In recent years, American Christian churches, including the Church of Christ, have grappled with the role of women in their congregations. As women have gained legal rights, expanded social roles, and access to leadership, certain churches, including the Church of Christ, have lagged in adapting to these changes. This study aims to understand the organizational change process within these churches, exploring why belief systems can be slow to change and how some congregations have successfully transitioned from a complementarian to an egalitarian stance related to women's leadership roles. The research employs a contextual lens, considering how human psychology influences beliefs and behavior. Cognitive psychology reveals the challenge of changing rigid beliefs as humans are wired to hold onto preconceived notions. Organizational culture change is hindered by this resistance, leading to cognitive inflexibility and reduced adaptability. The study examines 12 congregations within the Church of Christ denomination that have successfully shifted towards egalitarian practices using the methodology of structured interviews. Qualitative analysis of interview results uncovered themes related to successful transitions and factors impeding change. In order of relative strength, the themes were a) Biblical interpretation; b) exposure to women in leadership; c) cognitive flexibility; d) dialogue; e) age demographics; and f) time. Identifying common themes promoting or hindering belief system changes, this research offers valuable insights for facilitating social change within these communities and useful directions for future research and practice, and the expansion of diversity, equity, and inclusion in their leadership roles.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Equality—Religious aspects—Churches of Christ; Leadership in women--Churches of Christ; Gender

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graziadio Business School



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Kent Rhodes