|Bishop Eddie Long and wife Vanessa at his New Birth Ministries, Sunday 26 September 2010: John Amis/AP|
Standing before thousands of supportive congregants Sunday, embattled Bishop Eddie Long vowed to "vigorously" defend himself against the accusations of four young men who claim he coerced them into sex.
"This thing I'm gonna fight," he said.
During two morning services, Long compared himself to the biblical David against Goliath, asserting, "I have five rocks and I haven't thrown one yet." He did not elaborate on what form those "rocks" might take.
It was Long's first public appearance since the sex accusations were made in lawsuits last week. Members of his DeKalb County megachurch, New Birth Missionary Baptist, started arriving before dawn. A platoon of reporters and camera crews joined them, and CNN broadcast his appearance.
Long took the pulpit at precisely 9 a.m., dressed in a khaki-colored suit bearing the New Birth emblem. He emerged with his wife and held her hand for the next two to three minutes as the crowd stood clapping, some shouting their support.
“We love you Bishop,” a woman yelled.
He smiled then turned to escort his wife to a seat. He kissed her and then returned to the podium, thumped his chest with a clenched fist and for two minutes more walked around the platform to cheers and applause.
"Good morning New Birth," he finally said. "Good morning to all our other guests. And I would be remiss not to say good morning to the rest of the world.
"I do want to remind. We’re here today and every Sunday morning. And I’ll be here next week. First of all let me thank you on behalf on my wife my family for all of your support and prayers. We are certainly humbled by such a loving congregation. I realize many have been waiting on me to say something."
Long went on to say he has never portrayed himself as a perfect man. "But I am not the man being portrayed on the television. ... That's not me. That's not me."
(Click here to read the full story on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution website. Two things I need to keep in mind, when reading this tragic story:
1. "Judge not, that ye not be judged."-Matthew 7:1
2. "Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help; His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day, his thoughts perish. Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his GOD.Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth forever." Psalm 146: 3-6)