Eddie Long apologizes for Torah ceremony


Photos from New Birth Missionary Baptist Church

LITHONIA, Ga.,None - Bishop Eddie Long has apologized to the Jewish community for last Sunday’s service at which he was wrapped in a sacred Torah scroll, declared a king and carried upon a throne.

“The ceremony was not my suggestion, nor was it my intent, to participate in any ritual that is offensive in any manner to the Jewish community," the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church leader wrote in a one-page letter, which he discussed before his congregation Sunday morning.

“Furthermore, I sincerely denounce any action that depicts me as a King, for I am merely a servant of the Lord.”

Channel 2 obtained a copy of the letter that was sent to Southeast Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League Bill Nigut, who earlier this week said the Jewish advocacy group “was appalled by the video of Bishop Long being celebrated in a fake Jewish ritual.”

"There's no Jewish ritual that bears any resemblance to what went on at the church last Sunday," Nigut said after watching the controversial YouTube video that circulated on the Internet.

Since then, Nigut said he appreciated Long’s apology.

In the video, Ralph Messer, who calls himself a rabbi, claimed to have a 300-year old Torah -- scrolls hand-inscribed with the Old Testament -- that was rescued from the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. During the ceremony, Messer's aides wrapped Long in the scrolls as Messer proclaimed to the congregation, "He is wrapped in the word of God."

Messer is known for working to incorporate Christian and Jewish traditions, also known as Messianic Judaism.  In a statement released by New Birth on Thursday, Messer contended his message "was about restoring a man and to encourage his walk in the Lord. It was not to make Bishop Eddie L. Long a king," he said.

Jewish leaders around Metro Atlanta condemned the ceremony, saying the Torah is a sacred object that should only be handled by those allowed to do so, and only in real Jewish rituals.