As we at All Souls Unitarian Church reflect on the life of Bishop Carlton D. Pearson, we find ourselves in a state of deep gratitude and contemplation. Bishop Pearson, who passed away on November 19, 2023, at the age of 70, was not just an Affiliate Minister at All Souls; he was a beacon of progressive theology, a voice for universal love, and a beloved member of our church family.
“He helped people of all cultures and faiths know that God loves us beyond belief,” said Rev. Dr. Marlin Lavanhar, Senior Minister at All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa.
Bishop Pearson’s journey began in Tulsa, where he attended Oral Roberts University. His early ministry, characterized by dynamic preaching and vibrant gospel music, quickly captured the hearts of many. His “Everything’s Gonna Be All Right” TV program and the impactful AZUSA Conferences established him as a leading figure in American Pentecostalism.
However, it was his courageous theological shift that brought him closer to our community at All Souls. Embracing the doctrine of universal reconciliation, Bishop Pearson’s message evolved to one that proclaimed God’s unconditional love for all, irrespective of religious or cultural backgrounds. This inclusive theology resonated deeply with our Unitarian Universalist values of compassion, inclusivity, and human dignity.
“Part of his legacy, besides his love for God, his curious intellectual pursuit and his natural humor, is simply the way he loved human beings,” said David B. Smith, Executive Director of Worship at All Souls.
Joining All Souls in 2008, Bishop Pearson’s affiliation with us marked a new chapter in his ministry, one where his message of love and acceptance found a nurturing home. His presence enriched our congregation, bringing a unique blend of charismatic spirituality and inclusive theology that appealed to a broad spectrum of believers and seekers.
He and Rev. Marlin Lavanhar became dear friends, colleagues and collaborators in creating worship, teaching classes and bringing the ideas of Unicostalism to the public. Unicostalism combines the freedom of thought and belief of Unitarian Universalism and the freedom of the spirit and the body of Pentecostalism. Some of the most profound and transcendent moments of embodied worship resulted from this effort.
Bishop Pearson’s legacy is not just in the sermons he delivered or the conferences he led, but in the lives he touched. He was an incredibly devoted father to his children and friend to those who knew him closely. He was a man who stood firmly in the face of adversity, holding onto his conviction that love was the true essence of faith. His life was a testament to the power of embracing change and leading with love.
All Souls Assistant Minister Rev. Randy Lewis shared, “In spite of our broken hearts, we celebrate a life that was truly well lived. He left us an incredible body of work, through which we will continue to hear his incredible sense of humor, breadth of knowledge, and transcendent wisdom echoing in our hearts.”
As we mourn his passing, we also celebrate the richness of his life. His humor, wisdom, and relentless pursuit of a more inclusive understanding of the divine will continue to inspire us. In the words of our Senior Minister, Rev. Dr. Marlin Lavanhar, “In an era of division, he stood out as a voice of unity and reason.” And indeed, his voice will continue to echo in our hearts and in the halls of All Souls.
We extend our deepest condolences to Bishop Pearson’s family and to all who were touched by his extraordinary life. As we look forward, let us carry forward his legacy of love, grace, and unity. In doing so, we honor a life truly well-lived, a life beyond belief.
We hope you will take some time in the coming days to reflect on how Bishop Pearson touched your life. Most importantly, we hope you will find ways to share the inclusive and unconditional love he so firmly and courageously believed in.
We invite the community to join us in honoring the life and legacy of Bishop Pearson during the memorial services.
- Public Viewings at All Souls Unitarian Church:
- Wednesday, November 29th, 4pm-8pm
- Thursday, November 30th, 9am-10:30am
- Interfaith Celebration of Life:
- Thursday, November 30th, 11am at All Souls Unitarian Church
- Final Public Viewing:
- Thursday, November 30th, 12:30pm-4:30pm at All Souls Unitarian Church
- Additional Memorial Services:
- Musical Celebration of Life:
- Thursday, November 30th, 6:30pm at Greater Grace Temple
- Episcopal Celebration of Life:
- Friday, December 1, 12 noon at Transformation Church
- Musical Celebration of Life: