Torrence’s Take On Bishop Eddie Long’s Statement To New BirthPublished by Torrence Glenn on Monday, September 27, 2010 at 9:31 pm.
Yesterday Bishop Eddie Long spoke publicly for the first time about the 4 lawsuits files against him by 4 young men who claim that he used his influence and position as a spiritual leader to coerce them into sexual relationships. Many people, me included, were puzzled at Bishop Long’s decision to wait 5 days from the first allegation to publicly address the situation.
Hold up, let’s get this right together. THIS BLOG POST AND ANYTHING I SAY IN IT DOES NOT AND WILL NOT EXPRESS MY OPINION ON BISHOP LONG’S GUILT OR INNOCENCE. Still not clear? Let me try this again. Do not try and read into whether I think he did it or not. I won’t say, at least not yet. But what I will discuss are my thoughts on how he’s handled it so far and how I predict this may play out.
Ok, back to your regularly scheduled “Torrence’s Take” blog post. Yes, I think it was odd and a bit distressing that he waited so long to make a statement. Yes, he made statements through lawyers and representatives but when allegations of this type and magnitude surface, one would expect something a lot sooner. Now we’re all familiar with the legal system and how anything you say can be used against you in the courts AND the media. I get that but Bishop Long is in a unique and peculiar predicament being a world famous Pastor with such a large following. The allegations against him don’t just have to do with him as a married man, but the things he’s accused of go so far against the principles he’s perpetuated as a minister and spiritual leader. I’m no publicist but it’s my opinion that he needed to say something and say it fast. Even if he were to have read the statements his rep and attorneys made HIMSELF, I think would have made a big difference in our immediate reception and perception of this situation.
Which finally leads me to his address on Sunday. We here at BET.com streamed the 8 am worship services of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church yesterday and thousands of you logged on to watch and chat along with me as it was going down. It was the moment we were all waiting for. Well, I watched intently right along with you and even watched the 11 am service as well to see if there would be any differences and here’s “my take.”
Here’s what I think he did “right:”
1. The first thing I noticed when Bishop Long walked on stage was his wardrobe. The suit wasn’t the most stylish I’ve ever seen but it was a smart move because he was COMPLETELY COVERED. The suit went up to the neck and was loose! Let’s not pretend we’ve never seen Bishop Long in a muscle shirt until the cell phone pictures released by the plaintiff’s attorney last week. Tight shirts and short sleeves have been Bishop Long’s uniform for years, much to our amusement. But in light of the allegations and the media frenzy over the released photos it was probably a good idea not to wear them. Most of Bishop Long’s new public probably don’t know that he always wore those types of clothes.
2. He preached a sermon. We all knew that Bishop Long would address his congregation but many of us wondered if he would actually preach. I’m glad that it appeared that New Birth seemed to be having church as usual and didn’t ignore the issue of the allegations but didn’t make it the focus of the service either. It’s still a church with thousands of members who on a Sunday expect and deserve the full praise and worship experience that they’re used to, complete with a word/preached sermon. I did find it interesting though that the meat of his message used major elements and themes from the eulogy of Marvin Sapp’s wife, Malinda Sapp, preached by Pastor IV Hilliard last week. I’m sure if you search the internet for it you can find it, but if you need a refresher, here’s the quote regarding the way we respond to painful situations: “some possible responses as I close and move. You can curse it and allow the situation to make you bitter. You can nurse it and allow the situation to make you a blamer. You can rehearse it and allow the situation to be relived and make you a worse person because you continue to go over it and live in that pain. Or you can reverse it and allow the situation response to cause you to be better. We will not allow the present pain to cause us to abandon our righteous commitment and stand.” Although, it fit the situation, I still found it…..yeah….interesting.
3. His wife Vanessa Long was by his side. In situations like these, image goes a long way and having his wife supporting him gave us the impression that she trusts and believes in the innocence of her husband and she’d stick with him throughout all of this. Had she been absent or kept away from the spotlight, it would make many question his innocence further.
But there were also some things I think that he got “wrong:”
1. This really is no big deal, but with all of the controversy surrounding the plaintiff Maurice Robinson’s arrest and charges for breaking into Bishop Long’s office, I don’t think I’d have preached from an iPad since that was one of the stolen items the media constantly referenced. I’d probably have brought out an old school leather bound bible. You know the kind with the gold edges and a satin page holder. Ha!
2. Quite a few pastors came to one of the two services to show their support of Bishop Long and when he acknowledged them, he referred to them as his spiritual sons or sons in ministry. I know it’s a common phrase in church and he’s not the first or last person to use it but I’d probably lay off the term for a while since all of the lawsuits allege that he misused and abused the concept of a spiritual son to coerce the young boys into a relationship that was inappropriate. Although he said he wouldn’t try this case in the media (and she shouldn’t), you can’t ignore them nor their importance and influence in this situation. It almost appeared as if he was throwing it in the face of the media, as if to say “yeah, and I got some more spiritual sons so take that.” Unfortunately, most folks outside of church are unfamiliar with the concept and just don’t get it. I know personally of some folks who texted me after he said it and said “isn’t that what got him in this situation?” I had to quickly do a crash course on the whole thing with my friend, but everyone in the media won’t have that luxury.
3. Bishop Long also used the David vs. Goliath analogy to his situation and I thought that was an odd choice. I understand this is one of the most challenging situations in his life, but as the physically imposing pastor of a 25,000 member church, a celebrity and wealthy public figure it’s hard to imagine him as young David going up against the giant Goliath. If anything, the plaintiff’s portray him as the exact opposite. Strategically, I get that he was probably trying to turn the tables and let his supporters see that he felt that he was in fact the victim, but I don’t think it went over all that well; especially since he used it to end his sermon/statement. It was a bit dramatic and reminded me of the scene in “Coming to America” where Randy Watson drops the mic and starts screaming “Sexual Chocolate.” To abruptly end with “I feel like I’m David going against Goliath but I have 5 rocks and I haven’t thrown one yet” was more drama than anything.
4. He wore that wig(let)…. (just had to get that out. It’s just wrong, lawsuits or not.)
5. Finally and probably most noticeable was his glaring lack of a denial. Again, I UNDERSTAND his decision to not try this case in the media but seeing as how his earlier statements via his attorney and reps denied the allegations outright, one would think that when he finally got his chance to speak he’d reiterate those clear cut denials. He didn’t. Instead he reminded us a few times that he never portrayed himself as perfect but the man he was being portrayed as was not him. Well what does that mean?? Even Bill Clinton said “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” and the allegations he was up against were major too! Again, I’m not expressing my thoughts on his guilt or innocence but I don’t think it did much for those who doubted his innocence.
So what does it all mean? I don’t know really, we have to wait and see how this all plays out but my gut tells me that in the coming weeks we’re going to learn a lot more about Bishop Eddie Long than we ever cared to know. From the release of the cell phone photos alone we’ve seen more than we probably ever wanted to. By reminding us so strongly that “I never said I was perfect,” it seems as if he’s letting us know that there will be info coming out that may be suspect or at the very least raise a few eyebrows.
Well, all we can do is wait for the next chapter in this saga but as we’ve been saying for the last week, there will be no real “winner” in this case. I just hope it ends as painlessly as possible. Rumors are swirling that there are more accusers and more evidence set to come out in the days and weeks ahead that will make this mess even messier. *huge sigh*
So what did you think of his statement? Did you believe it? Let me know.
Take a look at the BET News recap of the service.