LITHONIA,GA- AT 10:36 Wednesday morning a capacity filled New Birth Missionary Baptist Church settled in to pay their final respects to Bishop Eddie Long. At the beginning of the service, there were ninety five seats empty with eight of them reserved for the media (I counted). The open casket service displayed Long’s body draped in the colors of white, gold and lilac that was almost pageantry like. Selections of praise and worship followed until about 11:05.
At that time, Long’s casket was closed. It was then led from the church with the crowd on their feet responding with applause and tears.
A bevy of speakers followed with an array of poignant stories about the pastor. They were limited to two minutes each and in most cases they adhered to the time parameter.
The speakers included ex-governor Roy Barnes, NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders as well as speakers from the faith based community. Former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes recalled Long as a friend and confidant. But it was Deion Sanders who had the crowd on their feet delivering his two minutes, resembling almost a sermon. “This man taught me how to face adversity, this man taught me how to stand in the midst of the storm,” said Sanders  during the service. “This man taught me so much of how to even be a man,”said Sanders. He continued with,”This man is real and just perhaps, perhaps, perhaps all the media, all the naysayers, all the doubters, perhaps, perhaps you were wrong about this man,” Sanders said.
The reference seemed to be about a case back in 2010. Four young men filed lawsuits accusing Long of sexual misconduct. Lawyers for the four accused Long of seducing them into sexual relationships in exchange for trips, clothes and cars. The case was settled out of court with no admission of wrongdoing.

Long was senior pastor at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church for nearly 30 years. He died Jan. 15 after battling cancer. He was 63.

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