During a surprise announcement from the pulpit on Sunday, troubled prosperity preacher Bishop Eddie Long announced he was taking time off as pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church.
"I'm going to take a little time off to work with my family," Long said Sunday. "I'm still your pastor. You'll still receive my direction," he said, choosing his words carefully. "You've given me some weeks to take care of some family business."
The "family business" that Long seemed to be referring to were conflicting reports that his wife of 21 years, Vanessa G. Long, had sought to terminate their marriage.
On Thursday afternoon, Mrs. Long filed for divorce, saying her decision had been reached "after a great deal of deliberation and prayer." The divorce was announced in a press release early Friday morning. But by Friday afternoon, Eddie Long's own publicist released a statement attributed to Mrs. Long stating she was calling off the divorce.
A few hours after that statement was released, the media received word that the divorce was back on again.
"Mrs. Long continues to hope that this matter may be resolved expeditiously, harmoniously and fairly; however, she has determined that dismissal of her divorce petition is not appropriate at this time," Kilpatrick Townsend partner Michael W. Tyler said in a prepared statement. "To avoid any undue confusion, Mrs. Long's future statements, if any, will be issued through her attorneys," he said. Source
Speculation ran wild after Sunday's service that Long had stepped down as pastor, but New Birth's publicist denied rumors that Long had resigned due to the scandals and declining church attendance.
"Rumors that Bishop Eddie L. Long has stepped down as senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church are completely false," read a statement from the church. "As Bishop Long stated in his earlier comments, ‘Vanessa and I are working together in seeking God's will in our current circumstances.' As any loving and committed husband would do, Bishop Long will take some time to focus on his family but he will continue to be the senior pastor of New Birth."
Long's publicist also said Mrs. Long's divorce action was not related in any way with the sexual misconduct lawsuit filed by four men who were former members of the church. Long settled that lawsuit earlier this year.