Recent answers in the Q and A section of Truth and Tidings have engendered correspondence by some who view the subject differently. It is not the intent of the board of T and T that the magazine become a forum for debate. But in light of the importance of this subject, we have invited an article with an opposing view. The article which follows was submitted by our brother Ritchie. We leave with our readership the article and the Q and A – but above all the Word of God. We also feel it vital to stress that when leadership in an assembly has requested head coverings at events such as those mentioned in the article, the spiritual response is “Obey them that have the rule over you and submit yourselves” (Heb 13:17). God places no premium on rebellion.
When Should Sisters Wear Head Coverings?
This article is intended to help with the issue as to when head coverings should be worn. As with any other question about the conduct of a believer, it is essential that we be spiritually minded, looking for ways of pleasing God in our lives. First, most believers in assembly fellowship have some idea as to why we insist on head coverings for sisters and uncovered heads for brethren in the meetings. The reasons are to be found mainly in 1 Corinthians 11. It would be a good thing for us to learn something about the “ships” in our NT: Lordship, headship, worship, and fellowship.
Let’s assume that we agree that covered heads and uncovered heads portray the important teaching of headship, that the man is the head of the woman, that Christ is the head of the man, and that God is the head of Christ. Let us agree that these statements in 1 Corinthians 11 are for us as much as they were for those first century Christians. These are not notes on cultural practices or Paul’s ideas about how people should dress. Now the question is, when should the heads of the sisters be covered and the heads of the brethren be uncovered? If we take these instructions in the assembly setting we are probably very close to the answer because the epistle is addressed to an assembly, “The church of God which is at Corinth,” and then broadened out to include us, “with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor 1:2 ).
The question will then arise, what about weddings and funerals which could be considered private functions, not assembly gatherings? Actually, in both weddings and funerals we are drawing very close to the Lord; these functions are quite different from birthday parties or graduation parties. At a wedding or a funeral, the saints gather to pray, to read the Word of God, to speak out the gospel, and to be in the presence of God for comfort. Both the wedding of believers and the funeral of a departed saint could be included in the expression, “When ye come together” (1 Cor 11:17, 18, 20, 22, 33, 34). Many good brethren have listed the various meetings of the assembly as portrayed in the N. T. but the fact that weddings and funerals are not on their list does not rule out the fact that these functions could be considered extensions of our meetings. These occasions are more than family gatherings for social purposes; they are cases of the assembly coming together to seek God’s blessing on a marriage union or the testimony and comfort of a funeral.
The commentary on Corinthians by J. Hunter in the What the Bible Teaches series, is very helpful here: “It must be stated that the N. T. knows nothing of one gathering of the saints being of a different order or rank from another … Nor is it the presence of the bread and the cup, but the presence of God, that makes the assembly sacred” (p 125). In other words, when we have gathered for a wedding or a funeral, we are in the presence of God and we should observe the same norms of behavior and dress. How disrespectful and irreverent it would be for the brethren to sit through the whole wedding or the funeral with their heads covered; likewise how irreverent it would be for sisters to come bareheaded into a gathering which is specifically intended to join a brother and a sister in a relationship in which headship is exemplified.
The Word of God clearly marks out a difference between men and women. Our North American society is doing its best to blur the differences between the genders. Let us, as believers, follow the Word of God. Weddings and funerals could be considered extensions of assembly meetings where the saints have gathered to wait upon God for His blessing and, in the case of the funeral, to remember His kindness and grace in saving the departed brother or sister. Reverence, respect, and godliness should mark the day. We don’t need worldliness and irreverence to spoil these important days.
Weddings and funerals have a personal and private aspect as well. There is no reason why, with a little imagination and preparation, we cannot add the personal touch without violating principles of the Word of God. The wedding reception and the refreshment time after the funeral tend to be less formal and more relaxed thus providing opportunities for personal expressions of congratulations at weddings or condolences or memories after a funeral.