The prominent Georgia pastor accused of coercing four young men into sexual relationships said Sunday that he won't be lured into a street fight, and that his faith has been strengthened.
Bishop Eddie Long did not directly mention the accusations to thousands of congregants at the morning service at his Lithonia megachurch.
"In times of challenge, there are several things that come out. Your faith will be strengthened or weakened," he said to growing applause. "My faith is being strengthened."
Long said he is "not going to be pulled into a street fight" and that he doesn't hate anyone. But he directed his listeners to turn to a passage in the Book of Job that read: "Those who hate you will be clothed with shame, and the tent of the wicked will be no more."
As his devoted flock cheered, Long joked that he accidentally led them to the wrong page. "That was the Holy Ghost," he said, flashing a smile as the sanctuary echoed with laughter.
Long's more than hourlong sermon was greeted with thunderous applause and adoration. Several thousand parishioners flocked to the suburban Atlanta complex for the 8 a.m. service, and cars snaked in traffic for miles after it was over.
It was communion Sunday at the church and Long didn't address the issue at the 11 a.m. service.
Long's sermon made no obvious references to his recent troubles. Long, however, mentioned that a church mother told him that he had to be the most "prayed for person in the world." He said she reminded him to also pray for himself. He talked to the congregation about prayer and said: "God is listening for your sound."
If you never have a challenge, Long said, you never know how faithful you are.
He also spoke about being strong in your declaration and affirmation when seeking God's ear and seeking change in your life.
-- From staff and wire reports
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