Bishop Eddie Long's wife files for divorce
"Consistent with her original statement made this morning, Mrs. Long continues to hope that this matter may be resolved expeditiously, harmoniously and fairly; however, she has determined that dismissal of her divorce petition is not appropriate at this time," said Michael W. Tyler, a partner with the Atlanta-based firm, Kilpatrick Townsend.
"To avoid any undue confusion, Mrs. Long's future statements, if any, will be issued through her attorneys only. At this time, neither she nor we will have any further comment on this matter."
The statement, sent Friday night, was the latest twist in a divorce saga that emerged Thursday, when lawyers for Vanessa Long filed divorce documents in Superior Court in DeKalb County, Georgia.
Vanessa and Eddie Long are "living in a bona fide state of separation," according to the 12-page petition. The documents adds she "is entitled to a divorce upon grounds that the marriage between the parties is irretrievably broken, there being no hope of reconciliation of the parties, and it being in the best interest of all parties concerned that this marriage be terminated by divorce."
On Friday, in a statement released to reporters by her lawyer, Vanessa Long said, "It is my sincere hope that this matter can be resolved expeditiously, harmoniously and fairly. I ask that you respect my privacy and that of my family, as my attorneys and I have agreed that we will not try this case in the media, and I do not intend to make any further statements concerning this matter."
But this appears counter to another statement also attributed to Vanessa Long and issued Friday afternoon by New Birth Missionary Church in Lithonia, 18 miles east of Atlanta.
According to that statement, she says, "Upon prayerful reflection, I have reconsidered and plan to withdraw my petition for divorce from my husband, Bishop Eddie L. Long. I love my husband."
Bishop Long is senior pastor of the church, which has more than 25,000 members, according to its website.
"I believe in him and admire his strength, and courage," Vanessa Long said, according to this statement. "My filing followed years of attacks in the media that frustrated and overwhelmed me.
"I love my family and church family, New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. Therefore, my husband and I have mutually agreed to find healing from these attacks. We ask that you respect our privacy during this time."
New Birth's website describes Vanessa Long as "the quiet strength" in the family. "She is an inspiration to many of the women at New Birth as they watch her lovingly and quietly support her husband in every sense of the word."
Long is being sued by former parishioners who accuse him of persuading them to invest in a Ponzi scheme that wiped out at least $1 million in their retirement savings.
And last spring, Bishop Long settled a lawsuit filed by four young men who accused him of pressuring them into sexual relationships while they were teenagers and members of Long's congregation at the same north Georgia church.
That suit alleged that Long "uses monetary funds from the accounts of New Birth and other corporate and non-profit corporate accounts to entice the young men with cars, clothes, jewelry, and electronics."
Long has preached passionately against homosexuality for years.
In an August interview, two of Long's accusers said they were haunted by what happened between them and the powerful pastor and added they are writing a tell-all book about their experiences.
"It's just not enough anymore. I thought I could cover the pain up. I thought I could move, start over and everything will go away. I was terribly wrong," Jamal Parris, one of the accusers, told CNN affiliate WSB.
Parris pointed to a "JL" tattoo on his arm, which he said stands for "Jamal Long." He said Long was with him when he got the tattoo.
He said that he grew up without a father and that Long preyed on that vulnerability. "To have a man love me for just who I was. I just had to be me and love him back," Parris said.