A former Pentecostal bishop, and at one time one of evangelical Christianity’s most prominent rising stars, Carlton Pearson lost his following and was rejected by the fundamentalist Christian community after he began preaching what he calls “the Gospel of Inclusion.” Today he is the spiritual director of New Dimensions Chicago.
1. What important lesson came out of your childhood?
Our parents taught us six kids that we were all equally important, that we should look out for each other, that everyone has the same basic need to be loved and included. When I was bused to a predominantly white, rich school in a neighborhood where my mom cleaned houses, I learned what it felt like to be excluded. That experience shaped my ministry and led to what I call “the Gospel of Inclusion.”
2. What do you struggle with the most, and what do you do with your struggle?
My lifelong struggle has been to find my personal significance in life, to understand my gifts, and to know they are being fully maximized. I don’t allow my struggle to be negative, but I make it my motivation to excel and to move toward self-actualization.
3. When is the last time you were deeply moved?
I was particularly moved when a stranger wrote to me on Facebook, saying that he was an atheist who was intrigued by my particular expression of Christian spirituality. I replied that it really didn’t matter to me so much that he believe in God or “a god,” but that he believe in himself and the virtues of humanity, including his own.
4. What has surprised you the most in your life?
I essentially lost the first 50 years of my life’s work after I began preaching my Gospel of Inclusion. I have been surprised at how my family and I continue to master the transition to a new consciousness and community, and the profound transformation that has come from it. This change continues to challenge me to love unconditionally, to forgive consistently, and to stay true to my calling rather than succumbing to bitterness and resentfulness.
5. What is your favorite teaching or practice?
My ministry and message encourage a commitment to reconciling our differences, celebrating our diversity, and acknowledging our oneness. I encourage the principle and practice of self-actualization to experience one’s higher self. I teach a more inclusive and progressive approach to spirituality, encouraging interfaith dialogue and fellowship, relating faith to culture in more practical and impacting ways.