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Atlanta pastor takes leave after wife files for divorce

Last week, the beleaguered pastor of an Atlanta-area megachurch announced his plans to take a leave of absence from the church after his wife stated her intent to file for divorce. However, during Sunday church services at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, Bishop Eddie Long reiterated that he would not be permanently resigning from his position as senior pastor, despite critics' insistence that he step down.

According to media reports, the Georgia divorce filing is more than a year in the making. In September 2010, four former members of the church filed a civil lawsuit against Bishop Long, alleging that he used his influence in the church and the community, as well as trips, gifts, and jobs, to coerce them into engaging in sexual relationships with him. Long denied the allegations against him, but it was only after several months of mediation that the lawsuit ended in settlement and a reported payout for the former members.

The Longs had been married for 21 years, which likely made Vanessa's decision more difficult. She reportedly filed for divorce late Thursday afternoon, but issued a statement the following morning saying that she had changed her mind. By the end of that day, however, the divorce was back on.

Following that final announcement, Bishop Long decided to take a leave from his duties at the church, allowing him time to "take care of some family business." However, a group of protestors outside the church on Sunday expressed their belief that Long should step down entirely. "We want a permanent absence," said a demonstrator. "Bishop Long has a serious moral character flaw."

Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Bishop Eddie Long takes leave from New Birth, will continue as senior pastor," Christian Boone and Melissa Ruggieri, Dec. 4, 2011

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