Each month, we ask a member of the Vanderbilt Divinity School faculty to recommend a book they are currently reading. Our January recommendation is offered by Phillis I. Sheppard, Associate Professor in Religion, Psychology, and Culture.

A Womanist Pastoral Theology Against Intimate and Cultural Violence by Stephanie M. Crumpton, Palgrave Macmillan (2014)

This past Fall I had the pleasure of teaching the course Womanist Thought in Psychology and Religion and was absolutely delighted that Stephanie Crumpton’s book A Womanist Pastoral Theology Against Intimate and Culture Violence, was ‘hot off the press’. Stephanie Crumpton, Th.D. is assistant professor of Pastoral Theology at Lancaster Theological Seminary.  She trained in psychodynamic pastoral psychotherapy and is an ordained clergy in the United Church of Christ denomination.  Prior to her faculty appointments, she was a court advocate for victims of domestic violence.  In her book she has skillfully, passionately, and pastorally grappled with the psychological and spiritual devastation wrought by the betrayal of violence in intimate settings—settings where love and care are to be expected.

I found her book to be a powerful ethnography where she gives ample space for these women to tell their stories in their own words. These are narratives of black women who not only share their experiences of violation but their various paths of recovery and healing that have helped them reclaim their bodies and lives—and their sense of agency.

Stephanie Crumpton argues that these women have been subjected to intimate violence as well as to the cultural violence committed in the broader representation of black women’s embodiment. Both forms, combined, normalize the exploitation of black women, the violation of their bodies, and violence as a part of their lives.  The healing that these women pursued required them to name their abuse but also the sources of their abuse in cultural and religious settings as well as in intimate situations. She stresses that a significant aspect of these women’s recovery involved interrogating their received spiritualties, and challenging the internalized negative messages about black women.Therefore, religion and spirituality as sources of healing, care and community are not assumed but, in safe and caring settings, are integral to recovery.

In A Womanist Pastoral Theology Against Intimate and Cultural Violence we find a rich theological anthropology informed by psychology.  Furthermore, Stephanie offers a womanist pastoral care perspective that redefines the nature and site of care to one where black women’s experience is the starting place meaningful pastoral response.  The shift from care and recovery situated primarily in the clinical or pastor’s domain to care situated in community and culturally informed rituals makes this first book by Crumpton a important contribution to Pastoral Theology and to Womanist Thought.