On Dec. 2, Vanessa Long announced she was seeking to end her 21-year-marriage following "a great deal of deliberation and prayer." Later the same day and in a statement sent through New Birth's public relations firm, she was quoted as saying that upon further "prayerful reflection," she was withdrawing the divorce petition.
"I love my husband," she was quoted as saying. "I believe in him and admire his strength and courage." The New Birth elder said her decision to seek a divorce was driven by "years of attacks in the media that frustrated and overwhelmed me." She and her husband had "mutually agreed to find healing," Vanessa Long said.
But then, even later on Dec. 2, her attorneys announced Vanessa Long was proceeding with the divorce "consistent with her original [statement] made this morning."
In the divorce filing, Vanessa Long, 53, said her marriage to the New Birth senior pastor was "irretrievably broken" and there was "no hope of reconciliation." The couple had been in a "state of separation," according to the petition.
In his response at the time, Bishop Long said in a statement, "Vanessa is, and has always been, a loving, dedicated and committed wife and mother. My love for her is deep and unwavering. It remains our sincere desire to continue working together in seeking God’s will in these circumstances."
In September 2010, a lawsuit was filed against Long by former New Birth members Anthony Flagg, Spencer LeGrande, Jamal Parris and Maurice Robinson alleging the bishop used his influence, trips, gifts and jobs to coerce them into sexual relationships.
The bishop, who told his congregation he planned to "vigorously" fight the allegations against him, reached a settlement with his accusers in late May 2011 after months of mediation.
Though she has never spoken publicly about the allegations, Vanessa Long provided her husband with a symbolic lift when she appeared by his side at New Birth the Sunday after the lawsuit was filed.
The bishop took personal time off after the divorce was announced in December. He returned to the pulpit on New Year's Eve.
-- Staff writers Rhonda Cook, Christian Boone and Fran Jeffries contributed to this article.