Bishop Eddie Long's Empire at Stake

"We're not just a church," Bishop Eddie Long once told an interviewer, "we're an international corporation." Now that corporation is at stake.

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Bishop Long in better times. Conferring with President George W. Bush at Coretta Scott King's funeral.

The accusations of sexual misconduct against mega-church pastor Bishop Eddie Long also place at risk an economic enterprise. The New York Times reports that Long was paid $3 million in salary, housing and perks between 1997 and 2000 by a charity he controlled.

Bishop Long cuts a flashy figure in Lithonia, the Atlanta suburb where he lives and has built his church. He is often seen in a Bentley attended by bodyguards. He tends to wear clothes that show off his muscular physique. He favors Gucci sunglasses, gold necklaces, diamond bracelets and Rolex watches. He lives in a 5,000-square-foot house with five bedrooms, which he bought for $1.1 million in 2005.

His lavish display of wealth is in keeping with his theology. In his sermons, he often tells his congregation that God wants them to be wealthy and asserts that Jesus was not a poor man. By all accounts, he has been well compensated for his leadership in building New Birth from a church with a few hundred members into the largest congregation in Georgia. His televised sermons reach 170 countries.

In 2005, for instance, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published tax records showing that from 1997 to 2000 Bishop Long had accepted $3 million in salary, housing, a car and other perks from a charity he controlled.

“We're not just a church, we're an international corporation," he told the newspaper in justifying his compensation. “We're not just a bumbling bunch of preachers who can’t talk and all we're doing is baptizing babies. I deal with the White House. I deal with Tony Blair. I deal with presidents around this world. I pastor a multimillion-dollar congregation."

Read more in The New York Times.