USA Today reports:
Bishop Eddie Long, pastor of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, died Sunday morning. In a statement, the church confirmed Long’s death from cancer-related causes.
“I am confident through my belief in God that my husband is now resting in a better place,” said Long’s wife, Vanessa. “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.”
Long was born May 12, 1953, in Huntersville, N.C. In 1987, he became the pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church which, at the time, had around 300 members. The church’s current membership now totals more than 25,000. In 2010, Long was accused of coercion by four male members of his congregation. The men, now in their 20s, filed separate civil lawsuits.
They each told similar stories of Long approaching them in their early teens, indoctrinating them as spiritual sons and offering them money, cars and trips to exotic locations. When all young men turned 17 or 18, they claimed, their relationships with Bishop Long turned sexual. The lawsuits were eventually settled.
Long regularly railed against homosexuality and LGBT rights in his sermons. In addition to the sex-related lawsuits, in 2013 more than a dozen parishioners sued Long for allegedly luring them into a Ponzi scheme that left than penniless.