Bishop Eddie Long, a controversial megachurch pastor, has died at the age of 63 after a battle with an aggressive cancer, according to his Atlanta church.
Long had been reportedly battling health issues for the past few months and In September 2016, Long released a statement that said he was recovering from a “health challenge” in response to reports that he had been recently hospitalized.
He never publicly disclosed what his illness was.
“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.”
The pastor delivered his last sermon on New Year’s Eve.
Long had pastored the church, which at its peak had 25,000 members, since 1987, but in 2010 four young men accused the pastor of coercing them into sexual relationships while they were teenagers and members of his congregation, which dropped membership to 10,000.
They each told similar stories of Long approaching them in their early teens, calling them spiritual sons and offering them money, cars and trips to exotic locations, according to reports.
The lawsuits were eventually settled.
While I reject all cruel jokes memes directed at Eddie Long, I also reject that some other day is better to speak up for his victims.
— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) January 15, 2017
While the news of his death has caused many different reactions, Aaliyah Butler, a congregation member, said Long had helped her personally, according to AJC.
The mother of four said he “mentored” her oldest son, now grown, when he was younger and had gotten into “some trouble.”
“I think his mentorship helped lead him on a direct path,” Butler said.
In this Friday, July 10, 2015 photo, children gather around Essam Sayed, a 45-year-old “mesaharati,” or dawn caller, as he wakes people up for a meal before sunrise, during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, in the Arab Ghoneim district of Helwan on the southern outskirts of Cairo, Egypt. Each night, Sayed, sets out after midnight on his donkey “Aziza” banging his small drum, chanting traditional religious phrases and calling out on residents by name to wake them in time for the vital pre-dawn meal known as âsuhour.â (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)