Bishop Eddie Long, the controversial leader of one of the nation’s largest megachurches, has died, according to the suburban Atlanta church he presided over. He was 63.

Long died after a battle with an aggressive form of cancer, according to a statement by the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. Long was a national figure and one of the most innovative and polarizing pastors in the contemporary church. He was also a paradox.
  • He was a preacher who led an infamous march against same-sex marriage and denounced homosexuality, but he also settled a lawsuit by four young men who said he pressured them into sexual relationships.
  • He was a man who wore tight muscle shirts and radiated self-confidence but used to throw up before sermons because he was so nervous.
  • He was a man who gave away cars and paid the college tuition of needy people, but he also was investigated by Congress after a charity he created had provided him with a million-dollar home and a Bentley luxury car.

“When he spoke, black people all over the country listened to him,” said Shayne Lee, a sociologist who studies the black Pentecostal church. “He was part of the repackaging of Christianity for post-civil rights African-Americans.” Long’s wife, who stood by him through his rise and fall from national fame, released a statement. “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,” Vanessa Long said.

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