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Carlton Pearson, a pastor who embraces a controversial "gospel of inclusion," faced his critics March 20. Pearson, a prominent pastor and musician, appeared at a doctrinal forum of fellow black Pentecostal bishops in the nation's capital.

Pearson, pastor of Higher Dimensions Family Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, believes that all have been saved. "In the biblical and classical Christian theology, salvation is sometimes pictured in a restrictive sense, belonging only to those who respond in faith," Pearson said. "A more careful study of Scriptures will reveal that salvation is also. … pictured in a universally inclusive way, in which God is redeemer of the whole world or creation, including all human beings."

Pearson presented portions of an 18-page paper outlining his views at the congress of the Joint College of African American Pentecostal Bishops. A panel of bishops, representing independent Pentecostal churches and congregations affiliated with the American Baptist Churches U.S.A. and the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship, rebutted Pearson. Members of the college's ad hoc doctrinal commission expect to make a formal declaration later this spring.

There was little evidence of support for his views at the forum. Pearson, 50, has seen lower attendance at his church. He also attributed his defeat in Tulsa's mayoral primary last year in part to opposition to his universalism (CT, June 10, 2002, p. 19).

After the forum, which lasted more than two hours, Pearson remained undeterred. He said the arguments against his views only enhanced his desire to continue preaching the theology.

"It shows the great need that is in the church to reach beyond the walls and to broaden its perspective and be that much more inclusive," Pearson said. ...

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May 2003

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