Bishop Eddie Long dead at age 63

- Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia passed away early Sunday morning after battling an aggressive form of cancer, according to a statement from the church. He was 63 years old.

MORE: Church members respond to news of Eddie Long's death

Long acknowledged he was facing a "health challenge" in September 2016, but he did not say what was wrong.

The senior pastor released a YouTube video addressing his dramatic weight loss. In the video he said he was working to rebuild muscle tone after switching to an all-vegetable diet.

The video, intended for supporters, went viral and ended up on Youtube, with the popular church leader insisting he would live to be 100 or older on his new vegan life style.

During his final sermon on New Year's Eve, Bishop Long told the church that God was already working in our favor and what we have been praying for was already manifested, the statement said.

Long has been senior pastor at New Birth Missionary Baptist since 1987. The church said it grew from 300 members to more than 25,000 under Long's leadership and became one of the nation's largest congregations.

Four young men filed lawsuits in 2010 accusing him of sexual misconduct, bringing notoriety to his church that reached far beyond its home base in Lithonia, Georgia. The lawsuits were resolved the following year.

Long is survived by his wife, Vanessa Long, four children, Eric, Edward, Jared and Taylor, and three grandchildren. 

New Birth Missionary Baptist Church released the following statement on Long's passing:  

"New Birth Missionary Baptist Church celebrates the life and legacy of Bishop Eddie L. Long who is now spiritually healed and home with the Lord.  Bishop Long, Senior Pastor of New Birth, transitioned from this life early Sunday morning after a gallant private fight with an aggressive form of cancer.  As a man of God with unyielding faith, Bishop Long maintained his commitment to our Heavenly Father as he proclaimed that cancer would not kill his faith nor his spirit.  First Lady Elder Vanessa Long, Bishop Long’s wife of 27 years offered the following.  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.”

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.Bishop Eddie L. Long was 63 years old. He is survived by his beautiful wife, First Lady Elder Vanessa Long, 4 children Eric, Edward, Jared and Taylor and 3 grandchildren.  The Long family thanks you for your prayers, condolences and messages of love. The family appreciates your support and respect of their privacy, as they prepare along with New Birth, for the homegoing service to honor Bishop Long. The date and other details will be announced in the near future."

Dr. Bernice A. King released the following statement on Long's passing:

“I was saddened to hear of the passing of Bishop Eddie L. Long this morning and extend my heartfelt thoughts, prayers and condolences to his wife Elder Vanessa G. Long, his children Eric, Edward, Jared, and Taylor, the entire Long family, and all of his New Birth family. As I reflect on his life, I am especially remembering Bishop Long’s support during some of the most difficult times in my life…the passing of my mother in 2006, and the sudden and unexpected loss of my sister in 2007. During these devastating moments in my life, he was there for me and my family in many ways and I will forever be grateful.”

RELATED: Bishop Eddie Long recovering from 'health challenge'

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