Carlton Pearson is an award-winning vocalist and fourth-generation Pentecostal preacher who was mentored by the late Dr. Oral Roberts. A young Pearson pastored one of the first megachurches long before they were as mainstream as they are today. However, the bishop stirred quite a scandal when he came out with his hell-free theology. Now, a movie about his life and the controversial gospel of inclusion is available on Netflix.
The former leader of Higher Dimensions Family Church in Tulsa was so popular that his annual Azusa Street conference drew 50,000 people to the Oral Roberts University Mabee Center. Pearson was a regular face on Christian television and a household name within and outside of the Christian community. This all changed in about 2000 when the Bishop underwent a theological shift and was labeled a heretic.
Pearson’s controversial gospel of inclusion put him outside of orthodox Christianity and forged a wedge between him and fellow clergy members, many of which had been longtime friends. A heretic is a person who has beliefs that are opposed to the standardized credence of a church and that the church considers wrong. Those who adhere to heresy are assumed to be lost, even if Christians are unable to make definitive judgments on the matter.
The author of “The Gospel of Inclusion” is excited to have his story released on the big screen. Pearson continues to rouse organized religion and raise controversial issues. The Bishop explores the exclusionary doctrines in mainstream religion and concludes that according to the evidence of the Bible and irrefutable logic, they cannot be true. He argues that the controlling dogmas of religion are the source of much of the world’s ills and that we should turn our attention to the real good news which is “we are all bound for glory.”
The Netflix original, which is based on his life, tells the story of a powerful religious figure who watched everything he had crumble due to a scandal. Following a revelation Pearson maintains he received from God, he began to preach that a loving God would not condemn most of the human race to hell because they are not Christian. He teaches followers that God does not belong to a particular religion. “Come Sunday” reveals the journey of one man’s quest to examine and teach a new truth.
For these beliefs, Bishop Pearson lost his thriving Pentecostal ministry but was seemingly catapulted instead into a greater pulpit. His readership has grown through appearances on national television and an extensive speaking schedule. With the world in the midst of a holy war, the season is ripe for Pearson to reach a global audience. According to the preacher’s website:
Today Pearson’s ministry targets specifically and primarily the ‘un or less-churched.’ He makes his appeal to those who feel spiritually unresolved. His ministry now addresses issues of spiritual, social, moral, cultural, religious and political significance in a practical, yet provocative manner relating faith to culture. He likes to call himself a Sacred Activist and Spiritual Progressive and is a strong proponent of justice and peace issues.
Many “fans” are compelled by the Bishop. Not only is he extremely charismatic as a preacher, but because he did something very courageous. He reexamined his core beliefs and then upon further review revised them. At the risk of losing it all, Pearson declared his new truth under the eye of thousands and thousands of people that believed in him.
“Come Sunday” which is produced and financed by Endgame Entertainment (Looper) follows the story of Pearson. To the surprise of many, the screenwriter for the movie is an atheist named Marcus Hinchey. The Netflix film based on Pearson’s controversial gospel of inclusion released on April 13, 2018.
By Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
This American Life: Heretics
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NPR: The Evangelical Bishop Who Stopped Believing In Hell, Now On Netflix
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