February 3rd, 2011
05:45 PM ET
Bishop Eddie Long, the Atlanta pastor who has received massive media attention since four young men accused him of sexual coercion last September, is entangled in a dispute with an entrepreneur over $1 million in investments that Long wants returned to his church members.
The week-long dispute has included dueling press statements, an accusation of character assassination and a YouTube video in which Long pleaded with the entrepreneur to show compassion.
Long, senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Church in suburban Atlanta, said in the YouTube video that Ephren Taylor from City Capital Corporation held a “wonderful” financial seminar at his church last year that inspired some members to invest about $1 million in retirement accounts through the corporation.
Long said those investments went “sour” and is asking Taylor and City Capital to return the money because some investors from his 25,000-member church are experiencing hardships.
“Please do what’s right,” Long said, addressing Taylor in the video posted on Sunday. “You’re a great fellow. You’re a great man. You do great things. Let’s settle this so these families can move on.”
Long, who declined to be interviewed, did not say in his video how the investment allegedly went sour.
He says that neither he nor New Birth received any "financial blessing or gift" from hosting Taylor’s seminar.
Efforts to reach City Capital, which has an Atlanta address, by phone over a two-day period were unsuccessful because the line remained constantly busy. Taylor, who said he left his position as CEO of City Capital last year, released a public statement on Tuesday.
Taylor called Long’s YouTube video misleading.
“Due to many inaccuracies, and based upon what I view as a direct character assassination and an attempt to paint a picture of an inability, on my part, to take responsibility for the actions of City Capital Corporation during my tenure as CEO, I am extending facts…” Taylor wrote in his statement.
Taylor declined an interview request.
Taylor said that he has been personally involved in resolving concerns from New Birth members. He said City Capital attorneys hosted a conference call with “all New Birth members involved” as recently as last month.
Taylor said City Capital’s legal team had also contacted New Birth members via telephone and e-mail based on a list provided by the church.
“Since last year, the legal team has been working with individuals to legally and privately resolve, refund and restructure any potential issues,” Taylor said.
Taylor also disputed Long’s claim that New Birth did not make any money from his seminar. He said the church “received a percentage of product sales” from his seminar.
Long released a statement Wednesday saying that he stood behind his video.
“New Birth and Bishop Long are not personally attacking Ephren Taylor, or his former company. New Birth and Bishop Long are merely supporting New Birth members…” Long's statement said.
Long reiterated that he did not receive any personal financial benefits from Taylor’s appearance at New Birth but said it is standard practice for New Birth’s bookstore to handle speakers and vendors who appear at the church.
“There are associated operational costs in having these events occur at New Birth, which as a matter of policy, are to be reimbursed by the applicable speaker or vendor,” Long's statement said.
Long has denied the sexual coercion claims against him and asked that the suits be dismissed. The men alleged in the suits that Long used his position as their spiritual counselor to pressure them into sexual relationships, and gave them gifts that included money and cars.
A judge set a tentative trial date for this July, but both parties have agreed to meet for mediation, which is expected to be held in mid-February.
About this blog
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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.