Megachurch leader Eddie Long is making waves once again after a video being circulated on the Web shows him being crowned “king” in an elaborate ceremony, the Associated Press reports. Other religious leaders have called the video “repulsive” and “inappropriate.”
The video, taken at a service last Sunday at Long’s church, New Birth Missionary Baptist in Lithonia, Ga., and released Wednesday, shows Messianic preacher Rabbi Ralph Messer instructing men to wrap Long in a ritual shawl, which Jews call a tallis.
“He's a king. God’s blessed him. He’s a humble man,” said Messer said. “But in him is kingship. In him is royalty. In him was a land of Israel.”
Long is then raised up on a throne to the ecstatic applause of the parishioners. “He now is raised up from a commoner to a kingship,” said Messer.
The Rev. Morris Tipton, director of media relations at the National Baptist Convention, told black news site The Grio on Friday that he is not impressed by the video. “God has called us to be serving leaders and not celebrities,” Tipton said. The convention is the largest group of African American Baptists in the United States.
An associate professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, the Rev. Wil Gafney, wrote a lengthy, negative assessment of the ceremony in the Huffington Post on Thursday. In the post, Gafney details “misrepresentations of the Torah and other Jewish sancta” by Messer.
Officials at Long’s church did not immediately return requests for comment on Friday.
Rabbi David Shiff of Congregation Beth Hallel, a Messianic Jewish synagogue in Roswell, also condemned the ceremony and Messner’s claim that he was a Messianic Jew.
“Ralph Messer in no way represents Messianic Judaism,” Shiff told the Associated Press. “He is not affiliated with any legitimate branch of Messianic Judaism. His actions in no way reflect the position of Messianic Judaism. I found the presentation to be repulsive and inappropriate.”
The Torah is believed to be a divine book in Judaism. Jewish groups said Long’s use of the scrolls in a church ceremony was offensive.
In the video, Messer also mentioned concentration camps in Poland during the Holocaust, during which six million Jews were murdered by Hitler’s Nazis and sympathizers. He said the Torah used in the ceremony was “a Holocaust scroll.”
“The connection of the Torah scroll to the Holocaust and then to Eddie Long is incomprehensible to me,” David P. Gushee, a professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday. Gushee is a scholar of the Holocaust. “What was the point?”
Long made headlines in September 2010 after he was accused of sexual misconduct by four male former church members said he had abused his spiritual authority.