c. 2004 Religion News Service
(UNDATED) A Pentecostal preacher who has been declared a heretic by some of his clerical colleagues has reacted to their claim with a renewed commitment to his controversial doctrine known as “the gospel of inclusion.”
The teachings of Bishop Carlton Pearson of Tulsa, Okla., were recently declared unorthodox and heretical by the Cleveland-based Joint College of African-American Pentecostal Bishops Congress.
While many evangelical clergy believe that a personal confession that Jesus is savior gives a person entrance to heaven, Pearson views salvation in a more “universally inclusive” way.
“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,” Pearson said in a formal response sent to Religion News Service. “I’d rather err on the goodness, greatness, and graciousness of God than the opposite.”
The Pentecostal bishops’ congress issued its conclusion in a March 29 report, released more than a year after Pearson defended his views before the organization at a Washington doctrinal forum.
“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.
Pearson, pastor of Higher Dimensions Family Church in Tulsa, said in his response that he believed the bishops’ group had already made up their minds about the matter at the time of the forum.
“That this group of Pentecostal bishops, many of whom I have known for years and respect highly, felt it important to publicly denounce me as a heretic, fearing I will lead people astray or even to hell, shows how little confidence they have in the overriding and finished work of the cross,” Pearson wrote.
He compared his situation to that of the Rt. Rev. John Shelby Spong, the retired Episcopal bishop of Newark, N.J., who described himself as being “in a state of exile from the presuppositions of my own religious past.”
Pearson cites the New International Version’s translation of 1 John 2:1-2 as a support for his position, where the apostle says of Jesus: “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”
“Satan’s most effective ploy is not necessarily seduction or even temptation, but deception!” Pearson wrote. “`His greatest ploy is to convince us that our sins are not already forgiven!”
Pearson said he feels like a victim of religious persecution, mostly from fellow Christians rather than non-Christians, some of whom have welcomed his views.
He concluded his response by hoping that more Christian leaders will embrace his stance in the future: “The difference between a prophet and a heretic is often time!”
DEA/JL END BANKS