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Bishop Eddie Long pledges to fight accusations

Addressing the congregation at the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church Sunday, Bishop Eddie Long said he will fight allegations that he lured young men into sexual relationships.

Members of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church worship Sunday Sept. 26 in Atlanta. Speaking to the congregation, Bishop Eddie Long said he will fight allegations that he lured young men into sexual relationships.
Lawsuits accuse him of exploiting his authority to push four former members into trysts when they were 17 or 18 years old.

John Amis/AP

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The famed pastor of a Georgia megachurch said Sunday that he will fight allegations that he lured young men into sexual relationships, stressing that he'd be back to lead the church the next week.

Addressing a New Birth Missionary Baptist Church sanctuary packed with thousands, Bishop Eddie Long declined to discuss specifics of lawsuits filed against him – or flatly deny the accusations. But he drew thunderous applause when he told his church that while he's not perfect, the picture painted by the allegations is far from accurate.

"There have been allegations and attacks made on me. I have never in my life portrayed myself as a perfect man. But I am not the man that's being portrayed on the television. That's not me. That is not me," he said as applause interrupted him.

Long told the crowd that his lawyers had advised him not to "try this case in the media." While the remarks were short on details of the legal case, Bishop spoke at length about enduring painful situations.

"We are all subject to face distasteful and painful sitauations. Bishop Long, Eddie Long – you can put your name in that blank – will have some bad situations," he said. "The righteous face painful situations with a determined expectancy. We are not exempt from pain, but He promises to deliver us out of our pain."

About 100 people waited at the doors of the church more than an hour before the first service. Some held signs of support, while others prayed for their embattled leader. A small group sang the hymn "White as Snow" while outside.

Members in their seats clapped and swayed as the service began around 8 a.m., with several people with microphones singing on stage. Later in the service, hundreds began dancing and chanting, "Jesus, Jesus." A small group of young people held Apple iPads high over their heads, with the screens scrolling white letters against a black background reading, "It's time to praise him."

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