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Bishop Eddie Long and the Unspoken Business of the Black Church

Black news - Bishop Eddie Long from the Christian perspectiveIn the early pre-dawn morning of Sunday, September 26th, 2010, as the sun's appearance raced across the globe, the cloud filled skies over the Atlanta region opened up giving way to a steady stream of rain. Unlike the week before, with what had been a week of record sweltering heat - temperatures climbing up into the mid 90's, the atmosphere had dramatically shifted in one fell swoop. A possible symbolic sign of what was to be the day Bishop Eddie Long finally broke his silence over allegations of sexually coercing four young men, former members of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church family. I made my way to the 170 acre campus joining the nearly eight thousand others in attendance. Sunday marked the seeming culmination of a media frenzied week which witnessed allegations against Long of sexual impropriety. Up to this point Long had remained silent.

With what began the week of Monday September 20th, the lasting implications behind Long's sexual lawsuits had created (and which remains so up to now) an unprecedented open and frank discussion about sex, sexuality and homosexuality within the Black Church. Also at the forefront is the theological issue of sin, morality, sexual ethics and marriage, trust, faithfulness, accountability and transparency. The place and role of the Bible as authoritative and informative as to how one is to live a Christian life also is a focal point of debate; this topic, however, uncannily has yet to be raised and discussed. The place and role of the Bible in the Long accusations beg a larger issue though – namely, one of a cultural theological Christian crisis. Whereas other religious traditions are emphatically clear on the issue of sexuality and homosexuality, modern Christianity struggles.

At the center of the crisis is the role and place of the modern Christian pastor in the Black Church. We are familiar with the model thus it need not be rehearsed here. It is a model where the Pastor is known as the C.E.O. He is the "Man-ed of God," which clearly dismisses and diminishes the reality of many powerful and exceptional women and ministry. He is the preacher, teacher, counselor, the business administrator and grounds keeper. He is unflinchingly the "Papal Authority," which is likened to God's authority. Many Christian leaders have taken this road only to become compared to the likes of the Jim Jones – (Guyana); David Koresh (Branch Davidians), Jim and Tammy Baker (PTL); Jimmy Swaggart and most recently Ted Haggard.

The Long drama is far from over. There is a constant buzz. What the outcome will be remains to be seen. The unfinished business of the Black Church is far from finished.

[Dr. Jamal-Dominique Hopkins is Scholar-in-Residence at St. Paul A.M.E. Church in Atlanta, GA and is a Professor at the Interdenominational Theological Center also in Atlanta. He is the author of "Ecclesiastes" in the African Bible: Reading Israel's Scriptures through Africa and the African Diaspora (Fortress Press), 2009, and "Duty or Responsibility? The African American Evangelical's Identity" in the Journal of African American Christian Thought 1 (2009). Hopkins is available for preaching, lecturing, speaking or conducting workshops or seminars. You may contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .]

 

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