Embattled megachurch leader Bishop Eddie Long is taking an unspecified sabbatical from his church duties to try to mend his marriage after his wife filed for divorce.
Long, who transformed New Birth Missionary Baptist Church from a congregation of 150 to more than 25,000 members, will continue to serve as senior pastor of the Lithonia church, according to a statement by Long’s spokesman, Art Franklin.
The sabbatical comes days after a Long’s wife, Vanessa, filed for divorce, stating that the marriage is “irretrievably broken” with “no hope of reconciliation.” The couple is “living in a bona fide state of separation,” according to the documents filed by Vanessa Long on Dec. 1.
The next day, Vanessa Long had an apparent change of heart.
“Upon prayerful reflection, I have reconsidered and plan to withdraw my petition for divorce,” Vanessa Long said in the statement. “I love my husband. I believe in him and admire his strength and courage.”
In the statement, Vanessa Long said that she filed for divorce after “years of attacks in the media that frustrated and overwhelmed me.” Her petition to the court requested temporary and permanent alimony, attorneys’ fees and an equitable division of marital and non-marital property.
The couple has “mutually agreed to find healing from these attacks,” according to the statement.
Later that evening, Bishop Long released a statement saying that his love for his wife is “deep and unwavering.”
“It remains our sincere desire to continue working together in seeking God's will in these circumstances,” Eddie Long stated. “We will do so as privately as possible and with a spirit of love and sensitivity to our family. We ask that you be in prayer for our family and that we be allowed to privately pursue this important path without need, or request from the media, for further comment.”
The Longs, who have been married for 21 years, have three children together and another child from Eddie Long’s previous marriage.
The divorce filing comes nearly seven months after Eddie Long settled lawsuits alleging that he used lavish gifts and his position to entice four young men into sexual relationships. The cases were settled without Long admitting any wrongdoing. The details of the settlement were not released.