November 19th, 2010
03:08 PM ET
Some subscribers to a gospel magazine weren’t too happy when they recently got an issue with Bishop Eddie Long on the cover.
The November/December Gospel Today cover featured a sharply tailored Long, smiling confidently, with the headline: “Bishop Eddie Long At The Center of The Scandal That Rocked The Church World.”
Long, senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Church in suburban Atlanta, was accused by four young men in September of using his spiritual authority to coerce them into sexual relationships.
Some Gospel Today readers thought the magazine was downplaying Long's allegations, and others thought they shouldn't have featured him at all.
The biggest problem readers had was Long's relationship with "Gospel Today" - he's the chair of the magazine's board.
Teresa Hairston, the owner of Gospel Today, went on the magazine's website and took critics head-on. She posted some of their comments, and defended her actions.
One reader told Hairston:
Another reader told Hairston:
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."
The controversy over the magazine cover was broken by a new website called “Preachers Bureau of Investigation.” The website offers the latest news on preacher’s scandals around the country, and bills itself as an advocate for exploited church members.
The PBI's primary targets are prosperity preachers who often live lavish lifestyles while preaching that God rewards the faithful with material riches.
The PBI site allows people to anonymously report “out of control pastors” or priests to the larger church community. It features a running update on the latest preacher scandals to hit the religious community.
PBI’s editors says Gospel Today made a mistake by putting Long on its magazine’s cover.
One PBI editor’s wrote:
The outcry of complaints about Bishop Eddie Long cover feature is getting louder as many question the timing and the motives of the magazine. I don’t think he belongs on your cover. In my mind you have taken a position. Have you thought about telling the victims' stories? That would be the only fair and fitting thing to do as a responsible news source.
The Gospel Today controversy has larger implications. It’ll be interesting to see how other Christian media entities treat Long in the days ahead. Will these organizations continue to feature him or cut their affiliations with him?
Trinity Broadcast Network, for example, has featured Long on its network . Will they continue to do so as this scandal unfolds? Or have they already decided to jettison his program? So far, it's unclear.
Unfortunately, they’re not saying. A TBN spokesman has refused to return CNN calls to answer that question. But those questions will continue to linger over any Christian personality or organization that has a public relationship with Long.
Stay tuned for how the church community - not just the legal system - treats the allegations against Long.
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team and frequent posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero.