In a statement to his congregation on Sunday, Bishop Eddie Long did not address the allegations made against him by 4 young men who filed lawsuits against Long, the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, Inc. and the Longfellows Youth Academy, Inc. The men claim that Long coerced them into sexual relations with gifts including cars, cash and travel when they were 17 or 18 years old.
At the 8 a.m. sermon at his church on Sunday, Bishop Long appeared to execute a carefully planned damage control strategy which was probably devised by his legal team in order to meet the following objectives:
- Don’t admit; don’t deny. During his 8 a.m. sermon, the Bishop did not admit or deny any of the allegations. The closest he came to a denial is when he stated that he is not the man being portrayed on the television. This strategy leaves the door open for him to either settle or take the case to trial.
- Excite your base. They will strengthen and encourage you. Tell them you will fight, and they will defend you. Keep them hopeful and include scripture which will remind them that you are their Bishop and they are your sheep. You will lead them and tell them what to do. In his sermon, Long energized his base by telling them that he is not going anywhere. He promised them he would be back next week.
- Portray yourself as a victim. In his sermon the Bishop drew an analogy between himself and David as he faced Goliath. “I feel like David against Goliath, but I’ve got five rocks and I haven’t thrown one yet.” Long also kept referring to his painful situation.
- Show your human side. This will illicit sympathy from loyal followers, and rebut the claims of the cynical. During his sermon the Bishop told his congregation “I have never in my life portrayed myself as a perfect man.”
Although Long stuck with the damage control game plan, he missed probably the biggest opportunity he would ever have in his life to do what he is called to do, preach the gospel. This is the fundamental core of the Baptist faith.
Eight thousand members attended his church on Sunday. Long also knew that the world was watching. In the beginning of his sermon, he joked, “I would be remiss not to say good morning to the world.” With such a large audience, Long squandered a huge opportunity to tell millions about the One whom Baptists believe has the power to deliver from sin and addiction. Although Long mentioned the phrase “painful situations” at least 14 times in his sermon, not once did he mention the name of Jesus Christ.
So what will Bishop Long do? Well as far as his adoring congregation is concerned, it’s a win-win situation. His congregation will forgive him if he admits to the allegations and begs for their forgiveness. They will forgive him even if he goes to trial and is found liable. If he fights this in court and is vindicated, his congregation will praise him for being able to triumph in adversity. And if he settles the matter quietly out of court, his congregation will praise him for making a wise decision that will save the church millions of dollars.
Most folks believe however, that he will settle the matter privately out of court so that the details are kept confidential. The young men will be paid off and they will sign non-disclosure agreements prohibiting them from selling the story. The Bishop will tell his congregation that he did exactly what Jesus would have done – he showed mercy and compassion. His congregation will call him ‘blessed’ for seeking peace although men reviled him, persecuted him, and falsely accused him. Then the Bishop will probably take a leave of absence and go to rehab (like Tiger did) for about a year to deal with the stress. Then he will return to New Birth and reclaim his throne.