- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 19, 2003

An Oklahoma preacher whose "Gospel of inclusion" has made his fellow clergyman decry him as a heretic remains undaunted in his belief that everyone is entitled to go to heaven.
The criticism of Bishop Carlton Pearson has extended beyond the church. Even his Christian dry cleaner shuns him.
"So several Muslim groups have offered to do my clothes," Bishop Pearson said with a laugh.
Muslims and other non-Christian believers are going to heaven, Bishop Pearson says. He also preaches there is no hell, all people are saved and Jesus Christ will not be returning to earth. All are unpopular ideas within the Christian faith.
Once a candidate for mayor of Tulsa, Bishop Pearson now sees his ministry in jeopardy because of his beliefs. But he is fighting back.
Bishop Pearson, who is black, will present his point of view in the Washington area tomorrow to the Joint College of African-American Pentecostal Bishops, a Cleveland-based group of 300 men. They will hear him at 9:30 a.m. at Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church in Northeast. At 7:30 p.m., he will speak at Word of Life Church International in Burke.
"I am not espousing his theology," said the Rev. Edred C. Bryan, Word of Life pastor, "but I do believe [Bishop Pearson] is a powerful vessel in the body of Christ. I don't think we ought to be tossing out anyone … so I am honored to have him here."
Bishop Pearson, who turns 50 today, has been a protege of Oral Roberts from his days as a student at Oral Roberts University. His Higher Dimensions Family Church has boasted more than 5,000 members, and he has appeared on "Larry King Live" and other CNN programs and on ABC's "Politically Incorrect."
His 1999 column, "There's No Better Time Than Now To Be a Black Republican," ran on editorial pages across the country.
"When I saw Vice President [Al] Gore pandering to the NAACP crowd, even emulating the stereotypical and rhetorical oratory of African-American preachers, my stomach turned," he wrote. "He and his liberal Democratic cronies assumed that if they played the music right, we'd dance to their tune, allowing them to maintain their typical African-American majority support and vote as they have for the last nearly 70 years. I was insulted by his presumption and disappointed by our gullibility."
Bishop Pearson clearly was on his way to becoming another T.D. Jakes or Kirbyjon Caldwell, who gained fame as conservative black Pentecostal preachers.
Seven years ago, the bishop began preaching his "Gospel of inclusion."
It conflicts with the traditional Christian view that salvation begins with repentance, then a conscious acceptance of Jesus as God in human flesh, followed by baptism to signify one's new life.
"We all feel we have to jump through hoops to please this intolerant and difficult-to-please God," the bishop said. "We think God is going to burn billions of people endlessly without any recourse. That sounds more like the devil than God.
"How can you say God's love is unconditional, but if I don't love Him back right, you go to hell?"
Christians, he said, "have made an idol out of Christ because Christ never pointed to himself. He was an expression of God. He was deity, but the Bible says we are all little gods. I think he intended to represent God but he didn't intend to create a religion around himself.
"Jesus came to be the door to God for everybody. I am not saying he is the only way. Muhammad has access to God. Buddha has access to God.
"You know what the Jews and Hindus and Muslims say to me? 'We don't have any problem with Jesus. It's his followers we cannot stomach.' I tell Christians to stop sending billions of people to hell."
It took awhile before Bishop Pearson's beliefs were revealed. In 2000, ORU denied him use of its facilities for an annual conference that attracted more than 20,000 people. ORU then forbade church buses to pick up students for services at Bishop Pearson's Higher Dimensions.
"You would think I am a child molester the way they treat me," he said.
However, Mr. Roberts, 84, "sent me a 12-page letter of fatherly instruction and correction. Oral said, 'You will always be my son and I will not let you get too far away from me.' And I cried."
Since his preaching of the "Gospel of inclusion," four associate pastors have left the church and attendance has fallen to 1,300.
"I lost some of my favorite friends," he said. "My offerings dropped by $20,000 to $30,000 each week. I laid off staff, from 100 people to 15. There are Christians in town who won't even look at me. They don't consider me a Christian anymore. It has really cost me to get the Gospel that I believe is accurate out."
Famous evangelists have castigated him in print and on TV. Mr. Jakes has called Bishop Pearson's theology "wrong, false, misleading and an incorrect interpretation of the Bible." Other black Pentecostal leaders have issued similar denunciations.
Some have connected him with E.W. Kenyon, a "faith movement" minister who is credited with introducing unconventional ideas into charismatic and Pentecostal theology. Bishop Pearson says he has read three of Mr. Kenyon's books.
"I say the emphasis is not on you accepting God but the Gospel is that God accepts you," he said. "I am taking onus off of man and his fickle choice and putting it on God who is sovereign. Everyone says we are free moral agents, but you didn't choose your birth, your gender, your ethnicity, even your Social Security number. You didn't choose being born the first time, so why should you choose whether you are born a second time?"
The Pentecostal bishops hearing him tomorrow will issue a reaction to his speech, but Bishop Pearson is not waiting for their approval.
The church, he said, is "addressing unanswered questions with canned answers. It is becoming increasingly irrelevant. It does not relate to the 21st century."
He takes comfort in writings by other mavericks, such as retired Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong, whose book "Why Christianity Must Change or Die" rejects nearly every central Christian doctrine. Bishop Pearson calls it a "masterpiece."
"I am going through the same rejections as he has," he said.
He also is listening to New Age thinkers "because I like what they are saying." An example is Neale David Walsch's "Conversations With God," which rails against organized religion and intolerance. The bishop now is talking up TV star Oprah Winfrey, whom he calls "the greatest evangelist" now on earth.
"She is more like Jesus than most pastors you will ever meet," he said. "She is not pushing a religion, but she is telling people to be spiritual. She's a cutting-edge thinker and she's touching people the way the church should but refuses to."

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