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"My church doesn't teach head covering." But the Church does!

Why should Christian women wear a head covering?


In 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 in the Bible, Paul explains why and then finishes with this statement in verse 16:


If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice - nor do the churches of God.

1 Corinthians 11:16 (NIV)


To we who live in the West, this may not be a particularly persuasive argument. The churches of God we know and attend do not practice head covering. Some actively discourage it. But at the time Paul was writing, in every church known to Paul, women covered their heads when praying or prophesying (1 Corinthians 11:5). 


Should we not count those churches, too?


It is here that we recognise our own limited understanding of the Church. It is true that most churches in the West from the mid-20th Century until today have not practiced and do not practice feminine head covering, and yet that is not the whole Church. When we look at the worldwide Church, we see many churches holding onto the tradition, and when we look at history, we see virtually every church teaching and practicing head covering by Christian women.


Here are five examples of teaching down the centuries from well-known Christians. While they disagree on details, they all agree that the head covering tradition is expected in the churches of God.


For this is the wish of the Word, since it is becoming for her [women] to pray veiled.

Clement of Alexandria (CE 150-215) 
The Instructor, Book 3.11


A woman therefore ought to cover her head because she is not the likeness of God but is under subjection. is not becoming even in married women to uncover their hair, since the apostle commands women to keep their heads covered. 1 Corinthians 11:5-13.


...the Apostle requires women to show their modesty - not merely in a place in which the whole Church is assembled, but also in any more dignified assembly, either of matrons or of men, such as are sometimes convened in private houses.

John Calvin (1509-1564)
Commentary on Corinthians


Therefore if a woman is not covered - If she will throw off the badge of subjection, let her appear with her hair cut like a man's. But if it be shameful for a woman to appear thus in public, especially in a religious assembly, let her, for the same reason, keep on her veil.

John Wesley
1 Corinthians 11 - Wesley's Explanatory Notes - Bible Commentaries -


We are the anomaly.


Why should women wear a head covering?


From Paul's comments in verse 16, women should wear a head covering because the churches of God - in his day and down through history - have no other practice.


But we in the West do.


For those who are discouraged by the Church's open flouting of this biblical tradition - this biblical rule! - today, take heart from the words of another Christian preacher from the past:


However, even if the Corinthians were then contentious, yet now the whole world has received and kept this law. So great is the power of the Crucified.

Chrysostom (CE 347-407)
Homily 26 1 Corinthians 11:2-16


The power of the Crucified is undiluted. He can do it again.