The story of Reverend Carlton Pearson, a renowned evangelical pastor in Tulsa, Oklahoma, who cast aside the idea of Hell, and with it everything he'd worked for over his entire life.
Carlton Pearson's church, Higher Dimensions, was once one of the biggest in the city, drawing crowds of 5,000 people every Sunday. But several years ago, scandal engulfed the reverend. He didn't have an affair. He didn't embezzle lots of money. His sin was something that to a lot of people is far worse: He stopped believing in Hell. (2 minutes)
Act One. Rise.
Reporter Russell Cobb takes us through the remarkable and meteoric rise of Carlton Pearson from a young man to a Pentecostal Bishop: from the moment he first cast the devil out of his 17-year-old girlfriend, to the days when he had a close, personal relationship with Oral Roberts and had appearances on TV and at the White House. Just as Reverend Pearson's career peaked, with more than 5,000 members of his congregation coming every week, he started to think about Hell, wondering if a loving God would really condemn most of the human race to burn and writhe in the fire of Hell for eternity. (30 minutes)
Act Two. Fall.
Once he starts preaching his own revelation, Carlton Pearson's church falls apart. After all, when there's no Hell (as the logic goes), you don't really need to believe in Jesus to be saved from it. What follows are the swift departures of his pastors, and an exodus from his congregation—which quickly dwindled to a few hundred people. Donations drop off too, but just as things start looking bleakest, new kinds of people, curious about his change in beliefs, start showing up on Sunday mornings. (23 minutes)
Postscript: Carlton Pearson renamed his church after the story was produced: It is now called New Dimensions.
Song: "Let the Church Roll On," Mahalia Jackson