Bishop Eddie Long, senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, died Sunday morning. He was 63 years old.
A statement released by the church stated that Long passed away Sunday morning after “a gallant private fight with an aggressive form of cancer.”
Long had been battling health issues for several months. In September 2016, he released a statement that said he was recovering from a “health challenge” in response to reports that he had been recently hospitalized.
Long was born May 12, 1953, in Huntersville, N.C. In 1987, he became the pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. At the time, the church had around 300 members. Its current membership is now more than 25,000. New Birth operated television and international ministries, and built satellite churches in several cities, including Miami, Denver, and Charlotte, North Carolina.
Long was known as a Christian author and gospel singer. In 2006, he was chosen by the family of Martin Luther King, Jr. to host and officiate the funeral for Mrs. Coretta Scott King, wife of the late civil rights pioneer.
Long has frequently been the subject of controversy during his career and was often criticized for his lavish lifestyle. In 2010, he was accused of coercion and having a sexual relationship by four male members of his congregation. The men, now in their 20s, filed separate civil lawsuits. The lawsuits were eventually settled out of court. Long, strongly denied any wrongdoing.
Long delivered his final sermon to the church in early January. His congregation was informed of his death during Sunday morning services.
Long is survived by his wife of 27 years, Vanessa Long, his four children and three grandchildren.
“I am confidant through my belief in God that my husband is now resting in a better place. Although, his transition leaves a void for those of us who loved him dearly, we can celebrate and be happy for him, knowing he’s at peace,” Vanessa Long said in a statement.