Mega church pastor Bishop Eddie Long died at 63 years old Sunday after a long battle with cancer, according to a statement from his church.
Long was the overseer of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia.
"Today it is with great sadness I announce that our bishop has transitioned,” Bishop Christopher C. Smith told the church Sunday.
"He's no longer in pain,” Smith added. "He's no longer dealing with the complications that he had to deal with."
Long acknowledged that he was having health challenges in September, but did not provide details about his diagnosis.
According to Fox 5 Atlanta, Long released a YouTube video addressing his dramatic weight loss. He said that he was working on muscle-tone after switching to a plant-based diet.
During a New Year's Eve service, Long reportedly told the church that "God was already working in our favor and what we have been praying for was already manifested," the release said.
Long became the pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist church in 1987 and at one point attendance grew from 300 to its peak of 25,000.
Throughout his ministry, Long was an outspoken proponent against same-sex marriage and homosexuality. However, in 2010 he settled a lawsuit filed by four young men who said he pressured them into sexual relationships.
Long, who sponsored “Sexual Reorientation” classes to supposedly convert homosexuals to heterosexuals, denied the allegations and said he only mentored the men.
There were no criminal charges filed against him, but Long's ministry never recovered as attendance quickly dropped
That was not the first time controversy swirled around the mega church pastor. In 2007, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) announced an investigation into the tax-exempt status of six megachurches including New Birth by the U.S. Committee on Finance.
A charity that Long created to help the needy was under investigation for giving Long a $1.4 million, six-bedroom, nine-bath home and more than $1 million in salary, CNN reported. Long refused to cooperate with the investigation and no charges were filed.
Despite the controversy, congregants remember Long for his commitment to God and the African American church.
When he spoke, black people all over the country listened to him," said Shayne Lee, a sociologist who studies the black Pentecostal church, told CNN. "He was part of the repackaging of Christianity for post-civil rights African-Americans."
In 2006, the church was chosen by the family of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to host and officiate the funeral for matriarch Coretta Scott King.
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."