As I write this post, I am on vacation in the Bahamas. I’ve been looking forward to getting some down time and relaxation from my daily caregiving rituals with my god-sister who has dementia. This morning I was awakened by an extremely loud “wake-up call” that I did not request. I looked at the clock, it was 7:30 AM. Once I’m startled awake it’s almost impossible for me to go back to sleep.
Since I was awake, I turned on the television. It was on CNN who along with other reporters and cameras were camped out on the New Birth Campus waiting for Bishop Long to speak to his congregation. According to reporters, people began arriving at New Birth Church about 5:30 AM to hear what Bishop Long had to say about the allegations of sexual misconduct.
The purpose of this post is neither to defend nor condemn Bishop Long. I don’t know the facts and I have no idea what “evidence” will be presented when this case goes to trail. At this point only Bishop Long, the accusers and God knows what happened. What I do know is how it feels to be part of a congregation that has to endure public scrutiny of its pastors, leaders and the ministry.
Unless you’ve experienced it, there are considerations we don’t think about during these trying times. The public and the media want the story. If it means running stories without the facts – so be it. If it means basing the story on speculation – so be it.
Essentially, Bishop Long is the story – not his wife, not his associate ministers and not his congregation. However, Bishop Long and New Birth Ministries have an international reputation and are receiving international coverage. Because of this, whether Bishop Long is innocent or guilty, there will be a great deal of collateral damage.
What Collateral Damage?
The effects of this scandal reach further than just Bishop Long. When a ministry experiences any type of scandal it affects many people.
- Wife, children and family
- Close friends
- Church staff
- Church members
- People who benefit from New Birth’s community work
These people will be inundated with comments, questions, whispers and stares. Some will experience personal ridicule and teasing and criticism from people they know and strangers. They will endure the ugly gossip and conversations that goes on in barber shops and beauty shops.
The internet has changed the way we receive information. What we get now is in real time. It may or may not be accurate but it is dispersed immediately. This scandal was the number one trending topic on Twitter for several days. I scanned the comments the first day but some of them were so ugly that I just stopped reading them. It was disturbing.
What Can We Do?
Pray for everyone involved: Bishop, family, friends, staff and congregation. I guarantee you that this is very stressful and confusing. Pray for the organizations that are supported by New Birth Ministries because sooner or later New Birth will suffer financially and the organizations involved will suffer financially as well.
I don’t know how this will play out. I am concerned for all involved but I am most concerned for the Church. No matter how you look at it – if Bishop Long is guilty or if the men made it up – it makes the church look bad.
With that in mind, we should also pray for the status of Christianity and the church. What are your thoughts?