Wagswoofs – According to his agent, the founder of a former megachurch in Oklahoma, who was once labeled a heretic and lost some followers but also gained new ones after espousing his beliefs in support of gay rights and rejecting the concept of hell, has passed away.
At the age of 70, Bishop Carlton Pearson passed away on Sunday night while receiving hospice care in Tulsa. According to his agent, Will Bogle, his death was caused by cancer.
During the initial days of his ministry, he was regarded as a promising talent in the Pentecostal preaching community. He made numerous appearances on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, which helped him gain a global following.
In 1977, Pearson began his ministry which led to the establishment of Higher Dimensions Family Church in Tulsa in 1981. The church was later renamed as New Dimensions Church and its membership grew to about 6,000 by the start of the 21st century.
In 2008, Pearson’s teaching of “the gospel of inclusion,” which does not acknowledge the concept of hell, caused a significant drop in membership to only a few hundred.
Back in 2004, the Joint College of African-American Pentecostal Bishops Congress labeled Pearson’s teachings on hell as heretical, following his defense of his views at a doctrinal forum a year prior.
According to Religion News Service, Bishop Clifford Leon Frazier, the chairman of the joint college’s doctrinal commission, wrote a statement declaring Bishop Carlton Pearson a heretic due to the concern for the many individuals that may be influenced to adopt this heresy, which could potentially put the eternal destiny of their souls at risk.
When Pearson stood by his beliefs, he made the difficult decision to resign from the board of regents at Oral Roberts University, his alma mater in Tulsa. This move caused a rift between Pearson and his mentor, the university’s founder, and evangelist Oral Roberts.
According to Bogle, Pearson expressed his belief that he had not committed any error regarding his theological shift.
Bogle remarked that Bishop Pearson’s controversial beliefs on salvation made people re-evaluate their own perspectives. Despite his polarizing reputation, Bogle noted that Pearson was a kind-hearted and humble individual who genuinely cared about others.
Back in 2007, Pearson played a significant role in leading a group of clergy members from all over the United States in advocating for the passing of crucial hate crime and employment discrimination laws for the gay community.
Other evangelical leaders shunned Pearson, labeling him a heretic. He eventually became a United Church of Christ minister. Higher Dimensions ultimately lost its building to foreclosure, and Pearson preached his final sermon there in September 2008. The church was later absorbed into All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa.
Currently, he holds the position of an affiliate minister at All Souls.
The church has released a statement urging individuals to take a moment and reflect on how Bishop Pearson has impacted their lives, following the news of his passing. They encourage people to contemplate on the love and wisdom he has shared with them and to think about how they can pass on these valuable lessons to others.
Upon learning of the passing of a man he considered a mentor, The Rev. Robert Turner, who served as a pastor at Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church in Tulsa until 2021, expressed his deep dismay.
Turner, a pastor at the Empowerment Temple AME in Baltimore, reminisces about meeting Pearson back in 2017 when he arrived in Tulsa. Reflecting on their encounter, Turner describes Pearson’s words as being both poignant and prophetic.
The 2018 Netflix movie, “Come Sunday,” starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, was based on the extensive coverage of his story in a public radio episode of “This American Life” after the downfall of his previous ministry.
In 2002, Pearson attempted to run for Tulsa mayor but was not successful in his campaign. He attributed his loss to the negative response from the public towards his teachings.
Recently, he worked as a life coach at New Dimensions, where he conducted a weekly live broadcast on Facebook and YouTube.
In August, Pearson shared a video on social media that seemed to have been recorded in a hospital room. In the video, he revealed that he had been battling cancer for two decades.
Back in September, he revealed in a video that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer twenty years ago. However, in recent times, he has been diagnosed with bladder cancer.
Pearson bravely expressed, “I am confronted with the possibility of death, but I do not fear it. Even the act of dying does not frighten me.”
Pearson boldly declared that he does not fear God. However, he admitted that if there was anyone he would be afraid of, it would be some of God’s supposed followers. He described them as “mean sons of biscuit eaters,” a phrase his brother used to use.
Back in 1995, Pearson referred to Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” for promoting ideas that were the complete opposite of Martin Luther King Jr.’s teachings. Pearson also denounced the “Million Man March” that Farrakhan had organized in Washington, D.C. to bring African Americans together and promote family values.
In 2000, Pearson was part of a group of 30 clergy members who provided guidance on faith-based social programs to then-President-elect George W. Bush.
In addition to his various accomplishments, Pearson has also written books such as “The Gospel of Inclusion: Reaching Beyond Religious Fundamentalism to the True Love of God.” He was even featured in the documentary film American Heretics: The Politics of the Gospel.
According to Bogle, Pearson’s mother, son, daughter, and former wife are the ones left to mourn his passing.