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|Bernice King confirms she is no longer a member of New Birth|
|Written by Dyana Bagby|
|Wednesday, 01 June 2011 15:03|
On the heels of Bishop Eddie Long's settlement with four young men who sued him for alleged sexual coercion, Bernice King confirmed Tuesday that she is leaving New Birth Missionary Baptist Church.
"I know there has been lots of speculation and comments about my departure from New Birth," King told radio host Rhodell Lewis on Praise 102.5 FM. King is the daughter of the late Martin Luther King Jr. and late Coretta Scott King.
"Let me start by just clarifying to let all your listeners and others who may be listening in that ... after eight years and eight months my last Sunday as a member of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church was this past Sunday," King said.
Her departure from the church on Sunday, May 29, was just days after Long settled four lawsuits on May 26. The lawsuits, filed last September, alleged Long used his power as a spiritual leader to coerce sex from four young men. No details about the settlements were made to the public from either side.
Long, who is anti-gay, led a march of thousands through the streets of Atlanta against gay marriage in 2004 with King at his side.
New Birth issued a statement saying about the settlement:
"After a series of discussions, all parties involved have decided to resolve the civil cases out of court. This decision was made to bring closure to this matter and to allow us to move forward with the plans God has for this ministry.
"As is usually the case when civil lawsuits resolve out of court, we cannot discuss any details regarding the resolution or the resolution process, as they are confidential.
"This resolution is the most reasonable road for everyone to travel."
B.J. Bernstein, the attorney representing the four accusers, also issued a statement saying she nor the four young men would be commenting on the settlement "now or in the future."
'I came to New Birth for a season'
On Tuesday's radio show, King said plans for her leaving had been in the works for some time.
"Let me say this, when I came to New Birth I came for a season. I expected that season not to be as quite as long as it was," she said. "While I was at New Birth the Holy Spirit spoke to me about my next assignment."
King plans to begin a ministry, but not a church, she said.
As for the timing of her leaving New Birth, King said May 29 had always been the date she said the Holy Spirit gave her to leave.
"I have always followed the voice of God in my life. I know that I have a pastoral calling and I have to accept it and I am in the process of pursuing it. God gave me the end of May," she said.
She said her leaving New Birth was delayed due to major life issues, such as the death of her mother in 2006. The funeral for Mrs. King was held at New Birth, angering many in the LGBT community as well as allies.
Julian Bond, who worked side-by-side with Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King in the civil rights movement, served in both houses of the Georgia General Assembly and was the chair of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People when Mrs. King died. He publicly stated he would not attend the funeral of his friend because Bishop Eddie Long was a "raving homophobe" and Mrs. King was an outspoken advocate for LGBT equality.
King said the death of her sister, Yolanda, in 2007, the legal troubles with her brother, Dexter, in 2008 and then the challenge she faced when elected to be president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 2009 also made leaving New Birth too difficult. She declined the SCLC position in January 2011.
She said talks with Long about leaving New Birth began in 2009 and in April the two sat down to talk about her last day. She said Long gave her his blessing.
Long issued a statement on New Birth's website wishing King the best.
"Reverend Bernice King has made tremendous and profound contributions to New Birth as an Elder and faithful servant of our Lord Jesus Christ.
"For some time now, Reverend King and I have been in discussion and prayer about the call of God on her life to continue the legacy of her father and mother, the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. This is a compelling mandate that places Reverend King squarely in the center of God's Will for her life and I am in full support of her decision to leave New Birth in pursuit of this worthy endeavor.
"New Birth is planning a wonderful and fitting farewell tribute in honor of Reverend King. Details about this joyous celebration will be provided at an appropriate time.
"New Birth had not planned to make any announcement regarding Reverend King's decision until after Memorial Day because we felt it was appropriate to first honor the service men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice in service of our great Nation.
"We ask that you join us in extending unequivocal support and love for Reverend King as she embarks on this new calling of Kingdom service."
Anti-climatic end to months long legal battle for Long, New Birth
The settlements by Long brought an anti-climatic end to an enduring scandal.
On Sept. 26, days after the lawsuits were filed, a defiant Long addressed a packed church of some 8,000 supporters at New Birth and said, "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 is being portrayed on the television," Long said to cheers from the congregation. "That is not me."
“I have been accused. I am under attack. I want you to know, as I said earlier, I am not a perfect man, but this thing I’m gon’ fight,” Long added.
“And I want you to know one other thing: I feel like David against Goliath, but I got five rocks and I haven’t thrown one yet,” he said, dropping his microphone with an audible thump.
The four men — Anthony Flagg, 21; Maurice Robinson, 20; Jamal Parris, 23; and Spencer LeGrande, 22 — said they were personally mentored by Long when they were 17 and 18 (age of consent in Georgia is 16), that he took them on lavish trips to places such as Kenya and New Zealand, and bestowed on them extravagant gifts including jewelry and cars.
They all told a similar tale of being a part of a group of young men Long called his “Spiritual Sons,” that they entered into ceremonial “covenants” with Long and that the renowned preacher used biblical scripture to justify sexual relationships.
Photo: Bernice King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with Praise 102.5's Rhodell Lewis (via Facebook)
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