Friday, August 1, 2008

Women should cover their heads in church

Last year I did a study of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, which teaches that women are to cover our heads in church. It involved reading many articles and online books, and hearing many sermons on the subject.

I had never been in a church that teaches that women are to cover our heads, so it was surprising to discover that there are such churches, and surprising also to come to the conclusion myself from my study that it's certainly what that passage requires of us.

Some churches I'd attended simply taught nothing at all on the subject, though various women in different churches understood the required covering to be long hair, basing this on verse 15 of the passage where Paul speaks of long hair as a natural covering to women. (I've reproduced the passage below so you can check this out there).

My church at the time subscribed to the position of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which holds that the covering required by Paul is to be understood as merely the cultural symbol in Paul's time of female submission to male headship in the church, and since it doesn't have that meaning today we should substitute whatever conveys that meaning in our time. (However, one thing I found out in my study was that it was NOT the cultural symbol of submission they claim it was, and besides seeing this in pictures on Google Image of pre-Christian Greek and Roman male and female dress, all the proof you really need is the fact that Paul is exhorting them at such length to do this. A secondary point is that there is absolutely NOTHING that conveys that symbolic meaning in our time anyway. We have to learn from Paul that covering the head has that meaning TO GOD AND TO THE ANGELS.) Check out Questions 31 and 32 on this page:

Nevertheless, interestingly, at their website they also offer for online reading a book by Mary Kassian, Women, Creation and the Fall, in which she has a chapter about the meaning of this passage and concludes that it does refer to covering the head and that it applies to us today. Go to Chapter 9, page 92, about halfway down the PDF document. You can skip to the end of the chapter to find her conclusion that the head covering is still applicable today and that she would "encourage" women to cover their heads in church.

OK, I found I could copy out the quote. Here it is, from page 104 at the very end of the chapter:

In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul exhorts the Corinthian church to adhere to a custom he had taught them: Women were to veil themselves in the public assembly of believers, and men were not. This was a distinctly Christian custom observed out of respect for the principle of headship. The reasons Paul gives for this custom are cross-cultural. They appeal to creation and the laws of nature. This reveals to us how intricately the principle of headship is woven into the created order. Whether one believes that women should veil themselves today (as I would encourage) or that headship could be affirmed by other appropriate forms of dress in our day, the conclusion is the same: The headship principle is so fundamental, so central to the functioning of the local church that it must be be evidenced symbolically in the Christian meeting. Headship is the same principle which underlies marital structure. And this vital doctrine lays foundation for the balance of New Testament teaching on the role of women in the church.

The reason it took me so much time and effort to get to what now seems like a pretty straightforward reading of the passage, is the variety of interpretations held by different branches of the church, and the vehemence with which they are held.

Just recently I discovered a preacher quite new to me whom I appreciate very much, Zac Poonen of Bangalore, India. I'm a bit of a heretic to some branches of the church, particularly the Reformed, in that I'm attracted to the "higher life" teaching, which is often dismissed by them as "mysticism," a word that is badly misused by them in my opinion. That's a whole discussion unto itself, but I mention it because that is Zac Poonen's attraction for me also. In exploring his sermons because of this interest in his basic message, I discovered that he happens to have a teaching on the passage about the head covering and was very happy to find that he agrees with me! And says it wonderfully succinctly: (There is no counter on this audio device and he covers the whole chapter, also spending about six minutes at the beginning on the first verse which doesn't apply to this topic, so to get just the part about the head covering see if you can set the pointer about a sixth to a fifth of the way along the track. The message runs about 18 minutes.)

1 Corinthians 11:

2 Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.

3 But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.

4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.

5 But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.

6 For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.

7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.

8 For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.

9 Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.

10 For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.

11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.

12 For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.

13 Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?

14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?

15 But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.

16 But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.

Nationwide weekly prayer for revival? Oh I hope so!

This letter has been going around the internet, a report on well known Bible teacher Kay Arthur's supposed prediction of a coming famine. It's not quite accurate (Kay did not get a direct word from God and distrusts such claims, she arrived at her prediction on the basis of the Bible alone), and at the end I'll also quote a reply from Kay Arthur many bloggers have also been running:

From the Pastor's Pen, Musings from the Senior Pastor of Valley View Church in Louisville, KY From Beth Moore, Published by Pastor Joel on July 7, 2008 at 08:12 am under Revival.

