Fewer than 150 people showed up Aug. 11 to hear New Birth franchise founder Bishop Eddie Long at New Birth Charlotte in Huntersville.
It was the second Sunday after Bishop Terrell Murphy resigned as pastor of the Charlotte satellite to start his own church in Ballantyne, New Life International, which is unaffiliated with New Birth.
Long used to preach Easter services at the Georgia Dome to crowds as big as 40,000. His flagship congregation in Lithonia, Ga., used to fill two services at its 10,000-seat auditorium.
Long has faced legal disputes in recent years.
He settled lawsuits out of court accusing him of having sexual relations with four underage males in his Lithonia congregation, as well as defaulting on a property loan, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
In January, 12 members of the Lithonia congregation filed a lawsuit accusing Long for endorsing financial advisor Ephron Taylor, who was operating an alleged Ponzi scheme, the AJC reported.
Long, a graduate of North Mecklenburg High, has been commuting from Atlanta to Huntersville to help New Birth Charlotte recover from Murphy’s departure.
During Murphy’s 10 years at New Birth Charlotte, the church held two services in its 2,400-seat worship center. Now the church holds one service at 9:45 a.m. Ushers pack attendees into a small section up front, where they are surrounded by empty seats. Much of the large church parking lot is partitioned off with orange cones. Knee-high weeds could be seen Aug. 11 growing in the medians.
Remaining members at New Birth Charlotte have begun touting a phrase: “The Rebirth of New Birth.”
On Aug. 6, 7 and 8, the church held “Empowerment” rallies. They brought in speaker Renny McLean. During the Aug. 8 rally, worshippers danced, clapped and hugged, and they offered enthusiastic support for Long and McLean.
Long asked them, “Are you ready to go to work?”
The 100 or so in attendance cheered.