Monday Morning Insights

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    Another scandal hits… how should we respond?

    Another scandal hits… how should we respond?

    Bishop Eddie Long has had a rough 48 hours.  First two men, then one other young man has filed civil suit against the Bishop and his New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta, alledging that Long coerced the young men into sexual relationships.  The details are sordid.

    The secular media is all over this story.  The Christian media, not so much.  I haven't seen any blog (at least in our circles) touch the story.  I'm not sure anyone knows what to say.  If the allegations are true, it is horrible.  If the allegations are false, its a whole different kind of horrible.

    Here are some random thoughts:

    1.  Maybe the reason we're not talking about this (yet) is that Bishop Long is not in most of our camps.  But Long is a huge figure in the African American church.  Do a twitter search on Bishop Eddie Long and watch the tweets float past.  They are all over the place, but the African American community is all abuzz, especially the African American Christian community.  I saw one tweet last night from a women saying something like "Not my husband will never go to church with me... and I was so close".  This story has huge implications, not only for the black church, but also for Atlanta and the church in general.  Whether true or false, it's another black eye on the church that the media loves to report.

    2.  As I said, it's too early to know if these allegations are true.  Our culture today requires that you only have one person make an accusation.  That's all you need.  There doesn't need to be an ounce of truth to it... the story still goes public and ruins your reputation.  The difference here is that there are three different people making the same accusations.  Sure, there could be some conspiracy here; but it makes it more difficult when you have three people saying the same thing.  That's a problem.

    3.  To complicate things in this case, you also have alleged lavish trips on private planes to exotic places, money changing hands, and a twisted spiritual justification aspect.  When you add in each of these elements, it just makes the story that the alleged victims tell, as a whole, seem more believeable.  Suddenly, 'you took the kid to New Zealand for his birthday on your private jet' (which should be easy to prove/disprove) makes 'you coerced him to have sex with you' seem more believeable.

    4.  One of the lawyers filing the case yesterday also released a few pictures of Long that were, well... weird.  These pictures were allegedy sent to the victims on their cell phones.  They picture Long, looking buff, in really tight shirts.  Again... could be totally innocent... but just weird.

    5.  Some would argue that this is the secular media going wild on a story.  I would say... not really.  This is they type of story the media loves, not because it's about a Christian, but because of the duplicity and conflict in the story.  Bishop Long is an outspoken advocate against homosexuality and gay marriage.  To have allegations that he's been involved in homosexual relationships IS a news story.

    6.  For the record, I was able to be on a short group conference call with Bishop Long a couple of years ago.  A mutual friend is a close friend of the Bishop.  Bishop Long talked briefly about the program that is now in question.  To hear him speak of the program was exciting, to be honest.  He told how they find the young, underpriveleged boys and identify their future potential.  They pay for their education, mentor them in the Word, and prepare them to be pastors.  He (Bishop Long) would pour his life into these young men to help prepare them.  He was very passionate about the program and about the results they were getting.  If any (ANY) of these allegations are true... something went terribly wrong.

    So... what can we learn from today's situation, whether it is true or not?

    1.  (And this won't affect 99.9% of us).  I've said it before, and I'll say it again... lose the private plane.  Nothing good has ever come from a private plane (as far as I can tell) for a pastor, other than saving a few minutes at the airport, and making yourself look elitist.

    2.  Prepare yourself for allegations.  Allegations about pastors come all the time, in all size churches.  People will allege anything from sexual relationships to lying, cheating, and theft.  That's why it is so important to live a life far above approach.  As a pastor or church staff member, someone is watching you at all times... when you mow your yard, when you shop at Walmart, when you're driving your car.  Don't give them any ammunition. I just ran a story about a pastor who left because he put personal expenses on the church credit card and kept the points for his personal use.  Even something like that is a crack in the door that can ruin you. 

    3.  Show others that you're accountable.  Part of the lawsuits in this case are pointing fingers at those around Long that should have stepped in and done something.  The allegation is that Long's people knew and allowed these relationships to happen:  They were enablers.  For example, one case states that Long's people knew that he shared a hotel room with these young boys.  Big mistake.  Surround yourself with people that have your best interests in mind.  Surround yourself with people that will tell you no.  Surround yourself with people who will hold you accountable, not cover your tracks.

    4.  Have a plan for how your church will deal with allegations when they come up.  What if someone in your congregation accused you of having an affair?  How would your church structure handle the situation?  In my church world experience, there are hardly any churches who know how they would handle a situation like this... and because of that... when the situation hits, they handle it poorly.

    5.  Tell the truth.  When allegations come, please... just tell the truth.  The only thing worse than the allegation being true is trying to cover your tracks and being found out to be a fraud and a liar ON TOP of the allegations.  I don't know that this is the case in the Eddie Long story... and I pray it's not.  Long cancelled a radio interview and press conference where he was to speak today, and instead sent his lawyers out to do the press junket.  That only stirs up controversy more.

    Those are my thoughts this morning, as blurry as they may be.  I truly hope this story is proven wrong.  Time will tell, I guess.

    Here's the latest CNN story...

    Todd

     

    Comments

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    1. Bill on Thu, September 23, 2010

      Number one on your list should be:  If you’re doing stuff that would destroy your ministry if it became known, stop doing it or get out of ministry.
      Stories like this remind me to do some evaluation and clean up my own act.

