Atlanta-based anti-gay mega-church Bishop Eddie Long, accused of luring at least four young men into sexual relationships and using church funds to give them cash, gifts and cars, is the smiling and dapper cover of the November/December 2010 issue of Gospel Today. A number of readers and subscribers have complained, while critics have slammed the magazine for not reporting the disgraced minister is the chairman of its Board of Advisors, reports TIME's Belief Blog.
One reader told Hairston:
I got my latest issue of Gospel Today; with [Bishop] Eddie Long on the cover. I read the article and said to myself hmmmm seem like some sugar coating going on. Turned back to the 1st page and saw where the Bishop of his Church in NC is on your Board of Directors, I looked down and also saw that Eddie Long is on your Board of Advisors, I said all of that to say this. The best thing your magazine should have did was to not comment.
Another reader told Hairston:
Eddie Long did not belong on the cover… You are trying to plead his case. Did you see the Oprah show? Abuses are real and yes the church / pastors are involved… I agree there are many local pastors and churches doing great work in their communities we never see them on your cover.
Hairston didn't back down. She went online and blasted the mainstream press for how they covered the Long scandal. She said the church community should treat the accusations against Long “according to the Word of God. "Hairston told readers that her magazine did not explore the legalities of the Long scandal, and chose instead to present a “biblical perspective." "Whether Bishop Long is guilty or not; whether the young men are guilty or not, the BODY OF CHRIST must handle this situation according to the Word of God! The mainstream press has painted a hideous picture; some have even called for Bishop Long’s resignation! They’re not even members!!"
Gospel Today's significant non-disclosure was reported by a new website called the "Preachers Bureau of Investigation", which offers intel and reporting on scandals in the Black church community. The website describes Long as a "transparent con artist, hypocritical homophobe, and a suspected child molester" who "should be hanging his head in shame."
Gospel Today's cover story and refusal to "explore the legalities of the issues" surrounding Eddie Long should come as no surprise. On Long's first Sunday in the pulpit after the scandal broke, thousands of members of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church gave thunderous applause to the anti-gay pastor accused of using church funds to buy cars and give cash to teenage boys.
In related news: A Dekalb County judge has scheduled a February mediation session and a July trial date for the four lawsuits against the pastor. It's expected Long will settle the cases in mediation or out of court before the July trial. And in what is described as "remarkably similar" to the allegations leveled against Long, a 23-year-old Mississippi man has filed suit against an anti-gay Apostolic minister with churches in New Orleans and Jackson, accusing the minister of coercing him to have sex.