Bishop Carlton Pearson, the founder of a former megachurch in Oklahoma who fell from grace after embracing gay rights, has died at age 70.
Pearson’s agent, Will Bogle, confirmed he died Sunday night in a Tulsa hospice after a battle with bladder cancer.
Pearson founded the Higher Dimensions Family Church in Tulsa in 1981. Membership plummeted after he began teaching “the gospel of inclusion,” which does not recognize hell.
Bogle said Pearson told him that he did not believe he had made a mistake with his theological beliefs.
“People were forced to question what they were saying” about salvation, Bogle said. “And as polarizing as Bishop Pearson has been his whole life … he was a really good guy, he didn’t take himself seriously, he cared about people.”
In 2007, Pearson’s church membership plummeted again when he embraced gay rights. He was shunned by other evangelical leaders, and Higher Dimensions ultimately lost its building to foreclosure. Pearson preached his final sermon there in September 2008 as the church was absorbed into All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, according to the Associated Press.
Pearson’s beliefs also led to his resignation from the board of regents of his alma mater, Oral Roberts University, and a split with his mentor — evangelist Oral Roberts.
In September, Pearson announced he was diagnosed with bladder cancer over the summer.
“I am facing death … I’m not afraid of death, I’m not even afraid of dying,” he said.
“I don’t fear God and if I was going to fear anybody, I’d fear some of his so-called people because they can be some mean sons of biscuit eaters, as my brother used to say,” Pearson said.