Divine Callings

Understanding the Call to Ministry in Black Pentecostalism

276 pages

February, 2012

ISBN: 9780814768242



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Richard N. Pitt is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Vanderbilt University.

All books by Richard N. Pitt

One of the unique aspects of the religious profession is the high percentage of those who claim to be “called by God” to do their work. This call is particularly important within African American Christian traditions. Divine Callings offers a rare sociological examination of this markedly understudied phenomenon within black ministry.  

Richard N. Pitt draws on over 100 in-depth interviews with Black Pentecostal ministers in the Church of God in Christboth those ordained and licensed and those aspiringto examine how these men and women experience and pursue “the call.”  Viewing divine calling as much as a social process as it is a spiritual one, Pitt delves into the personal stories of these individuals to explore their work as active agents in the process of fulfilling their calling.  

In some cases, those called cannot find pastoral work due to gender discrimination, lack of clergy positions, and educational deficiencies. Pitt looks specifically at how those who have not obtained clergy positions understand their call, exploring the influences of psychological experience, the congregational acceptance of their call, and their response to the training process.  He emphasizes how those called reconceptualize clericalism in terms of who can be called, how that call has to be certified, and what those called are meant to do, offering insight into how social actors adjust to structural constraints.


  • "A beautifully written and profoundly sensitive exploration of the meaning of ministry as labor and calling.  It stands not only as a highly original empirical treatment of the Church of God in Christ, but as an important theoretical statement in the sociologies of religion and professions. Divine Callings will be read and discussed for many years to come."

    —Omar McRoberts, University of Chicago

  • "In an educational credentialing world, Richard Pitt takes us deep into an alternative reality—clergy by calling and anointing.  A riveting read, this is serious social science that enlightens as it engages."

    —Michael O. Emerson, author of Black and White in Christian America

  • "A valuable book on religious identity enactment and legitimation processes that establish religious authority...highly recommended."

    —G. Marti, CHOICE

  • "I strongly recommend Divine Callings...it's a great read that pushes scholars of religion to be more rigorous...and a must read for anyone studying or just intellectually interested in religious experience, the religious work of clergy, or clergy identity."

    Sociology of Religion

  • "Divine Callings offers a comprehensive qualitative analysis of clergy in the Church of God in Christ that expands studies of clerical identity beyond the normative markers of ordination and formal education. This book, then, is necessary reading for scholars interested in social scientific approaches to religion in general and Christian clergy studies in particular."

    —Margarita Simon Guillory, American Journal of Sociology

  • “His work provides us with the intellectual space to think about how people with other intersectional statuses, like being gay or lesbian, may navigate proscriptions against access to positions of authority within institutions that formally deny them access.  This book is an excellent complement to Pitt’s previous work…”

    Social Forces