Eddie Long Declared “King” in Hebrew Roots Torah Scroll Ceremony

This one has been widely reported – from the Christian Post:

A 14-minute video clip showing Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church being crowned by Rabbi Ralph Messer during one of the church’s televised services has gone viral, with members of the Christian community expressing complete confusion over the video.

….Messer offered Long on air what he claimed was a 312-year-old priceless Hebrew scroll saved from the Auschwitz death camp after World War II. He then wrapped the New Birth minister in it as mood-enhancing music played in the background, and called for Long to be lifted up on a chair, similar to a throne. While Long was being carried across the podium, Messer spoke of biblical kingship, which Long was supposed to represent.

…New Birth’s charismatic preacher has battled accusations of sexual misconduct and financial shenanigans. In December, Long’s wife, Vanessa, filed for a divorce, which led the bishop to announce that he was stepping down for a brief time to focus on his family.

I blogged on the allegations against Long (who once declared that “the job of the preacher is to bring fresh sperm!”) here and here.

Messer’s own organisation is called Simchat Torah Beit Midrash (STBM), and he is an adherent of “Hebrew Roots” theology. “Hebrew Roots” theology is distinct from Messianic Judaism; from the AP:

Rabbi David Shiff of Congregation Beth Hallel, a Messianic Jewish synagogue in Roswell, condemned the actions in the video.

“Ralph Messer in no way represents Messianic Judaism,” Shiff said. “He is not affiliated with any legitimate branch of Messianic Judaism. His actions in no way reflect the position of Messianic Judaism. I found the presentation to be repulsive and inappropriate.”

(Another “Hebrew Roots” adherent is Jim Barfield, a former fire investigator from Oklahoma who received some attention in 2009 after he claimed to worked out the burial place of the treasure from the First Temple in Jerusalem; see here)

This is not the first time Messer and his scroll have come to the rescue of a beleaguered evangelist; in 2007 Tampa Bay Online reported from Randy White’s Without Walls International Church, following White’s split from church co-founder Paula White:

[Randy] White preached for a few minutes before turning over the pulpit to Ralph Messer, a Messianic rabbi from Denver who teaches about the Hebrew roots of the Christian faith.

Messer preached about the Torah and Jewish entrepreneurship and spoke again at the 11 a.m. service, where he led the congregation in a prayer that ended emotionally for White.

“I declare today that my bishop has entered into a new season, a new season, a new season,” Messer intoned, prompting White’s followers. “Now, give him glory. Praise God.”

As emotions in the sanctuary reached a high point, Messer hugged White, telling him, “I love you. I love you so much.” White, a prayer shawl draped over his shoulders, stood clutching a Torah scroll, head bowed, with a pained expression on his face.

Alas, the “new season” was decidedly wintry – within two years the church was facing foreclosure and Randy had stepped down due to “stress”. His ex-wife Paula then returned to the pulpit.

UPDATE: At her blog (and at the Huffington Post), Rev. Dr Wil Gafney, Associate Professor of Biblical Hebrew and Jewish and Christian Scripture at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, has a comprehensive 27-point debunking of the various claims made by Messer at Long’s church. Her corrections include the following:

The Torah cover is not a “foreskin.”