“I know there’s been a lot of speculation and many comments about my departure from New Birth,” King said during an interview on Atlanta’s Praise 102.5.
But it wasn’t legal drama or sexual misdeeds that drew her away from the church as an elder, she said. After eight years and eight months, her season there had simply come to an end. King said that she was leaving New Birth to pursue “God’s calling,” not because of the lingering scandal.
The timing of King’s departure has drummed up speculation, though. Last week, word of a settlement came down from lawyers for both Long and the men who claimed that he sexually abused them when they were underage members of New Birth. What has yet to be seen is how the settlement will play out for Long or his wealthy church. While King said it was divinity that pulled her from the church’s pulpit, it could be the beginning of an exodus from the church’s leadership ranks. Long had told his congregants that he would fight the accusations, but instead, he has paid them off to avoid further legal wrangling. Details of the settlement have not been disclosed.
King said her decision would have gone this way irrespective of Long and his very public legal issues.
Since about 2005, King said that she had been wrestling with her calling as a minister and dealing with a number of issues, including the death of her mother, then her sister, a legal fight with her brother and a proposition to head the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, where her father once presided.
“When I came to New Birth, I came for a season and I expected that season not to be quite as long as it was,” she said. By January, she explained, she was no longer considering the SCLC position and could no longer mute the voice, God’s voice, in her head. A few months later in April, she went to Long and told him that she planned on leaving the church to pursue her own ministry.
“I have to leave to follow the assignment that God has on my life,” she recalled telling Long. “He gave me his blessing and supported me in that.”
King said the rumors of her “resigning” amid the whirlwind of drama and innuendo surrounding Long’s legal troubles were befuddling.
“I heard I resigned,” said King. “I was a little confused by that. I’ve never been on staff. I’ve never been employed by New Birth… I occasionally worked in the pulpit and preached at New Birth, but that was the extent of my function at the church.”
As for those still speculating as to her true motivation to leave the church, in Lithonia, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta, she said, “I can’t clear up the mind of God. I have always followed what I believe to be the voice of God in my life.”
So, what’s next for King?
Over the next several months she said she will be building the foundation for what she called a ministry, not a church.
“What God is showing me doesn’t look like what people are accustomed to,” she said. “One thing that he told me was that I was to raise up kings for the Kingdom.”
As for any hard feelings for Bishop Long or the church, King didn’t give the slightest hint of any.
“Let me just say this,” she said, “during my eight years at New Birth, eight years and eight months, I was tremendously blessed by the ministry of Bishop.”