Bishop C.L. Long, a charismatic District pastor who was a dominant voice on radio and television for nearly four decades and was known for his high-octane preaching and gospel concerts at his Scripture Cathedral church, died March 21 at a hospital in Baltimore. He was 74.
The cause was kidney disease, said his son Clarence Donnell Long.
Bishop Long was pastor of the Scripture Cathedral church in Washington for more than 50 years. Every Thursday night, he hosted what he called “the largest prayer meeting in the nation’s capital,” and his church boasted of a congregation of 3,000 souls.
He was a remnant of an era when preachers were spiritual icons on the AM radio dial, long before the Internet, YouTube and satellite radio. Bishop Long used his electronic pulpit to preach, pray and advertise everything from concerts to fried fish, barbecued chicken and the latest lunch specials at the church’s cafe, “The Blue Room.” Known for his outsize personality and flamboyant style, he wore well-tailored suits and owned a Rolls-Royce.
Bishop Long was part of the Radio One family for 37 years, first on WYCB (1340 AM) WYCB and then WPRS-FM, known as Praise 104.1. His programs would always begin with a soul-stirring gospel selection, followed by tearful confessions from radio callers and concluded with one of his sermons from “the Cathedral.”
“Bishop Long was staple on WYCB for more than 37 years,” said Karen Jackson, general sales manager for Radio One. “He was one of our first pastors who would do his broadcast live from our studios and from church.”
Bishop Long enjoyed tackling thorny issues that were often connected to the latest of his many books. One book, “What About the Woman,” examined the issue of whether a woman should preach. He also wrote a great deal about baptism.
He welcomed several controversial figures to his church, including Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan on the eve of the Million Man March in 1995. He also gave O.J. Simpson the pulpit after the former football star was acquitted by a Los Angeles jury on murder charges.
Scripture Cathedral was involved in many relief efforts, including Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Haiti earthquake in 2010. The church staged many Thanksgiving giveaways of turkey dinners.
“Rev. Long was a spiritual icon who was a major player in the community and abroad,” said the Rev. Charlene Monk, pastor of the New Horizon Christian Center. “During the time of Hurricane Katrina he went down there and was always giving out food, clothing and water.”
Over the years, the Scripture Cathedral was embroiled in several racially charged issues surrounding the growing gentrification of its Shaw neighborhood. There was a particularly charged period in 2006, when a gay bar was seeking city approval to open across the street from the church at 9th and O streets NW.
“If this is a gay club, that’s bad for the kids,” Bishop Long told The Washington Post at the time. “I’ve been a pastor in Shaw for 46 years. Folks need to understand that this church, all churches, play a big part in the community. I have my own opinion on the gay lifestyle, but I don’t fight them — they’re welcome to come to our church, because I’m in the business of changing lives.”
In 2013, when it was reported that the church had reached an agreement to sell its District sanctuary for $10 million to move to Maryland, Bishop Long explained that he wasn’t leaving the Shaw neighborhood but was going to have “one church at two locations.”
The Scripture Cathedral currently holds services at its original location and in Landover, Md.
Clarence Lee Long was born March 19, 1941, in Bedford, Va. He was a 1958 graduate of Luther Jackson High School in Fairfax County.
He became a minister at the age of 18 and opened the Scripture Cathedral a year later. He attended Washington Bible College and the Howard University School of Divinity and was a resident of Bowie, Md.
Survivors include his wife of 54 years, Joanne Lee Long of Bowie; three children, Clarence Donnell Long, assistant pastor of Scripture Cathedral, of Bowie; Edward Long of Fort Washington, Md.; and Chantell Moses of Largo, Md; a brother, Marvin Long Sr. of Ashburn, Va.; a sister, Debbie Long of Arlington, Va.; and five grandchildren.