In the wake of a loud outcry throughout the Jewish community, Bishop Eddie Long has apologized to the Anti-Defamation League for last Sunday’s service at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church during which Rabbi Ralph Messer crowned him a king, reports the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
“The ceremony was not my suggestion, nor was it my intent, to participate in any ritual that is offensive in any manner to the Jewish community,” Long wrote in a letter sent to Bill Nigut, Southeast Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League.
After footage of the service went viral — drawing an estimated 600,000 view on YouTube, the ADL spoke passionately against the wrapping of Long in a scared Torah scroll while being carried high upon a throne:
“For the ADL it’s a real wake-up call that a lot of people do not understand our liturgies and practices,” Nigut said. “Guys like Messer are troubling to us because they appropriate real ritual or, in this case, make one up.”
Messer, who serves as Rabbi of Simchat Torah Beit Midrash in Parker, Colorado, proclaimed during the service that Long was royalty due to the blessing of God and insists that there was no disrespect intended by his actions:
“It was simply a way of bringing honor to a man who had given his life to the Lord and had given so much to his church, the Atlanta metro area and throughout the world,” he said.
Long was extremely humble in his letter to Nigut, stating that he neither suggested nor encouraged the service; in fact, he doesn’t view himself as a king at all:
“I denounce any action that depicts me as a king, for I am merely just a servant of the Lord,” Long wrote.
Nicole Martin, a pastor at Messer’s synagogue, told their congregation that they should be proud of Messer for crowning Long:
“You’d be incredibly, incredibly proud of your rabbi,” said Martin. “I’m so excited about what happened [at New Birth]. The spirit was so thick, so tangible.”
The “spirit” in New Birth has been tangible — and questionable — for quite some time.
In September 2010, Long was sued by four former church members for manipulating them into sexual relationships. The young men alleged that Long took them on trips and bought them expensive gifts, before ultimately demanding sexual repayment. The suit was settled in May. Long never admitted fault, saying only that the dismissal was the quickest way to “move forward with the work of God.”
However, none of that seemed to concern Messer, who claimed that the incidents were merely God’s way of getting Long’s attention:
“God wants to get your focus,” said the Rabbi. “Crisis produces opportunity. You have to go through a descent before an ascent.”