By Leonardo Blair
The Christian Post
New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia, announced Monday that the homegoing service for the late Bishop Eddie Long will be held on Jan. 25.
Elder Craig Heath said during an early morning international prayer call that the service will begin at 11 a.m. and would celebrate Long’s life, sacrifice and service, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Further details on the service are still pending but church officials on the prayer call, which opened and closed with music, said they were still in the midst of working out their thoughts and feelings about the life and legacy of their departed leader.
The announcement of the death of the controversial preacher from an “aggressive cancer” at New Birth on Sunday had hit congregants like a seismic jolt that sent them to the ground and triggered open wailing.
“New Birth members fell down, cried, screamed when ministers announced death of Bishop Eddie Long,” Fox 5 reporter Marissa Mitchell, who was on location at the church, said Sunday.
New Birth leaders and members also appeared to be in a lurch concerning the church’s future but declared “faith is bigger than fear.”
Long revealed he was battling a “health challenge” last September amid widespread speculation about his health stemming from rapid weight loss in 2016. He had declared he was healed in October, however, after a month-long sabbatical away from the church.
“I’ve been on a journey and just recalibrating myself and like I said, I had some health issues and God has healed me. The manifestation is coming through and we stand in that,” Long told his then jubilant followers in a video recording of his pastoral anniversary service held Oct. 9.
He then appeared to parlay his pronouncement of healing into an inspiring moment for others in his church who needed to be healed like him.
“When I woke up this morning, God expressed to me that there are some of you who suffer in this congregation of chronic pain. You have to be controlled by painkillers. If I’m speaking to you jump in the aisle. There’s a healing balm in here,” the still gaunt preacher said in the video.
His church said on Sunday, however, that the healing was a spiritual one.
“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,” the church said in their announcement Sunday.
Members leaving the church appeared heartbroken and stunned over his death, even though they were aware he had a big fight on his hands.
“I’ve been watching him from when he was healthy to where the last couple of days you could see he was battling something very strong,” one church member, who said Long was used as a tool by God, told Fox 5. “Pastor was a really good father. My life was in ruins when I just got here. [I had depression] and a lot of these things he helped me work through.”
Ministers at the church also warned the congregation: “Let’s not let people destroy the legacy of a great man.”
Another member added in a video interview: “People who didn’t know and didn’t attend the church look at the positives that came from the church. We can all find negatives if we look for them. But look at the positives that came, and I think all the positives will speak for his legacy.”
LaTavia Roberson, one of the original members of the R&B group Destiny’s Child, said Long cried and prayed with her many times.
“I’m sadden by the (sic) lost of Bishop no will ever know how much this man has helped me, cried with me and prayed with me. No matter what the world said or thought about this man he still was bishop. I’m sending prayers out to the New Birth family but he is finally at peace,” she wrote on Instagram.
In a statement on Long’s death, megachurch pastor and businessman T.D. Jakes called the late pastor a “mighty man of valor.”
“We are deeply saddened by the passing of a mighty man of valor, embattled warrior, learned and beloved pastor and man I call friend, Bishop Eddie L. Long,” began Jakes. “We will miss his enigmatic catchphrase uttered just above a whisper, ‘watch this …;’ his love for the Gospel shared liberally and a ministry that impacted lives around the globe.”
Jakes also offered condolences to Long’s immediate and church families.
“To the New Birth family, no words can ease the pain of your loss. I pray for the balm of Gilead to heal your broken hearts. To his beloved widow, Vanessa, and his children who feel the brunt of the loss most deeply and profoundly, we pray for you especially. You have not a high priest who cannot empathize with your present circumstance,” he said. “We stand in the gap for you in your time of suffering, waiting patiently for the glory that is to be revealed to us. And pray that the God of all comfort would fill you to overflowing with a peace that passes all understanding.”
It has been reported that Long’s remains are now with the Gregory B. Levett and Sons Funeral Home and he might be eulogized by Jakes. Calls made to Jakes’ ministry on Monday went unanswered.
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 in its heyday under Long’s leadership. Lawsuits from several young men who accused Long of sexual impropriety in 2010, however, has left a stain on his ministry.