the sexual coercion lawsuit was filed.
The bishop may have taken comfort in Messer’s message.
“You can’t attack [Long],” Messer said Sunday. “He’s sealed. Wherever he turns, the power of God is there. … It’s not him, it’s the king in him.”
As Long sat behind him, perched on a throne under a spotlight, Messer chanted repeatedly, “It’s a new birth,” eliciting cheers from the congregation.
Mercer’s Gushee said the service may have been an attempt to shore up Long’s standing in his ministry.
“A lot of things could have been done to shore that up, but this particularly bizarre ritual was deeply disturbing,” Gushee said. “One problem with Messianic Judaism, in which leaders attempt to fuse Jewish and Christian traditions and symbols, is that it can easily stray into profound insensitivity.”
Jamal-Dominique Hopkins, associate professor of Biblical studies at Interdenominational Theological Center, said that on viewing the video, “My first impression was, ‘Who is this individual who has the authority to make Bishop Long a king?’
“It’s something I’ve never seen or read within the Judeo-Christian tradition,” Hopkins said. “There’s nothing within Scripture that supports such a practice of this ceremony. It really just stands outside of the Christian faith.”
*Bishop Eddie Long returned to the pulpit on Sunday in royal fashion.
For his Jan. 29th service at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, where he took a leave of absence late last year in the wake of child molestation allegations, Bishop Long featured a Rabbi, Ralph Messer, who spoke at length about why Long is a “king.”
Presenting what he claimed were 300-year-old sacred scrolls discovered some 70 years ago outside a concentration camp in Germany, Messer pronounced Eddie Long as king in “God’s government.”
To illustrate the point, Long’s aides lift him in his chair, which doubles as a throne, and carry him around the stage.
*After striking fear in the hearts of parents by closing the private educational institute, Eddie Long’s New Birth Missionary Baptist Church announced that it reopened the congregation’s school.
New Birth’s announcement in late December that the school would close after 18 years sent hundreds of students scrambling to find a new school, reports the Atlanta Constitution Journal. The church said then it would have to close the school due to the sluggish economy and low enrollment.
New Birth spokesman Art Franklin confirmed to Channel 2 that it was announced at Sunday’s worship services that the academy will reopen through a cooperative agreement with Aurora Day School. Franklin declined to release details on what role Aurora Day School will play in New Birth Academy operations, saying the details would likely be released during a news conference later this week. Aurora has campuses in Tucker and Roswell.
*Bishop Eddie Long has apparently returned to New Birth Missionary Baptist Church after a month-long absence, says the Christian Post.
The senior pastor had announced that he was stepping away from the pulpit to spend time with his family – an attempt to save his marriage with Vanessa Long, who has recently filed for divorce.
Long welcomed the New Year on the eve of 2011 with what appeared to be enthusiasm and vitality – telling his congregation “2012 is here! Shake off the remorse, shake off the depression, shake off the financial burden, start using your hands again and reconstructing!”
“After a great deal of deliberation and prayer, I have decided to terminate my marriage to Bishop Eddie L. Long. Accordingly, I authorized my attorneys to file for divorce on December 1, 2011,” Vanessa Long said in a statement on Friday.
It was a little over a year ago that four young men accused Eddie Long, senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist church in Lithonia, of coercing them into having sex. Their lawsuits were settled in May, then dismissed.
In the statement, Vanessa Long also said:
“It is my sincere hope that this matter can be resolved expeditiously, harmoniously, and fairly. I ask that you respect my privacy and that of my family, as my attorneys and I have agreed that we will not try this case in the media, and I do not intend to make any further statements concerning this matter.”
We can see Mo’Kelly’s ears point straight up, ready to pounce on this news.
*A North Carolina businessman involved in an investment program at Bishop Eddie Long’s Atlanta-area megachurch where former members claim they lost their retirement savings says he’s taking action to “make things right.”
A group of church members is suing New Birth Missionary Baptist Church and its embattled pastor, saying they conspired with businessman Ephren Taylor Jr. to defraud the members through “wealth-building” seminars and sermons in 2009, reports the Associated Press.
