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Celebrating the Legacy of a General: Bishop Eddie L. Long

Reflections on Bishop Eddie L. Long

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Bishop Eddie L. Long

                                 May 12, 1953 – January 15, 2017

 

Thousands of family and friends from near and afar attended the homegoing celebration for New Birth Missionary Baptist Church’s Bishop Eddie L. Long on Jan. 25, 2017. The crowd packed the church to say farwell and pay their respects to his wife, Elder Vanessa Long, the Long children, grandchildren and other family members.

The long-time pastor of the mega church in Lithonia, Georgia died after courageously battling an aggressive cancer. He was 63.

During the six-hour celebration, which was streamed live over the internet, dozens of leaders and others remembered the good deeds that Bishop Long did in the community–from being the largest faith-based donor of blood donations for the American Red Cross and a faithful benefactor to Hosea Feed the Hungry to buying Championship rings for high school football and basketball teams and sending off a local school’s band to the Rose Bowl Parade. Those who gave testimonials recalled that Bishop Long was a man who freely gave, making down payments for homes and appliances to single mothers, providing cars to those who had no transportation, and serving as mentors to business people and ex-offenders alike.

“Bishop Long’s life was a life lived for others. He was one of the most generous persons I have ever met,” said the eulogist, the Rev. Neil C. Ellis, presiding Bishop of Global United Fellowship in Nassau, Bahamas.

Ellis, who delivered a poignant message. said Bishop Long emptied himself as spiritual leaders and Christians should and he admonished those who spoke ill of controversies surrounding Bishop Long.

“Say what you wish. Eddie L. Long died empty. Please, people, let him alone now. Please let my friend rest in peace,” Bishop Ellis said during his remarks.

Bishop Long not only impacted the local community. His ministry made a profound impact worldwide. He launched a weekly international prayer line that reached 3.5 million people throughout 97 nations. Through his “Taking Authority” broadcast that aired weekly in 120 countries on Trinity Broadcasting Network, he reached 2.6 billion viewers. The tributes at the celebration were made in person, by videos, through proclamations and resolutions, songs and liturgical dance.

Bishop Long’s wife remembered him as husband father, a man a fun-loving man who imparted wisdom even when he was playing around the house.

“Bishop could be so much fun.. He was so silly. His favorite thing was to make turkey burgers but he would impart wisdom to the kids while he was cooking,” said a smiling Vanessa Long, who said even though he appeared larger than life, he would take out the trash. She talked about how much Bishop Long would be missed but assured the congregation, it was well prepared to carry on his legacy.

“We’re going to get back to the business of ministry. We’re going to serve the community,” said Elder Long.

 

Among the dignitaries who attended were former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes, Congressman Hank Johnson, Xernona Clayton founder of the Trumpet Awards, Deion Sanders, professional football and baseball player, DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond,Dr. Ralph Simpson, DeKalb County Regional Superintendent for Region V, Thomas L. Battles, Jr., grand pole march of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., and George R. Hamilton chairman of North Carolina Central University Board of Trustees.

The Rev. Kenneth Pearman of Poconos, PA gave the invocation. The Holy Scriptures were read by the Rev. Gary Oliver (Old Testament) and the Rev. C. Carl Smith (New Testament). The Rev. Stephen A. Davis of Birmingham, Alabama led the congregation in the consolation scriptures.

Recording gospel artist Dottie Peoples, the Rev. William Murphy, the Rev. Byron Cage, Penny Ray and the New Birth Memorial Choir were among those who ministered through musical selections.

 

Reflections on Bishop Eddie L. Long

By Thomas Coleman

Bishop Eddie L. Long was truly a man ahead of his time. He came to Atlanta as a young man seeking to find his vision in the spiritual world. He already had the wisdom and vision of a seasoned spiritual minister. Much like a seasoned farmer who knew how to nourish the seeds of growth on a spiritual farm, Bishop Long knew how to nourish the seeds of growth in the religious community and he took a church of the few and within a few years grew their hopes and spirit to a church of thousands.

The Bishop didn’t just spearhead the concept of prosperity within the church, he did it throughout the community. He preached, taught and sowed the seeds of prosperity by encouraging his membership and the community to do for others through leadership and examples. It was a common occurrence during his Sunday Services that he would usually seek out someone of great need and find ways of helping them. Sometime it was a family that was homeless, or a single mother with children and without food or rent money. Sometimes, it would be a family without a vehicle or without means to get to work. Bishop Long would set the example by helping that person himself, then, he would call upon the congregation to give whatever they could. He would follow that gesture by reminding all to not judge the recipients by their ability to manage what they just received, but to pray that God will lead them to play it forward with gifts and blessings to others. His messages would be punctuated with the phrase: “Watch This,” meaning pay close attention, something is coming.

Back in the early nineties, I had the opportunity to work Bishop. I served as the Chief Deputy Commissioner of the State Department of Juvenile Justice. Bishop Long served as a State Board Member of the Department. He was appointed by Gov. Roy Barnes and the Commissioner was Eugene P. Walker. Bishop Long took his appointment seriously and he was a champion of the rights and welfare of the youths who were the ward of the system. He worked to ensure that the department provided the security, the treatment, education and overall support that the youths in the juvenile justice system required. He championed a project called “Project Destiny, one that was created as an outreach ministry within his church. It was an exceptional program designed to assist the youths who were without a high school diploma or certificate or without any training or skill to secure work.

Within the past year and a half, Bishop Long learned of my daughter’s (Donna Coleman Stribling) political campaign for DeKalb County Solicitor General. He immediately sent a campaign contribution and his best wishes. Upon her victory, he sent his congratulations and more importantly, he expressed his congratulations again to me for our family success

Bishop Eddie Long was indeed a mountain of a man, a spiritual man, a role model for service to our youths through the church and the community.

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