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Discussion Forum : General Topics : Question Concerning Head Covering:

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Joined: 2003/11/23
Posts: 4489


Hi Sister Ginnyrose…

I apologize for being a bit slow to respond to your last posts. I do want to make certain that I am not “reacting.” Rather, I hope to inject some personal thoughts about this that can add to the discussion within the bounds of the undeniable love of God. We may never reach an agreement on this issue in regard to what I Corinthians 11:1-16 is saying (at least on this side of Eternity). However, I think that all believers have the ability to contribute to a discussion about such matters.

My attempt is certainly not to “dance around” the Scriptures (and it would be strange to assume as much). Such a charge suggests a view that anyone who disagrees with a particular interpretation of the passage must be “contentious” – when this is merely a discussion between various believers about what this passage is saying. Moreover, I think that this discussion extends beyond the notion that this passage results in some specific New Testament dress code that must be adhered to by believers. A greater question (at least in the minds of some believers) is whether or not this issue is so “clear” as to withdraw the full hand of fellowship and involvement to believers simply because they disagree with some congregation’s or denomination’s view of the issue.

You wrote: “The reality is that there are people who attend our fellowship who participate in our worship services or whatever we have going on. They attend our Sunday School classes, share thoughts, partake in our fellowship meals. They may teach in our VBSs - we get people from wiothout our fellowship to assist. If they desire they can even take part in the ritual of communion unless there is known sin in their life. They just cannot hold an elective office nor vote on issues because they have not committed themselves to our brotherhood. ”

I suppose that the difference that I am trying to point out is that such believers would be welcome to your congregation – but with a very limited ability to function. This limited role in the local Church is based solely upon a difference of opinion about whether or not the 11th chapter of I Corinthians requires women to wear a piece of cloth atop their hair or if hair itself is the covering mentioned in the passage. In other words, this particular custom is considered so important that individuals are not permitted to become members of that congregation if they don’t comply! From what you said, it seems that compliance with this practice is considered vital to having “committed themselves to your brotherhood.” I just can’t help but wonder if this should be a requirement at all to demonstrate a “commitment to the brotherhood” of believers (even on a local level).

You wrote: “Chris, it is essential there is basic agreements for all members in the body: that the entire body will pull together in the same direction. That there be no contentions among the body. Consider: if you were to come to our church and be there a while and speak among us like you do here on SI whenever an issue comes up that you disagree with, you can become well...this kind of behaviours would destroy a brotherhood, resulting in a split. Remember what the Scriptures say about contentions?”

There are plenty of brethren that I don’t completely agree with here on SermonIndex on every last issue (and I know that the opposite is also true). For instance, there are brethren who feel that the Lord will gather His Bride only AFTER the period of God’s wrath upon the Earth. I don’t necessarily believe this. Yet, I still see those believers who do believe such a thing as being dearly beloved brethren who are an important part of the family of God. I think that – despite our disagreement on the subject – we can still “pull together in the same direction” in consideration of the entire Body of Christ. Why? I don’t believe that a personal, prayerful and studious view or perspective on such a subject just is so vital whereas to make it a condition of extending the full hand of fellowship. Yet there are congregations where believers are rejected from “membership” or public ministry merely because they disagree with the interpretation of what this one passage of Scripture is saying.

Now, how is it that a disagreement on a subject is the result of a person being “contentious?” That is quite an accusation to make! If that is the case, then the Lord, Paul, Peter, John and others were quite a contentious bunch! It would be very easy to say that someone is being “contentious” in a discussion – because both sides of a discussion could claim as much. Someone could make the same accusation of pastors, sects or congregations that would refuse to accept believers into full fellowship based solely upon adherence to this particular rite or practice.

You wrote: “Several years ago, in a church I am well familiar with, had a gifted young person come in. This was his wife's home church. This fellow never did join this brotherhood but he did hold offices. He started out by leading the singing. Soon he was chosen to be a Sunday School teacher, then SS superintendent. All the while he was taking a dig at the current leadership. In the end he left a devastated church, many members left and today it is a shell of its former self. ”

I’m not sure what you are saying. There is a world of difference between merely disagreeing with someone’s interpretation of this passage of Scripture and “taking a dig at the leadership.” I’m not sure, but it seems like you are concerned that a believer who doesn’t agree with your interpretation of this passage might endanger the unity of the congregation. Of course, my underlying question has been whether or not this should even be considered a doctrine or practice upon which a group of believers MUST unite behind.

