Bishop Eddie Long Takes Leave of Absence

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Two days after his wife announced she'd be filing for divorce, Bishop Eddie Long told his congregation, Sunday, that he planned to take a "leave of absence" to focus on healing his family.

Long stressed that he was not resigning and would still lead New Birth Missionary Baptist Church from afar.

"I'm still your pastor. You'll still receive my direction," he said Sunday. "You've given me some weeks to take care of some family business."

Mrs. Long contacted her lawyers Thursday, Dec. 1 to file for divorce.

Her decision was made public the following day, although it later appeared she'd had a change of heart to "find healing" for their marriage.

But by Friday evening, Mrs. Long reverted to her initial decision, confirming that dismissal of the divorce was "not appropriate at this time."

The couple has been married for 21 years.

Friday evening, Bishop Long said his love for his wife is "deep and unwavering."

"As any loving and committed husband would do, Bishop Long will take some time to focus on his family," church leaders said in a statement Sunday.

Long became pastor of New Birth in 1987. Within 10 years he took the church from about 300 members to more than 18,000.

Membership at the Lithonia, Ga., church is still substantial, but has faltered after four men claiming they were sexually abused by Long filed a lawsuit last year.

Long is also in a current legal battle with members of his congregation who say he misled them into what they called a "ponzi scheme."

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