The first thing to understand about the allegations of sexual misconduct made in lawsuits against Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Baptist Church in Decatur, Ga., is that, so far they are just that: allegations.
It is not unknown for claims – some of them outlandish — to be made against men in power so this would not be the first time, if that is the reality. By the same token, this would not be the first time men in power have allowed themselves to become corrupted by that power – again, if that turns out to be the reality.
Nor is it unusual for followers of powerful men to stand with them in times when they do not deserve such solidarity. That too has been known to happen.
Four young men have accused Bishop Long of coercing them with gifts and scripture into having sexual relations when they were 17 and 18 years old. He had two clear opportunities to flatly reject those allegations when he preached at two services at his church on Sunday and on both occasions he stopped short of doing so.
Instead, he confessed to not being a perfect man, then likened himself to David facing Goliath and promised he had not one but five rocks to hurl at his supposed enemy.
“I have never in my life portrayed myself as a perfect man,” the bishop said. “But I am not the man that’s being portrayed on the television. That’s not me. That is not me.”
Then who exactly is Eddie Long?
Is he a spiritually bankrupt sexual predator preying on our teenage children or God’s anointed who has been falsely accused?
That is the question that will surely be answered as the lawsuits make their way through the courts – unless they are settled before trial. His thousands of congregants and many thousand more who follow him from afar need to know.
The primary issue has to be leadership. Indeed, nobody is perfect but those who aspire to positions of leadership and those who achieve positions of leadership must so conduct themselves that they are worthy of such a position. That is especially true when it is leadership in the spiritual and moral realm.
Their conduct must be impeccable. Their very lifestyle must be beyond reproach, beyond even a hint of impropriety. They must be the example of how less imperfect their followers can become just by following in their footsteps.
That is the real purpose of leadership. If not, then what’s a leader for?