My recent blog (see here) attempted to harmonize 1 Cor 11:5 with 1 Cor 14:34 (and with 1 Tim 2:11-12). I suggested that in the meeting of the local church, women are to be silent. Women can pray and teach outside of the church meeting, but not in church.
This led to some excellent questions:
- I read your blog from Oct. 29 and the previous blog you mentioned on this same subject. My question is based on your understanding of Paul’s teaching, should I [a woman] have my head covered anytime I pray, including privately in my home or when I’m driving? Also, if I’m teaching a Bible study in a home (or even at church), should I have my head covered while doing that?
- Hey guys. My wife and I agree with today’s blog. My wife and I would like to be Biblical and follow the commands of God, but we are a little bit confused about the ins and outs of women wearing a head covering. Does this mean that my wife must wear a head covering every time she prays out loud? What about when she prays silently. Or when she prays with the kids before bed? Also are there any dimensions with the head covering? Like does it have to be a certain length. We are keen to do this. Your thoughts would be helpful on this.Also, on another note, as I’ve read in previous articles, does the part about women being silent in the church in 1 Corinthians and 2 Timothy, refer to the Lord’s Supper? So, if there is no Lord’s Supper, would a women be free to speak or even teach for that matter even if they were to call it a church service?
Head coverings are only discussed in one passage in the NT, 1 Cor 11:4-16. So, I will answer as best I can with the evidence I have.
First, yes, I think Paul is saying that a woman should cover her head when she prays [out loud] or prophesies. I believe that includes teaching, since prophecy was a form of teaching.
It is not clear whether she should cover her head when she prays out loud but in private. But Paul says that “the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels” (1 Cor 11:10). That implies that even when praying alone, angels are watching and a woman should have a covering on her head for that reason.
Yes, I think this would include praying with children before bed.
Second, what is a head covering? Some think it is long hair. However, that seems unlikely since Paul does not make that clear.
A head covering is something which covers the head. In Plymouth Brethren circles women wear a type of doily. In my PB church the women wear various types of hats at prayer meeting. When Dr. Ryrie’s wife Anne came with him for my ordination service (at which he spoke), she wore a big beautiful bonnet like the women wear at Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby.
Third, in the early church the church typically met once a week, on the Lord’s Day, Sunday (i.e., Saturday night until sundown Sunday) and the entire meeting was around the Lord’s Supper. See Acts 20:1-12 and 1 Cor 11:17-26. That was “church.”
Most churches today do not practice the Lord’s Supper as a separate service, and certainly not as a meal. For those who do it, the elements are taken at the end of the regular worship service.
And most churches do not take of the elements every week. In most churches it is once a month or once a quarter.
I mention all this because for most churches the meeting of the church is not the taking of the elements, but it is the Sunday morning worship service. If that is considered church, then I’d say that women should be silent in that meeting.
In our PB church we have two meetings. From 10:30 to 11:45 we have “the Bible teaching hour.” It looks like a typical church service with singing and announcements and a sermon. But we do not consider that church. That is our Sunday School for adults.
Our second service is from 12:30 to 2:00 and includes lunch and the elements of the Lord’s Supper. We have teaching and discussion between the eating of the bread (and then lunch) and then the taking of the cup.
In our second service, women are silent. Because they are silent, they do not wear head coverings. In most PB churches women wear head coverings during the Lord’s Supper meeting, even though they are silent.
While women do not preach in our first service, they could. Women do make announcements and ask for songs during our first service. But they don’t wear head coverings then either, because they are not praying or teaching. If they were, then they would wear head coverings.
I get criticism from people on both sides of this issue. Some say I am liberal because I teach that women can teach men the Word of God at any time except the meeting of the local church. But I also say that in the local church meeting, women are not to speak at all. They are to be silent. So, some think I’m liberal and some think I’m overly conservative.
Fourth, I wish to stress something Zane Hodges once told me. Early on with GES, two women were on the staff. They knew my view on head coverings for women. Yet when we prayed together as a staff, they would not cover their heads when they prayed out loud. I didn’t say anything because I did not want to offend them.
I asked Zane if I should insist that they put on hats. Zane told me that while head coverings are certainly important, they are a matter of personal conviction. So, if the women on my staff did not believe that head coverings were required, he thought I should not push it. He said that while this issue probably would come up at the Judgment Seat of Christ, this would be a relatively minor issue compared to all the major issues we deal with in our lives. I thought that was wise counsel.
For more articles on this subject, see this TGC article arguing against head coverings but for women not teaching or exercising authority in church; this relearn church article arguing for head coverings for women in church (the author writes, “Martin Luther, John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, John Gill, Matthew Henry, William Tyndale, Watchman Nee, Augustine, Tertullian, Thomas Aquinas, and RC Sproul, all taught that Christian wives should wear a head covering while they pray or prophesy”); and this article by Pastor Sam Storms arguing against head coverings.