Bishop Stephen A. Davis, who stepped in as interim senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in DeKalb County after the death of Bishop Eddie Long, has resigned.
A national search will be launched for his successor.
Thomas W. Dortch Jr. , chairman of the church’s board, said the “strain on Bishop Davis from having to come back and forth from Birmingham to Atlanta weekly while maintaining his other churches - one in Birmingham and one in Tuscaloosa - became a major challenge for him.”
Dortch, a prominent Atlanta businessman, also said it was also difficult for Davis to be away from his family “and that is quite understandable.”
Dortch said the board has asked Bishop Dale C. Bronner of Word of Faith Family Worship Cathedral in Austell, Bishop Neil C. Ellis of Global United Fellowship, based in the Bahamas, and Elder Vanessa Long, the wife of the late New Birth senior pastor to be part of that team, among others.
He said there will also be several “listening sessions” at the church so members can weigh in on what they want in a new pastor.
He said the new senior pastor is someone who is a “visionary” “energetic” and can “inspire our congregation and rebuild those various community ministries and missions that we used to have at New Birth.”
The current board is also likely to be expanded, he said.
Earlier Wednesday, the church in Stonecrest issued a statement which appears to be Davis’ public first comments since resigning. The statement said Davis considered leaving to be “bittersweet.”
“I love my New Birth Family both in Birmingham and Stonecrest,” Davis said in the statement . “ However, at this time my wife, my children and the New Birth Birmingham family need my full attention. We will remain a New Birth Church in Birmingham and maintain a relationship with the New Birth Stonecrest Congregation.”
Elder Vanessa Long, the widow of Bishop Eddie Long, said she is “grateful that Bishop Davis honored the wishes of my late husband by serving New Birth at a time of need. We pray God’s Blessings over him, his wife, First Lady Darlene, and the Birmingham church family.”
Davis could not be reached directly for comment. Several calls were made to his church in Birmingham, where he is still senior pastor. A woman who answered the phone in Birmingham said he would release a statement later.
Dortch said New Birth “would really like to thank Bishop Davis for his dedication and commitment and for stepping in at one of the greatest times of loss for the New Birth family.”
Long, an influential and controversial pastor, died in January 2017 from an aggressive form of cancer.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.