Bishop Gary Oliver told a crowded New Birth Missionary Baptist Church on Sunday that Bishop Eddie Long’s legacy will live on and urged the congregation to “stay home” at New Birth.
“Just because our leader died doesn’t mean we died,” Bishop Gary Oliver, one of Long’s “spiritual sons” and pastor of Tabernacle of Praise church in Fort Worth, Texas, told a packed church on the first Sunday after Long’s death.
The charismatic Long died last Sunday after a battle against an aggressive form of cancer. He was 63.
“Do you know how many devils—oh y’all ain’t hearing me—got freaked out this morning just ‘cause you showed up?,” he said. “I can just hear the demons in hell running and screaming at each other. ‘Oh no, New Birth is up again. They threw off the spirit of heaviness. Look at them. They got on that mantle of praise.’ Ahhhh, we don’t sorrow like those who have no hope.”
He said there were a lot of “haters” who didn’t expect members to show up at service.
“The hardest thing in the world for me is to walk these halls of this building and not expect to see Dad come around the corner,” he said.
Oliver warned them that other churches are trying to poach New Birth’s congregation. He said he knows a God that is greater than death, pain and sorrow.
“This is the time to stay connected to family,” he said. “Stay with who you know and where you are known.”
With that he led the congregation, many of whom rose to their feet and raised their fists or hands, in chants of “This is our house! This is our house! Right here! Right now!”
Oliver was active in New Birth before it moved to its current location.
In a video on his Facebook page, taken at New Birth on Saturday, Oliver described the time in his life that he met Long. “For those of you who don’t know, I lost a boy about 18 years ago and Bishop Long brought me here to New Birth and just loved me back to life. There’s no way to describe the pain of losing a child at a young age of 17, but I tell you, this really comes close. Losing this great man and the influence he has had on my life has just been unbelievably painful.”
There has been much speculation about whether Long had a succession plan and who might step in to fill his sizable shoes. Some people say a successor would be named quickly, while others say there are enough “spiritual sons” and others who could serve as guest pastors for a while.
Long’s ministry was also plagued by scandal and controversy. He drew fire for speaking out against same sex marriage and homosexuality. The biggest threat, however, was in 2010, when four men sued Long in state court, claiming he abused his “spiritual authority” and gave them cars, clothes, cash and trips to lure them into sexual relationships while they were teens. The case was dismissed, and a settlement was eventually reached.
Long, though, was also a beloved figure among his congregation and in the community. He bought people cars, helped them find jobs, and gave them food and clothing.
New Birth has also changed it’s homepage to honor Long, who recently celebrated his 29th pastoral anniversary. It contains a photo of Long in a blue jacket and black slacks, and the date of birth and death. It’s set against a backdrop of a smiling Long during a service.
The service began with a rousing performance of the choir and praise dancers dressed in outfits of purple, gold and white. The congregation stayed on its feet during the opening. The main portion of the sanctuary was nearly full, and even parts that had been roped off in the rear of the church had a number of worshippers.
The church played a short video in which people paid tribute to Long, a man they described as God loving, humorous and dedicated to his church family. Several people said Long encouraged them to start their own businesses, helped them get their footing after spending time in prison or pushed them to pursue their dreams.
“He is worth double honor…quadruple the honor… he is worth the honor that we give the man of God,” said Elder Carla Stokes.”
The church’s television crew stayed after the only service on Sunday to allow members to continue to share their memories via video.
Funeral services for Eddie Long-- Visitation will be held 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday at New Birth, 6400 Woodrow Rd. in Lithonia, according to Gregory B. Levett & Sons Funeral Homes & Crematory, which is in charge of arrangements.
--The family requests that floral arrangements be in white or off-white.
An additional viewing will be held from 8 to 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, according to Carla Stokes, a church official.
--New Birth will provide transportation service from the Indian Creek MARTA station on Wednesday, beginning at 8:30 a.m. The bus will leave New Birth 15 minutes after the funeral has ended.
--Long is survived by his wife, Vanessa Long, and four children: Eric, Edward, Jared and Taylor; and three grandchildren.
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