Movie Shows Preacher’s Struggle with Faith

What happens when a path opens for a Christian leader to experience a new way of thinking, believing and interpreting scripture?

“Come Sunday,” a movie based on the true story of Bishop Carlton Pearson, brings forth the uncomfortable questions and situations that challenges the faith and beliefs he has had for most of his life.

The drama, which premiered April 12 on Netflix, begins in 1998 with Chiwetel Ejiofor as Bishop Pearson, a firebrand, fourth-generation Pentecostal preacher at the peak of his career at Higher Dimensions Evangelistic Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but beginning to have his doubts about his ministry work.

He turns down a request by Uncle Quincy (Danny Glover) to write a letter to the prison board for parole. In a meeting with Oral Roberts (Martin Sheen), a mentor who refers to Pearson as his “Black son,” Roberts tells him that he should have focused more on the salvation of people he didn’t know instead that ones he knew.

Pearson goes through a spiritual awakening after watching a television program about the genocide in Rwanda. He said that he heard the voice of God reveal to him that the people there are not going to hell, though many of them were not Christians. His experience with God challenges his old belief systems and his teaching style.

He then proclaims that hell does not exists and promotes the “Gospel of Inclusion.” People can be “saved” whether or not they believe in Christ.

In the process of his transformation, he shuns everything that he learned and preached over the years. His sermons steered in a new direction that were not accepted in his faith community. Labeled as a heretic by some members in his congregation, he alienates colleagues who are upset by his rejection of the Pentecostal teachings.

The Joint Council of African American Pentecostal Bishops invited Pearson to their conference to speak with his peers formally about his teachings. However, their meeting’s format was more like a trial about what he has been preaching.

Pearson eventually makes a comeback with his new spiritual calling in life. He currently preaches at the All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa.

“Come Sunday” is a captivating tale of a man’s journey from fire and brimstone to love and inclusion.

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