“In my case and that of my former company, some of the negative effects of a situation with very complex economics impacted businesses, individuals and families despite our best intentions,” Taylor said in a statement to The AP.
Attorneys for the church members say in a DeKalb County lawsuit that Taylor urged them to liquidate their retirement accounts, and as a result some lost their life savings.
The U.S. Secret Service and the Internal Revenue Service are also investigating issues surrounding the seminars, which were hosted at the Lithonia-based church which claims 25,000 members, federal officials said.
“Don’t assume that I am just another greedy businessman,” Taylor said in the statement. “I am taking action to make things right.”
Taylor is also named as a defendant in a federal lawsuit filed this month in U.S. District Court in North Carolina.
In that case, lawyers say Taylor made a series of investment presentations for the “Prosperity Fund” at churches in Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.
In the summer of 2008, he spoke at the Democratic National Convention to a youth leaders’ summit on his “socially conscious” corporate investment strategy, according to the federal lawsuit.
“Taylor was fortunate to be riding the wave of popularity of young, black, successful men created by then U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama,” the lawsuit states.
New Birth spokesman Art Franklin previously declined to comment on the church’s role in the investments.
*After Eddie Long’s lawyers filed suit against three of his accusers for allegedly violating the settlement terms, the lawyers for Jamal Parris, Spencer LaGrande and Centino Kemp – Brenda Joy (BJ) Bernstein and co-counsel Jay Sadd – kicked the boys to the curb.
The accusers were due to give up “not less than $900,000” for violating the terms of the agreement made for the highly scandalous settlement made earlier this year. You can only imagine why they would bail so suddenly.
According to Long’s attorneys, the boys talked about the case, revealing sensitive details to the press and on social media networks.
Kemp wrote on his Twitter account, “I was literally your hooker,” and then in one directed @BishopEddieLong wrote “why that’s all I want to no.”
Long was charged with sexual misconduct in Sept. 2010 after five young men came forward claiming that the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church pastor seduced them with gifts, money and trips in exchange for sexual favors.
*Bishop Eddie Long is speaking out now about his sex scandal cases, but it’s not what you think.
While he’s in a bit of legal trouble all the way around, his finances are more than suffering. And in what seemed to be a cry of desperation, the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church preacher is asking his accusers for his money back according to AJC.com
He’s serious about it too. But it’s not going to be as easy. Here’s what Atlanta litigator Hayden Price told AJC.com:
“No one’s going to turn over the money just simply because you’ve asked for it. You’re going to have to earn it back by establishing your right to it in the courts.”
Pace reminded that Georgia courts make it a practice and a policy to uphold a settlement.
Jamal Parris, Spencer LeGrande and Centino Kemp, three of the five accusers, were sent letters last week from an Atlanta based law firm saying they had violated the confidentiality terms of the outlined agreement with long and the church.
The firm is seeking at least $900,000 already paid to the accusers.
Both LeGrande and Kemp stated recently they were going to write books disclosing the dirty details and nature of their relationship with Long.
*Mo’Kelly could have filled this editorial with all sorts of scripture, but it would have been a waste. The remaining New Birth members aren’t concerned with scripture, they’re only concerned with blindly following Bishop Eddie Long. So instead, Mo’Kelly will instead go the condescending and dismissive route.
With the recent revelation of Centino Kemp, we have now five males linked to Bishop Eddie Long. Four through sexual coercion and the fifth in a full-blown, ongoing consensual sexual relationship. For cynical folk like Mo’Kelly, that makes for one “rock” in his pocket for each accuser. The math worked out rather nicely.
Nevertheless, it seemed David got royally spanked by Goliath in this 21stcentury rematch.
To add further insult and injury to Long; reports out of Atlanta suggest that
Kemp figured in the final settlement, yet never filed a lawsuit. Meaning, Kemp didn’t even have to allege wrong-doing and he still went away paid.
Exactly. His mere appearance made Long pull out the checkbook. I didn’t know that could happen to “innocent” or “heterosexual” people.
And nice “Eddie Long” tattoo Kemp has on his arm. No gag order could take that gem away.
