(RNS) — Bishop Carlton D. Pearson, a preacher, singer and author who moved from Pentecostalism to what he called “The Gospel of Inclusion,” has died at age 70.
Pearson died in hospice care Sunday night (Nov. 19), after a brief battle with a returning cancer, according to a post on his Facebook page.
Raised and later ordained in the Church of God in Christ, a predominantly Black denomination, and the onetime leader of a prominent Oklahoma megachurch, Pearson began facing health issues more than two decades ago but suffered a recurrence of cancer in recent months.
His family had announced in an Oct. 30 post on his Facebook page that he was receiving “comfort care.”
“Our dear Carlton was diagnosed with cancer in 2001 and was declared cancer free shortly thereafter,” the family wrote. “Just recently the cancer has returned and has been a significant challenge, especially in the last 120 days.”
As they sought prayers and support, they wrote: “May we all do as he has taught us… We must make the change, manage the change, and ultimately master the change.”
Pearson, a San Diego native and a “fourth-generation fundamentalist,” wrote the 2006 book, “The Gospel of Inclusion: Reaching Beyond Religious Fundamentalism to the True Love of God and Self.”
In it, he stated a defense similar to one he presented from an 18-page position paper in 2003 to the Joint College of African-American Pentecostal Bishops.
“The blasphemy I stand accused of is the simple message of the Gospel of Inclusion: the whole world is saved, but they just don’t know it,” he wrote in the book’s introduction. “Saved not only from hell and eternal damnation, but saved from itself — saved from its erroneous perceptions of God and good.”
The year after Pearson’s presentation, the bishops declared his views were “heresy.”
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“Because of our concern for the many people that could be influenced to adopt this heresy and in so doing put at risk the eternal destiny of their souls, we are compelled to declare Bishop Carlton Pearson a heretic,” wrote Bishop Clifford Leon Frazier, chairman of the joint college’s doctrinal commission at the time.
Pearson stood his ground in a formal response to Religion News Service on that occasion.
“If I am judged for perceiving Christ or Christianity in error, I’d rather be wrong for overestimating the love of God than underestimating it,” he said. “I’d rather err on the goodness, greatness and graciousness of God than the opposite.”