Carlton Pearson, Pastor Deemed a Heretic for Denying Hell, Dies at 70

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Bishop Carlton D. Pearson, an evangelical pastor who was abandoned by his massive congregation after declaring that hell doesn’t exist and advocating homosexual rights — and whose story was informed in a 2018 Netflix film — died on Sunday in Tulsa, Okla. He was 70.

His demise, in a hospice care heart, was brought on by most cancers, his agent, Will Bogle, mentioned.

Earlier than he was solid out by the evangelical institution, Bishop Pearson was one among its main lights: a board member of Oral Roberts College, an adviser to President George W. Bush on religion initiatives and one of many nation’s first Black televangelists.

An annual revival that Bishop Pearson led, the Azusa Conference in Tulsa, a mixture of ministry and music, drew as many as 20,000 individuals and spun off best-selling gospel data.

The night services have been at all times sprinkled with heavy, heavy hitters within the gospel trade,” mentioned Yolanda Adams, a Grammy Award-winning singer whose profession took off after an invite from Bishop Pearson. On the convention in 1996, a bunch of evangelical leaders declared him “a bishop within the Lord’s church.”

However his fall was decisive as soon as he questioned core doctrines, resulting in his formal branding as a heretic and the lack of most of his congregation.

Whereas watching a TV report within the Nineties on kids ravenous in the course of the Rwanda genocide, Bishop Pearson had an epiphany. He couldn’t imagine that God would consign harmless souls to hell who had not accepted Jesus Christ as savior earlier than their deaths. He concluded that hell doesn’t exist, besides as earthly distress created by human beings; that God loves all mankind; and that everybody is already saved.

It was a view he shared in interviews and preached at his church, the Increased Dimensions Household Church, which he co-founded in 1981 and which grew into one of many largest in Tulsa, identified for its multiracial pews in a metropolis and a religion, evangelical Christianity, that was largely segregated.

“I imagine that most individuals on planet Earth will go to heaven, due to Calvary, due to the unconditional love of God and the redemptive work of the cross, which is already completed,” Bishop Pearson informed The Tulsa World in 2002, including that he included Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists among the many beloved. “I’m re-evaluating every thing,” he mentioned.

The doctrine, generally known as common salvation and which Bishop Pearson referred to as the “gospel of inclusion,” is an outdated one in theology, however it’s rejected by many Christian church buildings, together with the conservative denomination that ordained him, the Church of God in Christ, the nation’s largest Black Pentecostal group.

In 2004, the Joint School of African-American Pentecostal Bishops declared Bishop Pearson a heretic. It mentioned Christians who adopted him “put in danger the everlasting future of their souls.” The evangelical chief Oral Roberts, who had been a mentor to Bishop Pearson, denounced him in a 12-page letter. Bishop T.D. Jakes, one of many nation’s most distinguished evangelical pastors, informed Charisma Journal that Bishop Pearson’s theology was “improper, false, deceptive and an incorrect interpretation of the Bible.”

On Monday, in a statement on social media, Bishop Jakes, the pastor of the 30,000-member Potter’s Home church in Dallas, didn’t point out theological variations however wrote that Bishop Pearson had given him a platform for his preaching on the Azusa gathering when he was simply beginning out. “I’ll perpetually be glad about his discernment at the moment when he was so distinguished and I used to be unknown,” he mentioned.

Following the logic of common salvation, Bishop Pearson stopped preaching that homosexuality was a sin. “We simply love individuals,” he informed his congregation. “And we’re essentially the most radically inclusive worship expertise within the metropolis of Tulsa.”

In 2007, he and different non secular leaders lobbied Congress to go protections in opposition to hate crimes focusing on homosexual individuals. “The difficulty of not particular however equal rights for God’s same-gender-loving kids is an ethical crucial in each neighborhood in America,” he mentioned throughout the road from the Capitol. (The measure, which Congress handed, died after a veto threat by President George W. Bush, nevertheless it was signed into law in 2009 by President Barack Obama.)

Due to Bishop Pearson’s apostasy, attendance at his church dwindled from hundreds to mere lots of, affiliate pastors give up, and he misplaced the church constructing in a foreclosures. Oral Roberts College, the evangelical establishment in Tulsa, denied him use of its campus for his Azusa gatherings, and he resigned from the college board. When Bishop Pearson, a Republican, misplaced a 2002 race for mayor of Tulsa, he blamed the controversy over his theology.

However he additionally discovered a brand new viewers amongst some liberal Christians and within the nationwide information media. He grew to become a minister within the United Church of Christ, some of the liberal Christian denominations in America. His branding as a heretic was coated intimately in an episode of the general public radio present “This American Life” in 2005.

That broadcast was the premise for the Netflix biopic “Come Sunday,” starring Chiwetel Ejiofor as Bishop Pearson and Martin Sheen as Oral Roberts. Simon & Schuster supplied Bishop Pearson a e book deal, and he wrote “The Gospel of Inclusion” (2009), through which he declared, “We’re all sure for glory.” One other e book, “God Is Not a Christian, Nor a Jew, Muslim, Hindu …,” adopted two years later.

Carlton D’Metrius Pearson was born on March 19, 1953, in San Diego to Adam and Lillie Ruth (Johnson) Pearson. Each his father and grandfather have been ministers. The Pentecostal church he was raised in forbade smoking and consuming, however he discovered loads of pleasure in church: As Bishop Pearson informed “This American Life,” he as soon as “solid the satan” out of a girlfriend throughout a youth revival.

He attended Oral Roberts College however left shy of a level to start out his personal ministry in 1977. His marriage in 1993 to Gina Marie Gauthier resulted in divorce.

He’s survived by his mom; 5 siblings, Antonya Robinson, Renee Godbey, Gail Moore, Monica Pearson and Elector Pearson; a son, Prince Julian Pearson; and a daughter, Majestè Amour Pearson.

Mr. Bogle, Bishop Pearson’s agent, mentioned he typically requested him about whether or not he regretted the lack of status, earnings and worshipers that adopted his turning away from Pentecostal Christian orthodoxy.

“I mentioned, ‘You’ve misplaced some huge cash, don’t you suppose it’s best to have simply shut up?’” Mr. Bogle mentioned. “He would at all times say, ‘No, I don’t imagine I made a mistake.’”