In a strange and unprecedented ceremony at his suburban Atlanta megachurch, Bishop Eddie Long went from being merely an anointed minister to being crowned a king. Or so says a man called Messer in a video burning its way through the Internet. The video and the ceremony is causing something of a sensation.
In the YouTube video, Long stands before and is eventually wrapped in a "Holocaust Torah," a Jewish sacred scroll that Messer said was recovered from Auschwitz, the notorious German concentration camp. Long was made a "king in God's government," then lifted in a chair by four men and paraded before his cheering congregation at New Birth Missionary Church.
“He is a king. God’s blessed him," Rabbi Messer shouted. "He’s a humble man, but in him is kingship, royalty."
During the crowning ceremony, Messer noted that he wanted to honor Long “on behalf of Jewish people, and the land of Israel.”
But there is a problem with the coronation ceremony. According to Hillel Norry of Congregation Shearith Israel in Georgia, it is "ridiculous." No such ceremony exists in Judaism where an individual is wrapped in a Torah and made king, he told CNN.
"We just don’t do that. We treat it with deference,” Norry said of the holy Torah. “It’s not a shawl, not a crown. Don’t treat it that way.”
Norry also cast doubt on the story of the Torah being both 312 years old (claimed by Messer in the ceremony) and survived detection in a German concentration camp. He pointed out its size, which he said was that of a person. "It’s not like you can hide one," he added.
(Norry is correct. The Torah scrolls are traditionally large. Since personal belongings and artifacts were taken from concentration camp inmates -- usually long before the individuals were interned -- it is highly questionable that a object of faith and veneration would have been allowed to exist within a camp. The possibility that it might have been confiscated and kept by the Germans -- or a lone German -- exists, however. The background of the "Holocaust Torah" is unknown.)
Another flaw in the ceremonial rites was the actual coronation, which Brent Strawn, an associate professor at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, said was not done among Christian pastors. It is not something mentioned in the New Testament. He pointed to the story of Jesus wearing a servant's garments and washing the disciples feet, noting that they were almost always referred to as "servants."
CNN contacted Messer for a statement. The rabbi, who leads Simchat Torah Beit Midrash congregation in Colorado, a messianic Jewish and non-Jewish community, said he had held the ceremony to honor Bishop Long.
“It was not to make Bishop Eddie L. Long a king,” the statement read. “Lifting him on the chair was to acknowledge and honor him. It is done all the time at Jewish weddings and bar mitzvahs.”
But if the ceremony was to acknowledge Long as a figurative king or a symbolic king, it has left many questioning what actually occurred at the megachurch. Comments and questions abound on the video on YouTube, adding to the growing controversy over what took place.
Bishop Long is one of the most famous televangelists currently broadcasting and has been at the center of controversy before, taking criticism for his open anti-gay stances. But he was the center of scandal in 2010 when four young men accused him in highly publicized lawsuits of sexual impropriety and the abuse of his authority. Although the lawsuits were eventually settled out of court, Long's wife, Vanessa, filed for divorce in 2011.
(photo credit: lehava tiberya, Creative Commons)