Ian Goligher

Did You Know?

Many Christian women are not aware that there is a history of head-covering, or that there is clear Bible teaching on this matter. Nevertheless, it has been the general practice in almost all churches until recent times. It is only since the 1960s, during the rise of the feminist movement, among other humanistic philosophies, that the practice of women wearing head-covering in public worship has declined. If you search for pictures of Christian congregations prior to that time you will find that ladies in nearly all churches wore head-covering.

Cultural

The debate centres around its cultural relevance. Some say, what was required for worship in Corinth, in New Testament times, was only required in that culture. The answer to that is found in 1 Corinthians chapter 11. The apostle Paul based the requirement for women to wear head-covering upon a woman’s submission to her husband upon God's order in creation (See v9). Adam was made first and “the woman was made for the man.” Head covering in public worship is the symbol of that submission. It is a fixed rule of Bible interpretation, which should be consistently applied, that what is based on creation is for all time and for all peoples, not just one culture group.

Complement

These same verses lead to the teaching that the woman is the complement to the man. This teaching is not very popular in our present-day world and often leads people to reject the principle because it requires the woman to accept the man’s headship. Because the principle of submission is rejected the symbol is rejected as well. When the practice of women submitting to husbands is tabooed the symbol will also be shunned.

When and Where?

The Bible does not require women to practice head-covering at home when in worship, nor in public places when socializing. When speaking on this subject the apostle Paul referred to women at worship in the church. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians was a church letter and the reference to “ordinances” in Ch. 11:2 refers to the practice in the church. To insist that women should have their heads covered at all times goes beyond the instructions found in 1 Corinthians 11. What to wear? This is not fully defined in 1 Corinthians 11. The Greek word KATAKALUPTO behind the English words “covered” v6, and “cover” V7 means something pressing down on the head. It refers to a man-made material laid on top of the head.  Whereas, the word “covering” translated from the Greek term PERIBOLION in v15 means a wrap-around and is a reference to the woman’s hair.  Note that the hair does not replace the material covering. To take that position would undo the apostle's line of argument in the whole passage leading up to v15, and would render the instructions found in v7 ridiculous, “For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God.” To instruct a man that his hair is a covering and then that it is a shame for him to worship with his head covered would demand that his head be totally shaven. 

A Bad Custom

Some people try to undo all that the apostle taught in 1 Cor. 11:1 - 15 by applying the word “custom” in v16 to the whole practice of head-covering. That is to twist the apostle’s plea to avoid contention on this matter. The apostle simply stated that head-covering should be accepted as a proper practice for women in public worship in Corinth, and other N.T. churches. The word “custom” refers to the term “contentious” in the same verse, and guards against people’s opposition to the practice of head-covering. Contention over the practice was not accepted in the church at Corinth, nor in the other churches in the New Testament.  Going back to what was said earlier, the reference to the “churches” confirms that it was not just a cultural practice in Corinth alone. The other churches in the New Testament followed this practice too. That is strong evidence that it was not situational, nor cultural. The church in Rome was the very home of Roman culture, whereas the church in Corinth was in the centre of Greek culture, while the churches in Judea were steeped in Jewish culture. The conclusion of the matter is that head-covering applies to all cultures and has been the practice for centuries.

Giving the Glory to God

The spiritual attitude is for women to follow the truth found in verse 15. Women are to cover their heads in public worship desiring to give glory to God. The apostle pointed out that the woman’s hair is her glory. As we all know, the woman's hair is exceedingly important to her. So, she is to cover her glory in public worship giving all glory to God. She is not doing so for man, but for her Lord. She takes delight in giving the Lord all the glory in her worship.    

Presbytery statement as addendum to Westminster Confession of Faith 21:1 on Worship.

An addendum to ch. 21.1 of the Westminster Confession of Faith

 “God, through the apostle Paul, addresses one particular aspect of pubic worship in 1 Cor. 11:1-16. This passage requires men not to have a head covering in public worship and requires women to have such a head covering. Involved is the personal testimony of every believer engaged in public worship. This testimony reflects the submission of all human authority and honor/glory to God who has established and given to man all of the authority and glory that he enjoys. In God’s house, the church, all glory and worship belongs to God alone and this matter of headcovering gives opportunity for every believer to affirm that truth in keeping with God’s Word.”

You may listen to an audio of this lesson as given for our membership course at: https://www.cloverdalefpc.ca/blog/head-covering-for-ladies-in-worship--39