Bishop Eddie Long, the pastor of the New Birth Missionary Church, in Georgia, has died at the age of 63, the megachurch said in a statement.
Long died after a “gallant private fight with an aggressive form of cancer,” according to the statement from the church.
The church did not specify what type of cancer Long had, or when he was diagnosed with the disease.
He 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.
Long Confirmed Last Year That He Was Battling a Serious Illness
Long last delivered a message to his church at a New Year’s Day celebration, the church said, as he was dying from cancer:
Deeply committed to his church, even in his last days, Bishop Long delivered his final message to New Birth as we 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. In his departure, we receive that and as faithful members of New Birth, we praise God for the life of Bishop Long. Bishop Long was known as one of the most influential faith leaders in the world. He stood strong as a Kingdom Builder, pioneering leader, and revolutionary mind changer. Long was a family man and spiritual leader who was well respected and loved for his passion to unapologetically and courageously preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Long inspired thousands of believers around the world through his global ministry that literally changed lives. Through his earthly battle, Bishop Long believed that God was once again using him to help others see the power of the Holy Spirit through the love New Birth displayed to him and the countless prayers sent up by others from every corner of the earth.
He shocked the congregation with his frail appearance.
Rumors had spread in 2016 that Long was suffering from a serious illness, according to Fox 5 Atlanta.
Long acknowledged in September 2016 he was recovering from a “serious health challenge,” but did not provide specifics.
Long had previously said his weight loss of more than 100 pounds was attributed to a vegetarian “life diet” he switched to.
He posted a video on Facebook in August 2016 to address the dramatic weight loss, according to The Root.
“People are asking, ‘Bishop, what happened to all of you?'” he said in the now-deleted video. “Well, all of me has melted away.”
He said a new diet would help him live to 100 and that would not happen by “stopping by Popeyes. That was my weakness. The biscuits with honey and chicken wings, spicy. … I’m on the medicine that God gave you to feed your immune system to build you up. You know what? If you really want to move through this world and have influence, you gotta be spiritual and you have to walk by his commandments and you have to be healthy.”
He returned to his congregation in October 2016, telling them he had been healed by God.
He held a healing service asking for God to help others in the congregation suffering from pain and illness.
Funeral Plans for Long Have Not Yet Been Announced
Long became the pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in DeKalb County, Georgia, in 1987, and grew the congregation from 300 to more than 25,000.
He graduated from North Carolina Central University.
Long officiated the funeral for Coretta Scott King, the wife of Martin Luther King Jr., in 2006.
Plans for Long’s funeral have not been finalized, his church says.