First Lady Elder Vanessa Griffin Long was the wife of Bishop Eddie Long, the pastor of the New Birth Missionary Church in Lithonia, Georgia. The megachurch announced on Sunday that Long died from cancer at age 63.
Long and Vanessa were married in 1990. The 57-year-old was his second wife after Dabara S. Houston, to whom he was married from 1981 to 1985. Long and Vanessa had three children together, Eric, Jared and Taylor. Long also had a son with Houston, Edward.
The couple nearly split in 2011, after allegations that Long tried to use his influence to have sexual relationships with young boys. However, in 2012, she called off the divorce and they remained married until Long’s death.
Here’s a look at Vanessa and Long’s relationship.
1. Vanessa Says She’s Confident Long is in a Better Place After His Death
In a statement after New Birth announced Long’s death, Vanessa Long said she was confident that her husband is in a better place.
“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 said on January 15.
The church only said that Long fought a “gallant private fight with an aggressive form of cancer,” but did not specify what form of cancer it was, notes the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
2. She Almost Divorced Long After He Was Accused of Trying to Have Sexual Relationships Young Boys
In 2010, Maurice Robinson, Anthony Flagg and Jamal Parris accused Long of sexually abusing them as teenagers. Long denied these allegations, but in December 2011, Vanessa filed for divorce. According to CBS46, Vanessa said in a statement that she filed for divorce on December 1, 2011, claiming that their marriage was “irretrievably broken” and there was “no hope of reconciliation.”
Vanessa’s statement on the divorce read:
“After a great deal of deliberation and prayer, I have decided to terminate my marriage to Bishop Eddie L. Long. Accordingly, I authorized my attorneys to file for divorce on December 1, 2011.
“It is my sincere hope that this matter can be resolved expeditiously, harmoniously, and fairly. I ask that you respect my privacy and that of my family, as my attorneys and I have agreed that we will not try this case in the media, and I do not intend to make any further statements concerning this matter.
“I also ask that the public pray for my entire family during this difficult period of transition.
“Thank you, and may God continue to bless and keep each of you.”
But later that month, Vanessa and her lawyers released contradictory statements. At first, she said that she withdrew her petition for divorce, but then her lawyer said that she “determined that dismissal of her divorce petition is not appropriate at this time.”
However, by September 2012, she decided against divorcing and remained married to Long until his death.
Flagg, Parris, Robinson and Spencer LeGrande accused Long of using his influence and buying them gifts to coerce them into having a sexual relationship with them. Long denied the charges, but settled out of court. The settlements were not publicly disclosed.
3. She Pulled the Divorce to Help Others ‘Going Through a Storm’
In August 2012, Vanessa explained to the Heart to Heart women’s ministry why she had not divorced her husband, reports the Christian Post. “I was in the middle of a storm, and I got off the ship,” she said of her decision to pursue a divorce at first.
When Long finally spoke out about the divorce that didn’t happen, she argued that by not getting it, she can help others dealing with crises in their lives.
“I realized that the best thing I could do was to let you see me as a woman, just like you. A woman capable of making good decisions and a woman capable of making bad decisions,” she explained. “Instead of condemning myself, I can use what happened as an opportunity to minister myself to someone else going through a storm.”
According to the above video, created in 1995, Vanessa was a native of Columbus, Georgia and graduated from Carver High School. She was also crowned Miss Carver High and was described as a quiet student who made her presence known. After high school, she attended Morris Brown College in Atlanta and got a B.S. in Office Management. Her first job after college was with the federal government. A mutual friend introduced her to Long.
4. She Was By Long’s Side When He Announced He was Healed in October 2016
Recently, Long looked thin and there was speculation that he was ill, notes the Atlanta Journal Constitution. He never talked about his illness.
However, in October 2016, he told the church that god has healed him, as seen in the video above. Vanessa was by his side when he made that announcement. He then had a healing service to help those in the congregation also suffering from pain.
5. Long & Vanessa Had 3 Children Together
Vanessa and Long had three children together – sons Eric and Jared and daughter Taylor. Long also had a son with his first wife, Dabara S. Houston, named Edward.
In 2012, Praise 94.5 noted that Edward Long recorded a song called “Da Dirty Bird” as a dance for Atlanta Falcons fans. Edward Long continues to perform under the name ED.
Taylor Long posted the following image with her father on Instagram. “I love you Dad,” she wrote in the caption. “Thank you for being perfect. I cherish every moment i’ve shared w/ 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 & husband. You kicked cancers ass! Job Well Done my angel.”
Long also had three grandchildren.