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Bishop Eddie L. Long closed his Tuesday night empowerment service with a massive hugfest, showing he still has strong support among members of his congregation.

Long, dressed in a white muscle shirt, gray vest and slacks, spent at least 25 minutes after the service hugging congregants. During his sermon, though, the pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia didn’t make any direct references to the sex scandal that has engulfed his ministry.

“God never ends on a negative,” he said and told members  that God in always working on their behalf, even in times of trouble. He said “God will bring from within you what you didn’t think could come out of you.”

Anthony Flagg, Maurice Robinson,  Jamal Parris  and Spencer LeGrande have filed lawsuits against Long, alleging he used his influence and gave them lavish gifts to coerce them into having sex with him.

The men recently sued Long and the 25,000-member church for unspecified damages. The LongFellows Youth Academy, a mentoring program for youth, has been named in three of the suits.

In a crisis, he said, “everybody knows your business … your pain is for somebody else’s gain.”  He said that others can learn from the troubles that you encounter.

Long, who has denied the allegations,  told congregants during early Sunday services that he would not be “pulled into a street fight.”

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