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224 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 14 illus., notes, bibl., index

Paper
ISBN  978-0-8078-5808-0
Published: September 2007

Women in the Church of God in Christ

Making a Sanctified World

By Anthea D. Butler


The Church of God in Christ (COGIC), an African American Pentecostal denomination founded in 1896, has become the largest Pentecostal denomination in the United States today. In this first major study of the church, Anthea Butler examines the religious and social lives of the women in the COGIC Women's Department from its founding in 1911 through the mid-1960s. She finds that the sanctification, or spiritual purity, that these women sought earned them social power both in the church and in the black community.

Offering rich, lively accounts of the activities of the Women's Department founders and other members, Butler shows that the COGIC women of the early decades were able to challenge gender roles and to transcend the limited responsibilities that otherwise would have been assigned to them both by churchmen and by white-dominated society. The Great Depression, World War II, and the civil rights movement brought increased social and political involvement, and the Women's Department worked to make the "sanctified world" of the church interact with the broader American society. More than just a community of church mothers, says Butler, COGIC women utilized their spiritual authority, power, and agency to further their contestation and negotiation of gender roles in the church and beyond.

About the Author

Anthea D. Butler is associate professor of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania.


Reviews

"Butler narrates a complex story . . . with economy and focus. . . . [She] commands her subject."
--Journal of American History

"A creative denominational history skillfully framed in the context of African American religious and social history. . . . A welcomed addition to the growing literature on African American Pentecostal traditions, and it promises to be a staple for years to come."
--Journal of Southern History

“Recommended.”
--CHOICE

"Aptly demonstrat[ed]. . . . Anthea Butler examines female leadership in the Women's Department of the Church of God in Christ and the significance of church mothers in the historically African American denomination."
--The Journal of Southern Religion

“Butler’s book is an indispensable read. . . .[A] well-written and closely argued volume.”
--Florida Historical Quarterly

"Probing, insightful, and highly informative, and provides multifaceted portrayals of the roles and perspectives of COGIC women. . . . An excellent scholarly resource, and will likely serve as the foundation for a number of other related studies."
--Pneuma

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