As Bishop Eddie Long poked through a salad in his church office one summer day in 1999, he shot a weary look at a person ticking off his ministry’s successes.
His Atlanta megachurch had already reached 25,000 members. He had been invited to the White House, built a global television ministry and drove around town in a $350,000 Bentley.
But Long told the visitor who had come to write about him that the pressures of being a high-profile pastor could be brutal.
“You don’t want any of this,” he said in a raspy baritone as he shook his head. “You don’t want any of this …”
Long didn’t get more specific about those pressures.
Today, the 57-year-old minister, known for his public crusades against homosexuality, faces serious allegations.
On Tuesday, two young men who were members of Long’s New Birth Missionary Baptist Church filed lawsuits claiming he used his position as their spiritual counselor to coerce them into sexual relationships.
The men — Anthony Flagg, 21, and Maurice Robinson, 20 — allege Long used a private spiritual ceremony to mark a “covenant” between them, with both becoming his “spiritual son.”