Accusations, Mediation, and Closure

Bishop Eddie Long has been the Senior Pastor of New Birth Baptist Church in Lithonia, GA, since 1987. Lithonia is a suburb of Atlanta. His Emmy-Award-winning broadcast, Taking Authority, which airs on the Trinity Broadcast Network, reaches 172 countries and more than 270 million people.

Bishop Long has been a long time, out-spoken opponent of gay rights. How surprised we were to hear that he was being accused of sexual coercion, fraud, and negligence in four lawsuits filed against him in September of 2010 by four young men. There was even a rumor that there was a fifth accuser. Bishop Long was accused of using his position as a spiritual role model to coerce the young men into sexual relationships.

Bishop Long vowed to his congregation in his sermon the Sunday after the allegations became public that he would fight to clear his name. Although many of his congregants vowed to stand by his side, there were some who left New Birth. Many who knew him did not believe that the allegations were true. Many who knew him didn’t want to believe. However, we also know that anything is possible.

I am not going to give an opinion as to whether the allegations are true or false. I want to discuss the fact that each side agreed to mediation in lieu of a trial. The cases were settled out of court and each side was able to move on with their lives.

So why did Bishop Long and his attorneys choose mediation rather than going to trial? Did Bishop Long and New Birth Missionary Baptist Church have something to hide and was the decision to mediate an admission of guilt, choosing to settle matters in private instead of in a public court?

Morris W. O’Kelly, author of The Mo’Kelly Report, wrote,

“Bishop Eddie Long agreeing to mediation of sexual coercion charges is an end-run around the universally accepted moral and ethical responsibilities of any ecumenical leader. Mediation of sexual allegation grievances is tantamount to an admission of “some” guilt, “some” form of ministerial misconduct. Innocent folk don’t make deals if the claims against them are baseless and untrue. Mediation for the accused is a forfeiture of the right to ever claim innocence, and readers should be absolutely clear on this point.

Did you hear that? That was the sound of Long publicly admitting to some degree of guilt when he agreed to mediation. The public wanted Long to thoroughly address the allegations. Well, there you have it. He said it all; you just had to have been paying attention to hear it.”

New Birth Missionary Baptist Church said the decision to settle was made to bring closure to this matter and allow us to move forward with the plans God has for this ministry.”

Dr. Wayne Coussens is an American Association of Christian Counselors Certified Christian Mediator and founder of ‘Counseling the Lord’s Way Ministries.’  Dr. Coussens shared the following regarding Christians and Mediation:

In the Bible there is clear evidence that many kinds of disputes occurred between Christians, or between Christians and non-believers. Today, Christians continue to find themselves embattled in major disputes of all kinds.  Sometimes these disputes become severe and end up in our legal system where they are resolved often by non-Christian judges or by judges bound by secular laws. This results in unwanted embarrassment, publicity, and notoriety, and possibly legal actions that do permanent damage to one or both parties leaving them at odds with each other for many, many years.  Such outcomes are not Biblical. 

The preferred Christian outcome would be one in which forgiveness and reconciliation are achieved and where both parties can walk away feeling good about the process and the outcome.”

What is mediation?

Mediation is a process of communication in which persons in a dispute with the assistance of a mediator try to reach an agreement, understanding or reconciliation.

Why did these parties agree to mediation?

It is my humble opinion that the parties made the correct decision in choosing mediation in lieu of a trial for the following reasons:

  1. Mediation is confidential.
  2. Mediation improves communication.
  3. Mediation avoids litigation and the expense of going to trial.
  4. Mediation allows the parties to design their own resolution to their dispute.
  5. It is a win-win situation for all the parties involved.
  6. Mediation allows the parties to find closure to the dispute.

Both sides reached a private agreement. Both sides came to an understanding. Both sides, from what I have read, also achieved reconciliation.

What could be another reason that the parties agreed to mediation?

The Bible provides clear instructions in the manner in which believers are to correct one another and settle disputes:

Matthew 5:9 “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.”

Matthew 18:15-17 15 “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. 16 But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. 17 If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.”

1 Corinthians 6:1-6 6 “When one of you has a dispute with another believer, how dare you file a lawsuit and ask a secular court to decide the matter instead of taking it to other believers 2 Don’t you realize that someday we believers will judge the world? And since you are going to judge the world, can’t you decide even these little things among yourselves? 3 Don’t you realize that we will judge angels? So you should surely be able to resolve ordinary disputes in this life. 4 If you have legal disputes about such matters, why go to outside judges who are not respected by the church? 5 I am saying this to shame you. Isn’t there anyone in all the church who is wise enough to decide these issues? 6 But instead, one believer sues another—right in front of unbelievers!”

Conclusion:

There are many Scriptures that support mediation. The fact is that mediation is a wonderful example of a peaceful and quick way to resolve disputes. The parties in a dispute can come to an agreement and find closure without the publicity, embarrassment, and expense of a trial.

                        author

Roxie Hollingsworth

Rev. Roxie Baring Hollingsworth is a licensed and ordained minister with over a decade of experience as a Biblical Counselor.  She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Ministry and has received certificates and training in the areas of Alternative Dispute Resolution,Conflict Resolution, Mediation, Divorce Mediation, Family Law, and Cross-Cultural… MORE >

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