    2. John Burton on Thu, September 23, 2010

      1 Tim makes it clear: Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.

      Remember, Stephen was actually killed, martyred, based on false accusation.

      Now, when there are two or three, things change rapidly.

    3. Peter Hamm on Thu, September 23, 2010

      Double- and triple-check your plans and structures for accountability. NOW!

    4. MC on Thu, September 23, 2010

      I can see easily where this could be a conspiracy if these kids were in some kind of program and ‘failed out’ or lost their position or were cut off from the ‘luxuries’ of being one of Bishop Long’s spiritual sons.

      That being said, I was recently in a meeting with Bishop Long and when he was ministering at the end of the service, he took a young man and held him against his chest for about 10 minutes as he was speaking to the others around the alter. I kinda got a bad vibe from that scene. But I am in no position to judge another masters servant.

      We definitely need to pray for Bishop Long, the New Birth family, these young men, and the Body of Christ as a whole.

    5. CS on Thu, September 23, 2010

      I’m more upset that the people who brought the lawsuits didn’t seem to follow the Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 6.  Christians are not supposed to sue other Christians.  If another Christian wrongs you, go to him first, then with two or three, then before the church.  And if nothing changes there, publicize it.


      CS

    6. DPS on Thu, September 23, 2010

      More upset Matt. 18 and 1 Cor. 6 weren’t followed?  What else would you expect?

      If this is true, the fallout, the attention, the damage, the broken church and ministry, are all far worse than the fact that misled (allegedly) abused vulnerable young men didn’t handle this procedurally correct as mature believers should.

      Long time reader, first time poster.  Makes me sick you would call out potential abuse victims.  Seems backwards.

    7. John Burton on Thu, September 23, 2010

      So, if we shouldn’t follow biblical protocol, what protocol should we use?

    8. Peter Hamm on Thu, September 23, 2010

      CS,

      FIrst… How do you know that they didn’t?

      In any case, if these allegations are true, there has been a crime committed, and there is, as I’ve learned, there is a right way and a wrong way to handle it for the healing that is needed for the victims, and confronting him face-to-face can be very destructive.

      Going to him first would be potentially devastating for the victims of this. I don’t dispute the Scriptures you cite, but sexual sins (more dangerous and destructive than other sins, as the Bible and psychology/psychiatry will both tell you) have a dimension that those who’ve been insulated from them probably can’t fully understand. And unless we do, we should probably not make comments that can be construed as hostile to the victim of a sexual crime.

      Peter

    9. unknown on Thu, September 23, 2010

      Well said Peter…and kindly said as well.  Bless you…

    10. DPS on Thu, September 23, 2010

      Yes, well said.  Thanks.

    11. CS on Thu, September 23, 2010

      DPS and Peter:

      I’m in favor of criminal suits when wrongdoing has been done.  If someone engages in a sin that hurts someone else, and criminal justice needs to be executed, let it be done well and within the confines of the verses I cited.  Especially for sexual sins, like you said, Peter.  That way, justice is met and hopefully reconciliation takes place.

      But this is a civil suit.  This is Christians suing Christians without the criminal component being present.  That is different than a criminal suit where they would be trying to put away this man for sexual assault.  That’s why I look to what 1 Corinthians 6 has to say where it says, “Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? (vv1)”


      CS

    12. Peter Hamm on Thu, September 23, 2010

      CS,

      I concede that that is an EXCELLENT POINT, and yet we don’t know what all has happened before that point. I really am not sure that verse applies to this kind of heinous situation, but the “civil suit” part of your argument is very compelling, I freely grant you that.

      But keep in mind that often it is easier to get a civil conviction than a criminal one in our flawed but excellent system (OJ anyone?), and that could be part of the equation here as well. I’d rather they “did the wrong thing” (with regard to a scripture that could be argued as to being an admonition about the legal system of its day, as the author had no idea what the legal system would be like 2000 years later) than allowing somebody who’s done something this horrible (if indeed he has) walk.

      I’ve seen some horrible hurts perpetrated on children (no, thank God, I didn’t actually witness them) and I am inclined to be prejudiced on the side of the victim, I freely admit…

      Blessings,
      Peter

    13. CS on Thu, September 23, 2010

      Peter:

      “I concede that that is an EXCELLENT POINT, and yet we don’t know what all has happened before that point.”

      And I concede the point that we do not have full knowledge of what happened beforehand, either. 

      It could be that they discovered in the process that this pastor was not a Christian and have decided to then use the legal system.  It could be that the church is not behaving as a church with the proper oversight of elders.  You’re right, there’s a ton of unknowns here.  And, yes, sometimes the civil system makes right the wrongs of the criminal system not working. 

      I just know when we see headlines of people who call themselves Christians suing other people who call themselves Christians, it’s bad and much of the time, unbiblical as well.  It tarnishes the name of Christ in the public eye.


      CS

    14. Peter Hamm on Thu, September 23, 2010

      [I just know when we see headlines of people who call themselves Christians suing other people who call themselves Christians, it’s bad and much of the time, unbiblical as well.  It tarnishes the name of Christ in the public eye.]

      Not nearly as much as molestation… I bet you agree.

      Blessings,
      Peter

    15. CS on Thu, September 23, 2010

      Peter:

      “Not nearly as much as molestation… I bet you agree.”

      You would be correct, sir.


      CS

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