A week after being announced as the new senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church following the death of Bishop Eddie Long, Bishop Stephen A. Davis declared that the church would not be going down and that they would rise again.
"They thought we wasn't going to get over the transition of our father but our sweet days are here!" said Davis, who was wearing an Atlanta Falcons jersey at the pulpit of New Birth on Super Bowl Sunday, as the congregation cheered. "They thought we were always going to be down; they thought we would never get up again. Rise up New Birth!"
Davis, who formerly led New Birth Birmingham — a New Birth church plant — under the spiritual guidance of Long, took the helm of the church on Jan. 29. He was named in a succession plan that was drawn up by Long, who died Jan. 15 after a battle with an aggressive form of cancer, and the Board of Director of New Birth.
"We've been mourning, we've been hurting," Davis said as he spoke to the congregation Sunday. "But after we're done mourning and after we're done hurting, there's some sweet days showing up at New Birth!"
"We thank God for the legacy of Bishop Eddie L. Long but we thank God that there's some sweetness coming into these days that we're in right now. I dare you to celebrate your sweet days!" he said to applause.
New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia, has been marred by controversy since 2010 when four young men filed lawsuits against Long, claiming they were coerced into sexual relationships. A year later, Long as well as the church was hit with another lawsuit — this time involving a Ponzi scheme. Ten members of the church sued, accusing Long of using his influence to coerce them into investing with the former chief executive of City Capital Corp. in Chicago, Ephren Taylor. They claimed a loss of at least $1 million.
In 2016, Long was seen considerably thinner, with some speculating that he was ill. He later confirmed to The Christian Post that he was suffering from a "health challenge" that caused dramatic weight loss, but did not specify the illness at the time.
It wasn't until his death in January that New Birth confirmed that Long had cancer.
"Rise Up" was the theme for Sunday's sermon with Bishop Davis. He encouraged the congregation to look to the days ahead. "The devil is in trouble! God is with us!" he declared.