The Rev. Carlton Pearson, once one of the nation\’s pre-eminent Pentecostal preachers, stirred controversy from the moment he assumed leadership of the South Side mega-church in 2009.
Ousted from his mega-church in Tulsa, Okla. for teaching that Muslims, Buddhists, and homosexuals go to heaven, he joined the New Thought movement when selected to lead Christ Universal Temple.
But some members of the congregation objected to Pearson\’s appointment, saying he lacked the theological training to lead a New Thought church. The movement uses a metaphysical interpretation of the Bible and focuses on healing, meditation and thinking positive thoughts to improve one\’s life.
New Thought pioneer, the Rev. Johnnie Colemon, founded Christ Universal Temple in 1956. In 1974 she formed her own denomination, the Universal Foundation for Better Living (UFBL). Then in 2006, after building a $10 million religious empire, Colemon retired with no succession plan in place.
Pearson said he has expanded that empire by launching a $3.2 million capital expenditure campaign, a prime time television broadcast and a live stream of services on the Web.
â€œAll the things that any normal church would want to happen did,â€ Pearson said. â€œI was trying to extend the church message beyond the church walls to a inclusive audience â€¦ They want to take the church in a different direction, back to where they were before I got there.â€
The Rev. Roderick Norton, a church minister, said Christ Universal is now searching for a new leader within the New Thought movement.
â€œI think it\’s the best thing that happened,â€ he said. But member Hermene Hartman disagrees. â€œI think it\’s our loss very honestly,â€ Hartman said. â€œI don\’t think he has been fully appreciated or given the opportunity for expression of ministry. It\’s too bad that Christ Universal Temple wasn\’t interested in a new broad church.â€