Dear Ones,

On June 27th and 28th I attended a conference in Atlanta called Deeper Still. Internationally known speakers Kay Arthur, Beth Moore and Priscilla Shirer were there and I looked forward to a special time of worship and having God convict me of my sins and lead me to areas in my life where I need to change. I have been to similar conferences for years, although none this large and with so many well-known speakers. There were over 20,000women in attendance at the Phillips Arena in Atlanta - they said it was the largest crowd ever.

I had an idea of what to expect from the conference, but nothing prepared me for what actually happened. I feel led to share my experience with family and friends. This is important, so stay with me!

When Kay Arthur took the stage you could just tell that her spirit was heavy and there was a certain "heaviness" in the atmosphere even before she started to speak. She said that she had been literally physically sick to have to bring us this message and right out the gate she said, "We are in grave danger." She said that God had revealed to her that a literal famine is coming to America. Physical, not spiritual. She said that God is moving in judgment against our nation. I know I can't describe this well enough, but the atmosphere was ominous.

Kay is a seasoned speaker and she had to BATTLE to get through her message. She stumbled over scriptures and had an extremely difficult time. At times I was almost expecting her to collapse. At one point she just had to stop and pray. There was no person, myself included, that I could see who did not have tears streaming down their faces. As you may know, Kay Arthur is normally a very confident, composed speaker, but she was literally in a spiritual battle and it was taking place right before my eyes. I have never seen anything like it.

She went on to give 7 things that Christians must do during this time and I am going to give those to you now:

1. Jer 4:3- Break up the fallow ground- return to Me. Repent. Get on your face before God and ask him to break your heart with the things that break His heart.

2. Mourn- Jer. 9:17-18 and Ezekiel 9. It is time to weep because our nation's sin is incredible.

3. Pray- Jer 36:7- Pray fervently, passionately for America.

4. Love God's Word- Jer. 20. You MUST love the Word of God and be in the Word of God. I was particularly convicted here because I know I have not been as deeply in His Word as I need to be. She said we must get serious about this.

5. Love others as Jesus loved them. Jer. 31:3 and John 13:34.

6. Introduce people to Jesus Christ. It's time to get serious about this. This is no time for timidity. Jer 31:31; Jer 33:1-9 and 15 and17.

7. Rest. If you will do these things, then rest in the fact that you have done God's will. She said that it is going to be vitally important for us to get enough physical rest.

She went on to say that God has not given us a spirit of fear and that if we are obedient to Him, we will be protected. She said to read Ezekiel 14 over and over until you understand it. This is what God will do if a country turns against Him. She said that this is going to be a calamity (she used the word calamity in such a way that you knew this is going to be no small thing for our country), and gave many more scripture references, but what I have given you are the main points that she made. I hope you know that I would not have sent this to you if I had not been profoundly affected by it and feel it is of great importance to share it.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope you will do with this information what you feel led by God to do. Love in Christ Jesus, Beth

I googled for more information on this and found that it isn't quite what Kay Arthur said. A personal reply from her has also been showing up on the blogs, in which she says she didn't receive a direct word from God, she based her prediction on the Bible. This is one blogger's quote but they're all the same:

We are ripe for judgment in the form of famine among other things. I've been predicting food shortages as well. If we are aware of the sins of this nation and the judgments God shows us in scripture that He brings against the sins of nations, and have been paying attention to the economic downturns, particularly the disasters to crops in recent months, it's something a Christian can see coming.

I couldn't find Kay Arthur's own site earlier, had something wrong in the search, but finally got it right. Precept International Ministries.

Praise the Lord, she's calling for revival prayer -- refers to the famous Fulton Street prayer meeting that brought revival in the 1800s in New York as a model for a grassroots prayer meeting across the nation!

Oh happy day! Oh our Father in heaven, I hope this is from You. May it spread. May every community however large or small start regular prayer meetings for revival in this nation.

We might as well work from her guidelines so we'll all be on the same page:

On that page they lay out a plan for churches and small groups across the nation to pray on Thursdays at noon for half an hour to an hour through the election.

I'd hope that some communities might want to meet more frequently but it isn't necessary. I'd hope that some groups would have fasting as a part of their prayer day. And I'd also like to add that I think the focus should be predominantly on the condition of the churches, even more than the nation.

As the church goes, so goes the nation.

Judgment begins at the house of God.

It's the church that has been failing the nation. Here let me put in another plug in for the 2007 Revival Conference I linked in my last entry here. Many of the speakers specifically pointed to the church as the reason for the nation's decline.

Also, the doctrinally orthodox churches tend to ignore the churches that misrepresent the gospel to the world, but they claim Christ's name, so we should be publically repenting for their sins as if they were our own as well.