By ERRIN HAINES (Associated Press)
LITHONIA — Bishop Eddie Long was focused on a message of moving forward on the first Sunday since he resolved the lawsuits brought against him by four former members of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church.
At his 8 a.m. service, several hundred congregants clapped and cheered as Long appeared. Long did not address the allegations or the settlement, which was reached Friday.
Last fall, the four young men alleged Long abused his spiritual authority and coerced them into sexual relationships with gifts including cars, cash and travel.
The scandal tainted Long’s reputation as an influential spiritual leader who transformed his suburban Atlanta congregation of 150 into a following of 25,000 members and an international televangelist empire that included athletes, entertainers and politicians.
The Rev. Bernice King, an Elder at New Birth, preached her last sermon Sunday, May 29. Her resignation from the church wasn’t immediately known if Rev. Long’s settlement influenced King’s decision. But, later King announced that her resignation had nothing to with Long’s settlement, but that she wished to pursue her own ministry to pastor a church. Rev. King had been at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church over eight years.