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Martin Luther King's daughter leaves Atlanta megachurch

ATLANTA (Reuters) - Bernice King, the daughter of the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., has left a suburban Atlanta megachurch that has been at the center of a recent sex controversy, and plans to start her own ministry.

Bernice King, an ordained minister, has been a member of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church for more than eight years.

Late last year, four young men sued the church's pastor, the Reverend Eddie Long, charging he coerced them into having sex. Last week, the lawyer for the young men announced the matter had been "resolved," but would release no further details.

"I know that I had a pastoral calling," King told a radio interviewer on Tuesday when asked about her decision to leave New Birth. She said she consulted with Long about her decision to launch a ministry.

Long built New Birth from just 300 members in 1987 to more than 25,000 today.

The church, set on a campus east of Atlanta, runs a global network of ministries and businesses. It hosted the funeral in 2006 of Coretta Scott King, wife of Martin Luther King Jr. and mother of Bernice King.

In the interview, Bernice King never specifically mentioned the sexual allegations against Long but said she was "tremendously blessed" by Long's ministry.

"This was the timing that God gave me, at the end of May," she said of her decision to leave New Birth.

"I have always followed what I believe to be the voice of God in my life."

(Reporting by David Beasley; Editing by Jerry Norton)

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