Prior to the the four lawsuits and settlement, Mo’Kelly laid all the blame at the feet of Bishop Long and his inner circle. From this moment moving forward, I blame anyone and everyone still sitting in the pews at New Birth.
Let’s see if Mo’Kelly has this straight…no pun intended.
Bishop Eddie Long has offered neither explanation nor exculpatory evidence to refute or debunk ANY of the allegations against him. Instead of going to trial to clear his name, he agreed to a multimillion-dollar settlement. He gave a FIFTH man money who never even said jack publicly.
Oh that’s right, Bishop Eddie Long isn’t innocent or heterosexual. That might explain it.
Yes congregation, I blame you.
You don’t worship God, you worship a self-loathing gay man. Own it New Birth.
Yes, say it with Mo’Kelly. Altogether now…
”He’s gay.” All Long needs is a rainbow ribbon on his lapel, a subscription to OUT magazine and an invitation to Marcus Bachmann’s upcoming birthday bash to make it any more obvious.
Five different men have come forward with intimate sexual details. Accept it like the sun coming up in the morning. That Brother is gay.
If you, remaining New Birth members don’t know your Bishop is gay…that’s a “you” problem. The rest of us in the real world are clear.
To the heart of the matter…
The issues of concern to the remaining gullible church members should be at least connected to Long’s adultery, lack of repentance and remuneration to keep it all quiet. It’s about the involvement of minors within his congregation in the expression of said homosexuality.
To remain silently under his ministerial leadership is complicity with the behavior.
Four of these five boys we know were under the 18 (age of majority) during the time of the acts. They were minors, children in the eyes of the law; age of consent (16) or not.
Do not confuse “age of consent” with “age of majority.” They were children.
The remaining members of New Birth clearly aren’t concerned with such minutia. Shame on all of you. You’ve done nothing to challenge Long or ensure the future safety of children within his reach.
What version of the Bible are you reading over there in Lithonia?
There’s been no formal inquiry by the elders of the church. One can’t even be sure if there is a governing body in place to call for such an inquiry. There has been no independent investigation as to whether Long’s behavior was in violation of the church’s charter or the tax status.
And you members continue to sit idly by and allow for the possibility of it happening all over again.
There has been no cooling off period, removing Long from the pulpit to review the totality of these events. How does one pay out an 8-figure settlement and have no subsequent ministerial misconduct review made available to members?
I blame you remaining New Birth members, because you obliged such ridiculous behavior. I blame each and every person still sitting in a pew because you’ve allowed it to come to this point and have made no provisions to prevent it from happening again. Even if you (wrongly) believe in Long with all your heart, the minimum has not been done to prevent this same chain of events in the future.
You’ve done nothing and can no longer claim ignorance. Acting ignorantly is not the same as being ignorant of the truth. You, New Birth can claim ignorance no more. But your actions now are surely ignorant. You now know the truth and still don’t care.
It does not matter how much you “love” your pastor. It does not matter how many times Long prayed for you or Big Mama while in the hospital. It does not matter he may have baptized all of your children, from Pookie, all the way down to Ray-Ray. None of those aforementioned speaks to the rapport he had with these five men then or the reasons why you’re footing the bill for the settlement now. None of those things diminishes, dismisses or denies what has previously gone on in Bishop Long’s hotel/bedroom.
Mo’Kelly understands why these five men are now silent, the agreement requires as much. You collectively on the other hand…what’s your excuse?
You didn’t get paid FROM the settlement; are paying FOR the settlement and have not enough sense to even demand a worthy explanation in light of either?
Shame on you and blame on you.
I’m still waiting on Art Franklin/New Birth to publicly disallow ministers from sleeping in the same rooms as minors while traveling or imparting lavish and inappropriate gifts. I’m still waiting for Art Franklin/New Birth to release a statement with a message other than something akin to “We’re putting this behind us and moving forward. Stop bringing it up.”
If protecting the children isn’t amongst the priorities of New Birth, then it is unfit and unworthy of keeping its doors open to the public. In the meantime members, do enjoy writing each and every check which goes in support of settling four lawsuits and an unrelated, “alleged” lover.
