Bishop Long said on Sunday that he was going to use the time to heal his family.
“I’m still your pastor. You’ll still receive my direction,” Long said at the church, considered one of America’s biggest and most influential. “You’ve given me some weeks to take care of some family business.”
Long’s wife, Vanessa, filed for divorce late Thursday afternoon. She said Friday morning, via a statement prepared by the church’s spokesman, that she had changed her mind but by day’s end announced the divorce was on.
“Rumors that Bishop Eddie L. Long has stepped down as senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church are completely false,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution quoted 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.”
In a separate statement issued Friday evening, Long said his love for his wife of 21 years is ‘deep and unwavering. It remains our sincere desire to continue working together in seeking God’s will in these circumstances.’
During Sunday’s service, Bishop Long said he had no plans to resign, adding he had not ‘stepped down.’
Meanwhile, protesters who were outside New Birth Sunday morning said Long should have quit long ago.
Long was sued in September 2010 lawsuit by former New Birth members Anthony Flagg, Spencer LeGrande, Jamal Parris and Maurice Robinson, who alleged the bishop used his influence, trips, gifts and jobs to coerce them into sexual relationships. The suit was settled in May after months of mediation.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Long was appointed New Birth’s pastor in 1987 when the church had only 300 members. By its 10th anniversary New Birth reported a membership of roughly 18,000, peaking at 25,000. Attendance has dwindled in the year since the sexual coercion lawsuit was filed.