Research

This page features research projects dealing with gender in Churches of Christ.

  • “Gender Inclusivity in Church of Christ Congregations”

Drs. Stephen Johnson and Lynette Sharp Penya conducted research in the Spring 2010 to identify congregations of Churches of Christ that have found gender inclusivity important enough to talk about openly and act upon positively.  The research also offered some basic description of the practice of gender inclusivity in the public and leadership life of these congregations.  The Executive Summary of this research can be viewed here.

  • “How We Got There: Scriptural Literalism, Fundamentalism, Religious Proscription, Experience, and Gender as Predictors of Gender-Role Attitudes in Religious Contexts”

Dr. Lynette Sharp Peyna presented this research at the Christian Scholars Conference in Nashville, TN in June 2010.  This study explored attitudes toward gender roles in religious contexts. The ability of scriptural literalism to predict gender-role attitudes was compared to a variety of other individual- and congregational-level factors. Participants were 987 adults (61.8% females, 38.2% males) with a Church of Christ background. Those who currently attend a Church of Christ held more nonegalitarian gender-role attitudes than those who no longer attend. Although attenders’ attitudes varied widely, they tended to be uncertain about and even unsupportive (in the case of elder and preacher) of gender-role equity. Five variables uniquely predicted less egalitarian gender-role attitudes: greater fundamentalism, nonproscribing (or promoting) nonegalitarian attitudes, lacking experiences with women leading corporate worship or preaching, and less educational attainment. As expected, these variables offered a better explanation of attenders’ attitudes toward gender roles than did scriptural literalism alone. The implications of these findings for Churches of Christ are addressed.

  • “An Analysis of the Decision Making Process and the Role of Women in Churches of Christ”

Decision making has been studied in the business environment for decades. Little has been done, though, to examine how churches use decision making processes beyond a few initial inquiries. These have been mostly case studies and are difficult to generalize beyond the single congregation. The same can be said for the study of actual practices of women in ministry and service roles in congregations. This effort surveyed ninety-nine congregations and sought to determine how church leaders make decisions as well as their attitudes toward how women are
utilized in various positions. It was found that as the size of a congregation increases, the leaders make greater use of both participatory discussions with the members as well as non Biblical information resources. Also, as the size increases, the roles of women expand into areas of teaching and ministry not available in smaller churches.

  • “Examining the Relationship among Female Students’ Attitudes toward Women’ s Roles, Religiosity, and Attitudes toward Churches of Christ”

Dr. Lynette Sharp Peyna presented the results of this research at the Christian Scholars Conference in Nashville, TN in June 2009.  Acknowledging that women’ s roles in Churches of Christ have been studied from the theological perspectives of scripture, tradition, and reason, this research broadens the discussion to include the theology of experience. Sixty-four female students who attend or have attended Churches of Christ were surveyed. Participants tended to have progressive attitudes toward women’ s roles. They believed women’ s roles in religious contexts are an important issue that is not being adequately addressed in Churches of Christ. The more important religion was to their lives, the greater importance they placed on these roles. In addition, the more progressive women’s attitudes were toward their roles, the more negative their attitudes were toward Churches of Christ. This relationship was magnified for women who no longer attend a Church of Christ.

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