You have no one to blame but yourselves and I gladly blame you accordingly.
*Bishop Eddie Long, who recently avoided trial in a sexual misconduct case against him, could be called to testify about a break into his office at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church if a burglary case goes to trial, reports The Christian Post.
Anthony Boyd, who formerly worked at the Atlanta megachurch as a security guard, is accused of breaking into Long’s office on June 12, 2010 and stealing $100,000 worth of jewelry and electronics, including an iPad and iPhone. On Tuesday, he appeared with his lawyer David Fife in court to enter a not guilty plea to the burglary charges.
Fife said that if the case goes to trial, which he expects it to, Long will likely be called to the stand.
“He’s certainly a witness that would have to be called by somebody. The state or the defense,” Fife told WSB Atlanta.
Investigators said security cameras captured video of two men using a key to gain entry to the office.
Boyd said that he was never involved in the church burglary. He claims that Maurice Robinson and Anthony Flagg, two of the four young men who filed sexual coercion lawsuits against Long in September, broke into the office to collect evidence against Long for the lawsuit. That case was dismissed in May after Long and his accusers reached an out-of-court settlement for an undisclosed amount.
*One of the four men who accused Bishop Eddie Long of sexual misconduct was arrested this week in Florida on suspicion of being a drug dealer, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Jamal Parris, 24, was driving a white 2011 BMW in Miami Beach Tuesday evening when a Florida Highway Patrol officer noticed that it had no tags. Sgt. Seth Dubinsky stopped the car. When he approached it, he smelled marijuana, he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Thursday.
Dubinsky searched the car and said he found 181 grams of marijuana, which is worth about $1,000 on the street. He said he also found 50 clear plastic baggies and a Taurus semiautomatic handgun. He said Parris also was carrying $1,250 in cash.
The gear was “indicative of a drug dealer,” Dubinsky said. Parris was arrested and jailed. He was charged with two felony counts: possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and possession of a firearm while committing a felony. He also was charged with operating a motor vehicle with no registration, a misdemeanor. It was unclear late Thursday whether he was still in custody.
The car was seized, and passenger Jeremy Jouvanni Gordon, 20, of Miami was arrested on a drug paraphernalia charge.
Parris and three other men sued Long, the Longfellows Youth Academy and New Birth Missionary Baptist Church of Lithonia, accusing the bishop of using his influence, trips, gifts and jobs to coerce them into sexual relations. The parties settled the case in May without disclosing the terms.
Parris, who is still using his Stockbridge address, immediately demanded a lawyer, but still said a few things to Dubinsky according to the paper.
“He kept telling me he bought that BMW with the settlement money,” Dubinsky said. Parris also told the cop he’d been accepted to Miami-Dade College. “He said, ‘you guys are getting the wrong impression of me.’”
*New Birth Missionary Baptist Church just can’t get enough drama!
Rumors recently spread that Bishop Eddie Long’s wife, Vanessa, moved out their home, but the church released a statement denying the misinformation.
“Recently, some blog entries have surfaced claiming to have anonymous sources stating that New Birth First Lady Elder Vanessa Long has moved out of the house.
“That claim is completely and absolutely false. Mrs. Long is very much a loving, dedicated and committed wife and mother,” the statement from church spokesman Art Franklin read.
The false story spread shortly after Long settled with the four accusers in the sex-suit. With that, some question whether or not the fire and brimstone preacher is really who he says he is. Was he guilty?
Since the controversy first surfaced, church membership has been down, tithes have been short, and Rev. Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr., resigned from her position.
New Birth released a statement, attributed to Bishop Long, that challenged the belief that King left because of the settlement, which has been reported to be around $25 million.
“For some time now, Reverend King and I have been in discussion and prayer about the call of God on her life to continue the legacy of her father and mother. … This is a compelling mandate that places Reverend King squarely in the center of God’s Will of her life and I am in full support of her decision to leave New Birth in pursuit of this worthy endeavor,” the statement read.
Even with New Birth’s latest efforts to clear the air and set the record straight, it’s apparent that the church’s leaders are still dealing with the scandal’s aftermath.