“We are saddened to inform you that Bishop Carlton D’Metrius Pearson, one of the most popular and influential preachers in America and around the world, who sacrificed everything for a message of unconditional love and acceptance by God, died peacefully the night of November 19, 2023, at the age of 70, after a brief battle with cancer that had returned after first defeating it 20 years ago,” read the post on Pearson’s Facebook page.
The post added that Pearson was surrounded by his family when he passed.
Pearson’s agent Will Bogle told the Associated Press that Pearson died Sunday night in hospice care in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Carlton Pearson’s early life
Founder of a former megachurch in Oklahoma, Higher Dimensions, Inc., Pearson moved to the state in 1971 to study at Oral Roberts University, as per the Facebook post. He was invited by Oral Roberts to join the World Action Singers and eventually became an associate evangelist with the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association in 1975.
In 1977, Pearson launched his own ministry Higher Dimensions, Inc., and was considered to be a rising star on the Pentecostal preaching circuit, according to the AP. Pearson made frequent appearances on television which helped him connect with a bigger national and international audience and expand his following. He was one of only two African American preachers with a nationwide television ministry, the Facebook post said.
Pearson expanded his ministry in 1981, founding the Higher Dimensions Family Church in Tulsa — later known as New Dimensions Church.
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‘Gospel of inclusion’
Over the next couple of years, Pearson would continue to gather momentum and followers until 2008, when he began to teach what he called “the Gospel of Inclusion,” a form of universalism, which did not recognize hell, according to AP.
“At the height of his popularity, Bishop Pearson had a shift in his theological beliefs, and began to preach that Jesus did not just die for and save Christians, but for all mankind, and that no one goes to hell as we’ve known it,” said the Facebook post on Pearson’s account.
The post said that the shift in belief resulted in churches closing their doors on Pearson and shunning him, which eventually caused his followers to abandon him as well. He was labeled a “heretic” by his colleagues and the Joint College of African-American Pentecostal Bishops Congress. Soon after Pearson resigned from the board of regents of his alma mater, Oral Roberts University and split with the university’s founder and his mentor — evangelist Oral Roberts. Higher Dimensions was also shut down, as the church was taken over by the All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa. Pearson delivered his last sermon there in 2008.
Pearson’s life and the “Gospel of Inclusion” was dramatized in a Netflix film titled “Come Sunday.”
The film, that saw Chiwetel Ejiofor as the fiery Pentecostal pastor, was released in April 2018 and was directed by Joshua Marston. The filmmaker told USA TODAY that he was fascinated by Pearson’s inspiring, faith-filled journey.
“Here’s a man who prayed and contemplated, and ultimately said, ‘I’ve changed what I believe.’ It takes tremendous courage to examine and revise your beliefs,” Marston said. “This is a powerful story of a man stood up for what he believed even in the face of severe criticism.”
The film that was adapted from a 2005 episode of public radio’s “This American Life” was a standout when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Other cast members include Lakeith Stanfield, Jason Segel, Danny Glover and Martin Sheen (as Pearson’s mentor, Oral Roberts).
Cancer and illness
In August earlier this year, Pearson, in a social media video appeared to have been shot in a hospital room, revealed that he had been fighting prostate cancer for almost 20 years.
Pearson leaves “a legacy of love through the multiplied thousands of lives he touched during his time on earth and the impartation of grace and mercy he preached and exhibited to everyone he encountered,” said the Facebook post.
The final rites for the deceased have not yet been decided and the Pearson family has requested everyone to allow them privacy “during this challenging time”.
Pearson is survived by his mother, a son, a daughter and his former wife, Bogle told AP.