Since the death of Bishop Eddie Long in January 2017, Atlanta-area megachurch New Birth Missionary Baptist Church has struggled to find a leader that can match the vigor of its late leader.
The first replacement was Bishop Steven A. Davis, who ran a successful satellite church tied to New Birth in Birmingham, Alabama. Davis resigned from New Birth in 2018, and now the church leadership has named social activist Pastor Jamal Bryant, 46, to helm the pulpit.
Bryant will be leaving Empowerment Church, which he founded in 2000, in Baltimore, Maryland. Bryant built the church from an initial congregation of 47 to an astounding 10,000 members today. The incoming pastor has Atlanta connections and is familiar with the city, having graduated from Morehouse College in 1994 and pledged Kappa Alpha Psi. He went on to earn his Master of Divinity degree from Duke University in 2005 as well as his doctorate from the Graduate Theological Foundation.
He has a history of social activism that has gained him national attention on several occasions. Most famously he was heavily involved in the fight for justice in the death of Trayvon Martin as well as issues involving affordable housing, voter registration and street violence in Black communities.
Bryant was raised African Methodist Episcopal, and his parents, Bishop John Richard Bryant and the Rev. Cecilia Williams-Bryant, both hold offices within the AME Church. Bryant is a divorced father of five daughters, and his ex-wife, Gizelle Bryant, is one of the stars of the reality show “The Real Housewives of Potomac.”
When Long died, the church was still dealing with a series of negative publicity that revolved around his alleged sexual activities with young men. It was a scandal that had a devastating effect on his ministry and the church that resulted in many members leaving and others demanding that Long step down from the pulpit he founded and grew to more than 20,000 members.