"He don’t speak with no anointing! He don’t speak with no authority! He’s a con artist!"
- Chris Brown
Black megachurches are big business in the United States. Take Faithful Central Bible Church, whose for-profit arm now owns The Forum, former home of the Los Angeles Lakers. Or Bishop T.D. Jakes, a pastor of a 30,000-member church in Dallas, whose company produces books, movies, radio shows and conferences across the country.
Black preachers of mega-churches do quite well. Many live in mansions and drive Bentleys. Their churches have become conglomerates. If Jesus were to show up at some of these locations, he’d be turning over vendor tables along with voter registration tables along with ATM machines. The public rarely gets a glimpse at religious leaders’ compensation because churches are not required to file tax returns.
But continuing accusations have made Eddie Long’s money a public issue. Prosperous Blacks have made Atlanta the epicenter of megachurches. Self-proclaimed "Bishop" Eddie Long is one of the most powerful men in the Black megachurch movement. Long mixes gospel, glitz, politics and finance as he pastors New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, a 25,000-seat megachurch in Lithonia, Georgia. A "country preacher" from North Carolina, Long commands a salary near $1 million-a-year, drives a $350,000 Bentley and has a nine-bathroom mansion spread over 20 acres of land in DeKalb County, Georgia. New Birth is like a stadium, with a lower and upper deck, multicolored spotlights, six large video screens and loudspeakers. Its services are like concerts and are recorded and sold as DVDs and compact discs within minutes. A gift shop offers snacks, books, music and apparel bearing the New Birth logo.
Long holds a Bachelors degree in Business administration from a Black college, his ventures include a music publishing company and a transportation service. Born outside Charlotte, North Carolina in 1953, Eddie Long heads the biggest church in the south. He serves on several boards, including: Vice Chair - Morehouse School of Religion; North Carolina Central University-Board of Trustees and Fort Valley State University’s Board of Trustees. New Birth was recognized in 1993 as the fastest growing church in North America and under Long’s tutelage, New Birth Missionary Baptist Church has become an instrument of international force.
In 1995, Bishop Eddie Long established a nonprofit, tax-exempt charity to help the needy and spread the gospel. The charity, Bishop Eddie Long Ministries Inc., provided him with at least $3.07 million in salary, benefits and the use of property between 1997 and 2000. It is one of at least 20 nonprofit and for-profit corporations Long founded after becoming New Birth’s pastor. In a August 28, 2005 report, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution accused Long of mishandling the charity’s funds. You gotta like his the swagger in his retort, "We’re not just a church, and we’re an international corporation. We’re not just a bumbling bunch of preachers who can’t talk... I deal with the White House and with presidents around this world and pastor a multimillion-dollar congregation."
If the allegations of Bishop Long’s involvement in homosexual acts are true, it would represent the height of hypocrisy. In 2006, Long was chosen to host and officiate the funeral for Coretta Scott King. Prior to that in 2004, Long and MLK daughter Bernice King led a march to MLK’s grave to support a constitutional amendment to protect marriage "between one man and one woman." Long was a prominent supporter of George W. Bush’s faith-based initiatives. His ministry received a $1 million grant from the U.S. Administration of Children & Families. Long’s critics link such funding with his anti-gay activities. There are questions as to whether Long used his youth training academy as a cover to procure kid sex. Long concedes that "he has made mistakes", but contends that he represents a "paradigm shift" in the Black church. Long says he won’t be like other pastors who died broke while giving everything to congregations that "wanted them to live in poverty and preach about prosperity."