Paul believed that when heresy goes unchecked it contaminates everyone. He warned his disciple Timothy that false teaching spreads glike gangreneh (2 Tim 2:17). gGangreneh can also be translated cancer. Modern translation: False doctrine is malignant. Get the tumor out before it kills people.
It troubles me that many charismatic and Pentecostal church leaders today are not displaying the necessary backbone to label a heretic. We have become masters at soft-pedaling and inaction when the Lord requires us to confront.
Case in point: Bishop Carlton Pearson, who was raised in the nationfs largest Pentecostal denomination (the Church of God in Christ) and who once worked with the Oral Robert's Evangelistic Association, began teaching what he calls gthe gospel of inclusionh a few years ago. He has become a Universalist, claiming that people do not need conversion in order to be saved by Christ.
Pearsonfs deception has been widely reported. In Charisma we followed Pearsonfs demise and announced that one organization, the joint College of African-American Pentecostal Bishopsf Congress, labeled him a heretic in 2004. Since then Pearson has convened a national conference about Universalism that featured John Shebly Spong, an Episcopalian who affirms gay ordination and does not believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
You would think that every charismatic leader in the United States would sever ties to Pearson until he renounces his apostasy. But that is not the case. Popular gospel singer John P. Kee, who pastors New Life Fellowship Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, appeared on the program at Pearsonfs Inclusion 2005 conference, which was held in Pearsonfs Higher Dimensions Family church in Tulsa, Oklahoma in June 2005. Having Keefs face on the program certainly gave the conference added credibility in the eyes of gospel music lovers. Pearson was the featured speaker at Bishop Earl Paulk Jr.fs Atlanta-area Church, cathedral of the Holy Spirit, in May Paulk then put Pearson back in the same pulpit in October.
The International Communion of Charismatic Churches (ICCC), which Paulk founded, still lists Pearson as a member. When I asked an ICCC leader why they did not remove him, he said the organization does not currently have any mechanism to restrict membership based on doctrinal or character issues. Huh? I think wefve identified the root problem. In the loosely-goosey world of charismatic independence, we find it almost impossible to police our own. Everything is about gfellowshiph but we lack the teeth in our polices to ensure that we can properly discipline preachers who veer off into doctrinal error. When I bring up the issue of Pearsonfs apostasy I usually get lot of glazed looks from people who donft want to believe that a brother has fallen into deception. gDonft be so hard on the guy,h is a typical response. gMaybe you donft understand his message.hI donft need anymore explanation. Pearson has a banner on his website that announces gGod is not a Christian.h At press time, his Church was to host a combined service with a local Unitarian congregation in Tulsa. (Note: Unitarians are nice people, but they do not believe in the deity of Jesus).
Ifm sorry I sound harsh. But I would not be walking in the love of God if I werenft willing to issue this warning in order to protect vulnerable people. Sometimes we have to be willing to offend. gLove your brotherh does not mean, gAlways be nice.h
We Christians donft know how to handle it when the Bible requires tough love. Itfs time for all of our congregations, denominations and church networks to raise the bar and defend the faith from those who pervert it.