Eddie Long, the anti-gay leader of one of America’s largest church congregations, has said he will fight allegations he coerced young men in his flock to have sex with him.

Last week, three young men filed lawsuits alleging that Mr Long gave them money, cars and holidays in return for massages, oral sex and masturbation.

The leader of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta, who preaches to 25,000 members, told his congregation on Sunday that he was “under attack” and would “fight” the allegations.

Speaking for the first time since the lawsuits were filed, he said: “I’ve been accused, I’m under attack.

“I want you to know, as I said earlier, that I am not a perfect man. But this thing, I’m going to fight,” he said. “I feel like David against Goliath, but I’ve got five rocks and I haven’t thrown one yet.”

CNN reports that he left his pulpit to overwhelming applause.

Mr Long is apparently being supported by his flock. Few have spoken to the media and those who have spoken out declared his innocence.

The married father of four has a long history of preaching against gay rights and same-sex marriage and claims his church has “delivered” people from homosexuality.

The three men accusing him of sexual impropriety are Maurice Robinson, 20, and Anthony Flagg, 21, and Jamal Parris, 23.

All have waived anonymity and claim Mr Long seduced them when they were aged 17 or 18.