There are many nations where believers are persecuted on a daily basis. There are believers who are imprisoned or killed in Communist, Muslim and other closed nations. I’m not totally sure, but I don’t think that those believers divide themselves according to such interpretive matters. As such, I think that it is better to unite behind those undeniable, essential doctrines of the faith rather than upon some interpretation of such a matter. Since we know that persecution is always at the door…and is coming…I would hope that we wouldn’t be so contentious as to limit “membership” (if such a thing would even exist for the persecuted church) and full involvement to those who adhere to a strict list of interpreted practices. And, I do think that the liberty to share a voice (or vote) in regard to the order of the local church (such as the election of a local pastor or other decisions of the Church) is the equivalent to being a part of the full hand of fellowship.

On a tangible level, I find it difficult to believe that members of the early Church – in provinces like Philadelphia, Sardis or Smyrna – would have limited full inclusion into the Church based upon some outward sectarian practice. Again, the passage indicates dishonor to a woman who prays with her head “uncovered” (I Corinthians 11:5). Yet, we are also told to “pray always” (I Thessalonians 5:17). My wife prays throughout the day. She prays as she lay down to sleep, as she walks through her daily life (shopping, at work, etc…), on windy days, and even in the shower. It seems that this particular interpretation – that it is a physical piece of cloth that must be worn on top of the hair while praying or prophesying – would be difficult to accomplish under all such circumstances.

This is part of the reason that I arrived to such a view of this passage. The purpose, as best as I can see it, is that there is a “sign” upon the head of a woman that she is under the authority of a man. From what I read in I Corinthians 11:15, it is the HAIR that was placed there naturally by God to be that sign. Of course, this is simply what I believe. Others also share that view – believers like my wife…her family…and many other godly men and women.

What’s more, it is a bit beside the point that I am trying to make too. If I were the pastor of a congregation, or the leader of a fellowship, I don’t think that I should make my view of this matter a requirement for full fellowship and involvement (including voicing a vote for important decisions) in the local church or fellowship. I think that it would be unwise to reject individuals (even on a surface level) if they are godly believers who simply have a different opinion about this one passage of Scripture.

You wrote: "I know right well what would happen if a lady with uncovered head would teach. Her students would pepper her with questions about why she does not wear a head covering. ("The others do, why don't you?") They watch you very closely and are not bashful with their questions - they are very bold. I know that from experience. They notice every little thing and ask 'why?'
EDITED out a paragraph
Chris, and rbanks: if your ladies were to come and participate in a teaching program as a teacher you will be grilled by your students about how different you are from the rest of the group. Your answers could cause confusion and then strife and contention among the other ministry team. What kind of testimony is that leaving to others about you? We did not make up this principle: God did. So why should you work to discourage others from observing it?"

First, your use of the term “uncovered” is the idiom in question. As discussed, many believers feel that a woman’s HAIR is the covering spoken of in this passage. So, we don’t see a woman as having an “uncovered head” if she understands her role in the home and Church and that her hair is a natural cover for her head that symbolizes as much. Still, what would be wrong with any woman sharing what she believes about such a matter?

I wouldn’t have a problem with you or any other woman who believes like you do sharing their view in the Church that I attend. I would be happy for you to share your opinion of the matter AS LONG AS you indicate that this is YOUR view and a view that is shared by many others like you. However, I would hope that you would make it clear that this is NOT an undeniable, absolute physical requirement amongst all believers (and certainly NOT an essential doctrine of the Church or a requirement for salvation). I suppose that is what I am trying to get at through all of this discussion.

You wrote: “PS: BTW: I do find it disconcerting that you will refer to the head covering as 'that piece of cloth on your head'. Mind telling me why you use this expression instead of head covering?”

I call it a “piece of cloth” because that is what it physically is. This is meant to make a distinction between those who view hair is given by God as a natural “covering” for the head. There is nothing disconcerting meant by my use of this phrase. I simply want to point out that the entire discussion revolves around the definition of “head covering” – and whether or not this is natural hair or an additional piece of cloth (or something else) meant to be worn on top of the hair. Most of the churches that I have visited where the women adhere to such a “requirement” wear a small but pretty piece of cloth atop their hair that doesn’t really cover the head at all. Moreover, a great many believers consider the hair to be the covering for the head mentioned in this passage (and seemingly explained in verse 15). That is why I do not refer to the cloth itself as a “head covering.”

My hope for my participation in this discussion is NOT to convince those who wear such things to stop (not at all!). Rather, I hope to provide a reason why many of us don’t adhere to this practice or requirement. Furthermore, I hope to provoke others to consider whether or not a person’s particular interpretation of this passage is “clear” or “essential” enough to make it a requirement for extending the fullness of liberty in regard to fellowship with a local congregation or fellowship.

Regardless of anyone's view on this matter, my love and esteem for them is real.


 2010/5/7 19:03Profile

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