Evangelist Carlton Pearson Biopic Debuts At Sundance Film Festival
It’s been years in the making but this week in Park City, Utah, a biopic centering on the life of evangelist turned heretic Carlton Pearson made it’s debut at Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Festival to mixed reviews.
“Come Sunday”—starring Chiwetal Ejiofor, Martin Sheen, Danny Glover and Condola Rashad—follows the life of Pearson, a once popular and in-demand televangelist and pioneer in the black charismatic Christian movement whose TV ministry attracted millions, whose Tulsa, OK-based church—Higher Dimensions— numbered over 6,000 parishioners and whose annual Azuza Conference attracted upwards of 50,000 in the 1990s. So popular was Pearson that in 2001, he entered the race of the office of Mayor of Tulsa.
That all changed when Pearson crossed a fundamental Christian line and began preaching that there was no hell, embracing a Universalist philosophy that was in conflict with the traditional church.
Members left his church in droves and his once countless TV appearances and speaking engagements dried up as did the crowds at his annual Azuza Conference. In 2003, he lost the building that had once housed his mega church.
For the now 64-year old Pearson, the film is more about his relationship with Oral Roberts, who was like a father and who tried his best to convert Pearson back to his traditional Christian roots.
“Oral was like a second father, a spiritual father, to me. We had a bond from the time I got here. He didn’t want me to destroy my ministry, to commit ministerial suicide,” Pearson told the Tulsa World Newspaper.
Instead, the stand he took cost him most everything he had.
“I’ve lost home, property, an inheritance for my children. I lost everything,” said Pearson who now preaches twice monthly at Tulsa’s All Souls Unitarian Church, and still believes to this day that if he would return to his fundamentalist roots, he’d be fine.
“Come Sunday” is tentatively scheduled for a limited release in theaters this spring before premiering on Netflix in April.