How the Black Church Copes with Scandal

Caption here on, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010 in Atlanta, GA (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

The case against Bishop Eddie Long, pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, GA, has been settled, according to reports.

Few details of the settlement are available, but the lawsuits will reportedly be dismissed Friday, with prejudice — barring the four from filing any future complaints against Long. It is unclear as to the amount of the settlement, even though blogs like BlackMediaScoop report a settlement for $15 million.

The impact of the scandal that broke last September has yet to be seen. From early on, Long pledged he would fight the allegations. However, settlement mediation began several months later. As lawyers worked to come to an agreement, New Birth laid-off two fulltime employees and reduced salaries by 10 percent, reported the Atlanta Journal Constitution. They credited the need for the changes to their response to the economical climate.

And as news spreads about the settlement, it is not yet known what long term affects will be felt at the church, but one thing is for sure there will be some sort of impact felt.

Renae Walker has such fond memories of growing up as a member Cathedral of the Holy Spirit at Chapel Hill Harvester Church in Decatur. Born in Boston and raised in Atlanta, the 34-year-old said she was 8 years old when her family began attending the Pentecostal church. The year was 1985.

“It was a mega church, but not the kind of mega church that we think of nowadays. Today when we think of mega church we think of the New Births and Potter Houses, but our church was one of a kind,” she said. “It was integrated; 50/50, black and white. At that time you did not see things like that. Most churches were made of one ethnicity.”

It was during one of the church’s summer camps where she learned to swim. Some of her family members attended the academy that at one time sat on the grounds of the church. And her grandmother, Walker said, idolized Bishop Earl Paulk, founder of the church who passed in 2009.

Walker was a teenager when the first scandal hit the church. Paulk was accused of having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a few women in the church and other members were also accused of playing a role in the manipulation of the women.
Walker took it hard, and she was not the only one. “I remember my grandmother saying, ‘I cannot believe this. We have to keep praying for bishop.’ The entire family took it hard.”

Members started leaving the church.

“There used to be a time when the parking lot was always full. That wasn’t the case anymore. Numbers started to dwindle,” she said.

When Paulk confessed, Walker said the family took it personally. They were hurt. They were disappointed. Looking back on the experience, Walker said she could see how they worshiped the man rather than worshiped God.

When a scandal hits a church, it is normal for members to take it personally, said Monica Coleman, Associate Professor of Constructive Theology and African American Religions at Claremont School of Theology.

“The effect is more emotional than logical,” she said. “Members look at the situation as something that is happening to their church. For many of them, the church is their family church. They feel an intimate connection to the church, the building, the denomination even. And when a scandal of any kind happens, it hurts them personally.”

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Source: The Grio
By: Mashaun D. Simon

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