Nearly two years after Bishop Eddie Long was accused of luring young men from his congregation into sexual relationships, his wife Vanessa Long has opened up about her decision to stand by her man. A recent video of her August address to the women’s ministry of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church has surfaced, showing a visibly emotional Mrs. Long explaining her decision to file for divorce in December 2011.
“I was in the middle of a storm and I got off the ship,” Long said before an auditorium of women who gave her a standing ovation. “As much as I love my husband, my family, my New Birth Family, I couldn’t take another minute pretending that I was okay.”
If you recall, that was a particularly messy exit. Mrs. Long filed for divorce on a Thursday, but withdrew the papers on Friday morning, and by that afternoon, the divorce was back on, according to news reports. In February 2012, the case was finally dismissed.
Of her ultimate decision to remain with her husband, Mrs. Long explained, “I realized that the best thing I could do was to let you see me as a woman, just like you. A woman capable of making good decisions and a woman capable of making bad decisions,” Long said. “Instead of condemning myself, I can use what happened as an opportunity to minister myself to someone else going through a storm.”
Forgive me, please, if I’m missing the teachable moment here. I watched the heavily edited video multiple times and I’m not sure exactly what it is that the audience is to take away from her testimony. Is it that she just wanted people to know she’s not perfect? Okay. I got that, but I never thought she was. But which decision does she think was her good one — filing for the divorce, or agreeing to stay? I don’t know.
I’ve always had a soft spot for Mrs. Long. My grandmother was the First Lady of her church, and perhaps I project a bit of my Nana onto her. And too, as a woman, I can’t imagine what sharing the weight of her husband’s scandal must have been like with the allegations weighing on her shoulders. As much as I was baffled by her public flip-flopping on her divorce, I understood, even if I wished it hadn’t been so public. Like she said, none of that was an easy decision.
But just like I wished she stayed quiet back then, I wish she’d done the same now, despite my (and many others) curiosity as to why she ultimately decided to remain married. I’d chalked it up to her being a woman that believed in her wedding vows and took sticking by “for worse” to the extreme. That makes sense to me. This doesn’t.
Mrs. Long’s explanation here raises more questions than it answers. It talks around why she stayed and doesn’t tell us what we really want to know: Does she think her husband had inappropriate sexual contact with the young men in the church, and if so, how was she able to forgive him for the alleged acts? That’s a ministry I would pay good money to hear.
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life (Atria), in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk