By Ryan Velez
Following a private health fight that had been covered by much of the African-American and Christian communities, New Birth Missionary Baptist Church’s senior pastor Bishop Eddie L. Long has passed away at 63 years old. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Bishop Christopher C. Smith of the church shared a formal statement, saying that “Today it is with great sadness I announce that our bishop has transitioned.” At the moment that the news was shared, many members of the expectant crowd, some of which had already heard the news via social media and texts, began bursting into wails and shrieks. “He’s no longer in pain,’ Smith continued. “He’s no longer dealing with the complications that he had to deal with.” Based in Georgia, Bishop Eddie Long was the head of one of the largest mega-churches in the country.
On Sunday morning, the church released a formal statement for the press as well, confirming that Long died early Sunday morning following “a gallant private fight with an aggressive form of cancer.” The statement also mentioned that even during his illness, Bishop Long kept to his commitment to God, and had proclaimed that cancer would not kill his faith nor his spirit. The final message that he would deliver to the church would be as it ushered in 2017. “He told the church that God was already working in our favor and what we have been praying for was already manifested,” the statement says.
Bishop Long is survived by his wife of 27 years, First Lady Elder Vanessa Long, four children: Eric, Edward, Jared and Taylor; and three grandchildren. Vanessa Long said that she felt that through her belief in God, that her husband was 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,” she said.
At the moment, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution shares that the family would appreciate both support and respect for their privacy, as they prepare along with New Birth Missionary Baptist Church for a homegoing service to honor Bishop Long. The date of the service, along with other details, will be released in the near future. Given the sudden nature of Long’s passing, other details regarding exactly what happened are likely soon to come, as well as words from other members of the faith community.