Bishop Eddie Long may be down, now that his wife has filed for divorce. But he's not out, according to a statement from his church, New Birth Missionary Baptist Church.
Long told the congregation from the pulpit Sunday that he was taking time off -- a sabbatical if you will -- to deal with family issues, presumably the divorce filing from his wife of 21 years, Vanessa Long.
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.
You've given me some weeks to take care of some family business.
The church issued a statement reiterating that Bishop Long wasn't stepping down. The statement said Long was taking time to deal with family circumstances.
Rumors that Bishop Eddie L. Long has stepped down as senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church are completely false, said a statement from the church, according to the Atlanta Constitution-Journal.
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.
The church didn't give a timetable for the length of time that Long will be out.
Bishop Long's wife decided last week to divorce the popular preacher. The pair have already been living in a bona fide state of separation according to her divorce petition filed this week in DeKalb Superior Court in Georgia, where the couple lives.
Vanessa Long's divorce filing comes months after lawsuits were settled by Bishop Long with four young men he was accused of coercing into sex. The young men previously were members of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. After the lawsuits were settled in May, Bishop Long returned to the pulpit as the church choir sang the hymn, Moving Forward.
Bishop Long wasn't charged criminally in the church sex scandal involving the four young men because the age of consent in Georgia is 16 -- and the young men were 17 and 18 years old when the alleged sexual contact occurred. Still, Long faced heavy scrutiny from media and critics during the scandal since he's known for a strong anti-gay stance.
But it wasn't clear at first if Vanessa Long was going through with her divorce filing, made Thursday in Georgia. A day after the divorce filing was announced, she said through through the church that she wanted to reconcile. Yet, late Friday, the divorce was on again.
In a statement late Friday, Vanessa Long's attorney said she has determined that dismissal of her divorce petition is not appropriate at this time, according to The Associated Press.
In other words, she's proceeding with the divorce.
Yet, earlier Friday, Vanessa Long had issued a statement through the church, saying she loves her husband and was withdrawing her divorce petition, which sought to end their marriage of more than 20 years.
When Long began as pastor of the church in 1987, it had about 300 members. Now, it reportedly has more than 20,000 members.
In Vanessa Long's initial statement on Friday about her divorce filing, she said, After a great deal of deliberation and prayer, I have decided to terminate my marriage to Bishop Eddie L. Long, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The couple has been married since 1990. They have three children. Long was previously married to Dabara Houson, who filed for divorce in 1985 and, according to ABC News, accused him of beating her while she was pregnant.
After releasing the divorce statement, Vanessa Long issued another statement on Friday -- this time saying she planned to stay married.
According to CBS Atlanta, they planned to find healing and move on.
I love my husband. I believe in him and admire his strength, and courage. My filing followed years of attacks in the media that frustrated and overwhelmed me, she said.
Vanessa Long's initial statement about the matter on Friday reads:
After a great deal of deliberation and prayer, I have decided to terminate my marriage to Bishop Eddie L. Long. Accordingly, I authorized my attorneys to file for divorce on December 1, 2011.
It is my sincere hope that this matter can be resolved expeditiously, harmoniously, and fairly. I ask that you respect my privacy and that of my family, as my attorneys and I have agreed that we will not try this case in the media, and I do not intend to make any further statements concerning this matter.
I also ask that the public pray for my entire family during this difficult period of transition.
Thank you, and may God continue to bless and keep each of you.