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Black Church News in Virginia

At Age 63, After Health Battle Megachurch Founder Eddie Long Passes

ATLANTA
Funeral services will be held for Bishop Eddie L. Long on Jan. 25 at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta.

Long, 63, died on Jan. 15 from an aggressive form of cancer, according to news reports. During his three decades in ministry, Long built New Birth Missionary Baptist Church just outside of Atlanta into one of the nation’s largest churches with some 30,000 members. Long is survived by his wife, four children and three grandchildren, the church said in a statement.

Blacks in Atlanta were experiencing a type of rebirth in the 90s, and the growth of his church coincided with that rebirth, the Rev. Dr. Asa Lee told NPR in a recent interview.

“Bishop Long was a pioneer in merging Baptists and Pentecostal styles of worship into a very charismatic ministry and worship experience,” said Lee, associate dean for community life at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

“And that, coupled with his strong Biblical preaching in African-American circles, really launched New Birth into a stratospheric ministry globally,” Lee said.

At its peak New Birth Missionary Baptist Church had about 25,000 members. The church was such a glamorous Sunday stop it became dubbed “Club New Birth.”

“Black people all over the country listened to him,” Shayne Lee, a sociologist and expert on the Pentecostal church, said in a recent CNN news report. “He was part of the repackaging of Christianity for post-civil rights African-Americans.”

He spoke before Congress, visited President Clinton in the White House and became a popular figure in white Pentecostal circles. His church hosted Coretta Scott King’s funeral service in 2006.

His father, Floyd Long, was a stern Baptist minister who was known as “the cussing preacher” because of his pugnaciousness. Long said in one interview that his father was distant and didn’t attend his football games or even his high school and seminary graduation.

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“My daddy pulled back when it came to touching you and saying, ‘I love you,’” Long said, “I needed that so badly.”

After his death was announced, many took to social media to express their feelings about Long. “I love you Dad,” his daughter Taylor Long said in a post on her Instagram account.

“Thank you for being perfect,” his daughter wrote. “I cherish every moment I’ve shared with you even up to your last breath. I don’t blame God for wanting you back, I would too. Everything I do is for you; it’s been my honor to be your daughter. Thank you for being the greatest example of a wonderful father and husband. You kicked cancer’s ass! Job well done my angel.”

Gospel recording artist Byron Cage, who served at New Birth for 12 years, said on Twitter, “My heart is heavy, but God is in control. See you in the rapture Bishop Eddie Long. It was my honor to serve New Birth for 12 years,” he wrote.

In the statement released by New Birth, His wife of 27 years, Vanessa, said, “I am confident through my belief in God that my husband is now resting in a better place.”

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