Pearson was the Senior Minister of Christ Universal Temple, a large New Thought congregation in Chicago, Illinois.
Pearson attended Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, where he was mentored by Oral Roberts. He was licensed and ordained in the Church of God in Christ. Pearson formed his own church, the Higher Dimensions Evangelistic Center, which became one of the largest churches in Tulsa. He was one of only two African American ministers to appear on national television, reaching hundreds of thousands to millions of people, weekly and has been credited as being one of the first black ministers to hold major conferences in arenas & stadiums within the African American fundamentalist movement. During the 1990s Pearson's church grew to an average attendance of over 6,000, and in 1997 Pearson was ordained as a bishop. In 2000, Pearson campaigned for George W. Bush, and later he was invited to the White House. Pearson had one of the most watched TV programs on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. Pearson was also the host of the AZUSA Conference in Tulsa. Pearson was also a traveling evangelist, holding two-day revivals across the continent. Pearson also gave many up and coming ministers and singers credibility and a global audience, including T.D. Jakes, Joyce Meyer, Donnie McClurkin and many others. Pearson has also met and counseled with former Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
After watching a television program about the wretched conditions of people suffering and dying from the genocide in Rwanda, and considering the teachings of his church that non-Christians were going to Hell, Pearson believed he had received an epiphany from God. He stated publicly that he doubted the existence of Hell as a place of eternal torment. He said that hell is created on earth by human depravity and behavior.
In February 2002, Pearson lost a primary election for the office of mayor of Tulsa. By then Pearson had begun to call his doctrine—a variation on universal reconciliation—the Gospel of Inclusion and many in his congregation began to leave.
In March 2004, after hearing Pearson's argument for inclusion, the Joint College of African-American Pentecostal Bishops concluded that such teaching was heresy. Declared a heretic by his peers, Pearson rapidly began to lose his influence. Membership at the Higher Dimensions Family Church fell below 1,000, and the church lost its building to foreclosure in January 2006. The church members began meeting in the nearby Trinity Episcopal Church as the New Dimensions Worship Center.
In November 2006, Pearson was accepted as a United Church of Christ minister.
In June 2008, the Higher Dimensions Worship Center moved its meetings to the All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa. On September 7, 2008, Pearson held his final service for the Higher Dimensions Worship Center, and it was absorbed into the All Souls Unitarian Church.
In May 2009, Pearson was named the interim minister of the Christ Universal Temple, a large New Thought congregation in Chicago, Illinois. On January 3, 2011, it was reported that he had left this position.
In 2014 Pearson returned to Tulsa to be with his ailing father who died two days after Pearson’s 62nd birthday. He began preaching at the 11 a.m. service at All Souls Unitarian Church on the third Sunday of the month, while still traveling to Chicago to preach once a month at New Dimensions Chicago, the fellowship he founded there. Pearson also began holding a monthly discussion with a guest before a live audience at Tulsa's "My Studio" in May 2015. His first conversation was with Neale Donald Walsch, author of the mega-best-selling nine-book series, Conversations With God.Pearson's life story was the subject of "Heretics," an episode of the Chicago Public Radio program This American Life that was first broadcast on December 16, 2005.Pearson's life story was telecast on the Dateline NBC program, To Hell and Back, first shown on August 13, 2006.Pearson was the subject of a Cable News Network story on June 24, 2007, that covered the changes in his teachings (including acceptance of LGBT people into his church) and the backlash against it.In March 2009, Pearson appeared on Nightline "Face Off" with Deepak Chopra, Mark Driscoll, and Annie Lobert to address the question "Does Satan Exist?"In July 2010 it was announced that director Marc Forster would direct a feature film about Pearson's life, from a script by Marcus Hinchey based on This American Life's "Heretics" episode. In January 2017, Joshua Marston was reported to be directing the project as a film for Netflix, with Chiwetel Ejiofor cast to play Pearson, Condola Rashad as his wife Gina, and Martin Sheen as Oral Roberts.In September 2010, Pearson again appeared on CNN with anchor Kyra Phillips, discussing the widely publicized gay rumors regarding Bishop Eddie Long. Pearson was again criticized for his inclusive thinking by many Christian fundamentalists, for stating "Until the Church—the Church, black or otherwise—confronts—not combats—confronts this issue of human sexuality and homosexuality, which is not going away. Homosexuals and homosexuality is not going away. If every gay person in our church just left or those who have an orientation or preference or an inclination, or a fantasy, if everyone left, we wouldn't have -- we wouldn't have a church."In December 2010, Academy Award winner Mo'Nique invited Pearson to appear on her BET-TV Late night talk show. Mo'Nique publicly suggested that she followed & supported Pearson and would "come to his church in Atlanta, if he had one and would have her."
Pearson is also a gospel vocalist who has won two Stellar Awards, and he was nominated for a Dove Award.
In September 1993 Pearson was married at age 40 to the former Gina Marie Gauthier (born December 13, 1961 in Lake Charles, LA). She is a life coach by profession. They have two children; a son, Julian D'Metrius Pearson, born on July 9, 1994 in Tulsa, OK, and a daughter, Majestè Amour Pearson born, October 29, 1996 in Tulsa, OK.
On August 25, 2015, Gina Pearson filed for divorce from Carlton. On May 19, 2016, before the divorce was finalized, Mrs. Pearson dismissed her petition for divorce.The Gospel of Inclusion: Reaching Beyond Religious Fundamentalism to the True Love of God, 2007. Azusa Press/ Council Oak Books, ISBN 0-9791689-0-2.God Is Not a Christian, Nor a Jew, Muslim, Hindu… 2010 Atria Books/ Simon & Schuster, Inc. ISBN 1-4165-8443-9.