E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of Religion, Psychology, and Culture, Emerita
Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore is E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Chair, Emerita and Professor of Religion, Psychology, and Culture at the Divinity School and Graduate Department of Religion of Vanderbilt University. A nationally and internationally recognized leader in women and childhood studies and pastoral and practical theologies, she is author, co-author, and editor of eighteen books as well as over a hundred chapters and articles.
Her most recent book, Follow Your Bliss and Other Lies about Calling (Oxford University Press 2024), challenges superficial ways people use the word calling and provides a revolutionary way to approach it, not as some glorified word but as a complicated, ambiguous, and even painful reality.
Heightened spiritual connotations of calling have made the word a freighted concept that hangs over us and weighs us down, leading us to think we can (or must) find the perfectly fitting job, the one-and-only special life partner, the ideally balanced life, the one-time summons from God. But if there’s only one message to take away from this book, let it be that these kinds of expectations are lies that distort life’s fuller, richer realities. Calling is about so much more. By insisting that callings have benefits and burdens and by looking at difficulties such as blocked callings (the biases that impede us), conflicted callings (our struggle to follow multiple paths), and fractured callings (the ways we fail), the book hopes to make the idea of calling more useful and real for all those who aspire to live meaningful, purposeful lives.
Other recent publications by Prof. Miller-McLemore include The Wiley Blackwell Reader in Practical Theology (Wiley-Blackwell 2019); Conundrums in Practical Theology (Brill 2016); Christian Practical Wisdom: What It Is, Why It Matters (Eerdmans 2016); Christian Theology in Practice: Discovering a Discipline (Eerdmans 2012); and The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Practical Theology (Wiley-Blackwell 2012). A Henry Luce III Fellow in Theology, she also received grants from the Louisville Institute, the Collegeville Institute, the Lilly Endowment Foundation Inc., the Association of Theological Schools, the Wabash Center on Teaching and Learning in Religion and Theology, and Vanderbilt University for the study of families, children, and religion; research on practical theology; research on public theology; and exploration of teaching and vocation. Her writing has been translated into several languages, including Korean, Portuguese, and Swedish. Over her career, she served as president of the International Academy of Practical Theology, president of the Association of Practical Theology, and co-founder and co-chair of two program units of the American Academy of Religion, Practical Theology and Childhood Studies in Religion. Before retiring in 2020, she taught courses on personality theory, self-psychology, women and religion, families and children, vocation, climate violence and earth justice, spirituality, pastoral care, practical theology, and methods in theology and the social sciences.