Bishop Eddie Long, once thriving, respected cleric succumbs to ‘aggressive form of cancer’ at 63
LITHONIA, Ga. — Bishop Eddie Long, the megachurch pastor whose reputation was tarnished after former congregants accused him of sexual misconduct, has died, the Associated Press reported. He was 63.
New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia, said in a statement to multiple media outlets, “Long died Sunday after battling cancer.”
Long’s death came “after a gallant private fight with an aggressive form of cancer,” the statement said.
The senior pastor at New Birth Missionary Baptist since 1987, Long was born May 12, 1953, in Huntersville, N.C. At one time, he was among the most respected clerics in America. A hub of African-American growth and enterprise, Atlanta was a fertile ground for the church’s explosive growth which blossomed from a modest 300 members to 25,000, becoming one of the nation’s largest congregations.
Long was blessed with multiple gifts as a preacher, teacher, Christian author, and gospel singer. The church operated television and international ministries, and built satellite churches in several cities, including Miami, Fla., Denver, Colo., and Charlotte, N.C.
A proponent of the prosperity gospel where adherents are taught to shun poverty, Long was an open example of his preachments, unabashedly displaying a flamboyant lifestyle — traveling the globe in a private jet, tooling around metro Atlanta in a $350,000 Bentley, while living in a lavish $1.4 million six bedroom – nine bathroom home.
In 2006, according to the AP, New Birth Missionary Baptist, a10,000-seat cathedral based in Lithonia, Georgia, just east of Atlanta, hosted then-President George W. Bush and former presidents Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, and George H.W. Bush during the funeral of Coretta Scott King, widow of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
“As I reflect on his life, I am especially remembering Bishop Long’s support during some of the most difficult times in my life. the passing of my mother in 2006, and the sudden and unexpected loss of my sister in 2007,” King’s daughter, Bernice King, said in a statement Sunday. “During these devastating moments in my life, he was there for me and my family in many ways and I will forever be grateful.”
In September 2016, Long released a statement that said he was recovering from a “health challenge” in response to reports that he had been recently hospitalized.
The church released a statement that said Long was not in the hospital and quoted a statement from him:
“I am recovering from a health challenge that I trust God to deliver me from. It is unrelated to the eating for life diet consisting of mostly raw vegetables that I am continuing, as part of a holistic approach to good health. At this time, my family and I are requesting that you respect our privacy. I truly appreciate your prayers and support for me, my loved ones and my beloved New Birth Church Family.”
Long also released a video of himself revealing a striking loss of weight and gaunt physical appearance. In the video he shared the loss of weight was not due to sickness, but an embrace of a raw vegetarian diet.
In 2010, Long was accused of coercion by four male members of his congregation. The men, now in their 20s, filed separate civil lawsuits.
They each told similar stories of Long approaching them in their early teens, indoctrinating them as spiritual sons and offering them money, cars, and trips to exotic locations. When all young men turned 18, they claimed, their relationships with Long became sexual.
The lawsuits were eventually settled for an undisclosed amount and Long never admitted any wrongdoing. After that, some congregants of New Birth changed their opinion of him, but many others continued to rally around the charismatic leader.
Appearing weakened and feeble, Long appeared at New Birth in early January, delivering his final sermon.
Long is survived by his wife, four children, and three grandchildren.