Of Male and Female Head Covering


One should observe that headship is not a matter of salvation but a matter of role. One should observe that Galatians 3:28 in speaking of there being neither male nor female refers to salvation not role.

Male headship is the biblical norm for spiritual matters in the home, church, and nation in general. But this does not apply to non-spiritual matters and heading entities such as a computer business, construction company, or a non-profit organization whose mission is not primarily preaching and teaching of spiritual doctrines. Here non-profits include government entities since their primary role is not preaching and teaching of spiritual doctrines although they are to apply spiritual doctrines in their job capacity.

Nothing in this document should be misconstrued as justifying abuse of females by males or males by females. Indeed all forms of abuse to include but not limited to mental and physical abuse are forbidden by scripture. Occurrence of physical abuse is self-evident when the event occurs. Mental abuse may be more difficult to determine; but biblical love will prevent its occurrence.

Head Covering Symbolism – Male and/or Female?

Here I discuss the head covering provision of 1 Cor 11.

I admit the head covering provision has been a rather difficult subject for me. Mostly because of emotional desire not to offend.  But I have concluded that it is best for me and all others to accept the truth of the Word of God no matter how much it offends.

The biblical male headship principle is transcultural and transgenerational. Therefore, some form of symbolism, head covering or otherwise, should be employed by the body of Christ to facilitate good order and discipline regarding projecting, teaching, and sustaining the biblical male headship principle.  This is especially important in a world where extreme feminism principles are taught in our academic institutions and promoted in media. The body of Christ has the God given authority and responsibility to make sure its members are properly informed so as to eliminate or at least reduce the deceptive influence of worldly institutions.

In 1 Cor 11:1-2 Paul says:

(1 Cor 11:1)  Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
(1 Cor 11:2)  Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.

The word translated ordinances (Greek Word paradosis, Strong’s G3862) is also translated traditions in Matthew 15:3 where it says: But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?

So we see this word ordinances in the context of 1 Cor 11 has to do with the traditions that humans devise.  The head covering provision is a tradition that was used in that day for specific purposes.

The words tradition and custom are generally functionally equivalent though in certain contexts for certain specific purposes they may slightly differ.  In the context of 1 Corinthians 11 they are functionally equivalent; they are common practices.

In 1 Cor 11:16 Paul ends the discussion by saying: But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.

So then Paul clearly identifies the head covering provision as a custom (ordinance, tradition) to convey/communicate the male headship principle in the midst of the congregation.  Customs may be cultural and generational but the principle they represent is usually transcultural and transgenerational as in the case of the male headship principle set forth throughout the bible from Genesis to Revelation.

Paul’s apostolic head covering provision was a cultural symbolism Paul used in that day and environment. Paul used such cultural symbolism to facilitate good order and discipline regarding projecting, teaching, and sustaining the biblical male headship principle.

Clearly Paul’s identification of the head covering provision as a custom indicate he understood other symbolism may be employed and appropriate in the future.

During regular worship services, traditionally in the churches with which I have associated, the pulpit and office of the deacon have been restricted to males.  In so doing, the tradition/custom is used for custom purposes during preaching and praying instead of emphasizing head covering.  In other words, such a restriction serves a role similar to head covering. Additionally, it was common for the older women to wear hats in the worship service though I am not sure if it was totally to comply with the head covering provision.

These same churches have during for example Wednesday Prayer Meetings allowed females to pray by sitting or standing in the pew (not in the pulpit and not in front of the congregation) with the understanding they are not doing so from a position or attitude of leadership. Traditionally the Deacons and/or Pulpit Ministers are positioned in front of the congregation.

In these modern times some of these same churches allow females in the pulpit and one rarely find females wearing hats.  During prayer meeting such a church I have seen at least one such church where Deacons no longer regularly stand or sit facing the congregation but in the pew. I have also observed Deacons rotating traditional Deacons Devotional service among females and children standing facing the congregation and Deacons sitting in the pew. Such a change fails to understand the power and value of the tradition of projecting an attitude and position of leadership. In my view that weakens the Deacons Ministry and amounts to conforming to worldly standards rather than biblical standards. More dangerously, it encourages females and the general church membership to conform to worldly standards. Given the little leaven leavens the whole lump principle in work in such situations it will eventually result in such churches having females as Deacons and as Pastor of the church.

But it is really not about what people do but more about what people ought to do.

As a former pastor of mine said one day, we are to LET people light shine not MAKE their light shine.  This is similar to the adage live and let live.  This of course does not relieve us of the responsibility to preach and teach the church.  It merely means we are not to demand compliance in ordinary circumstances.

So on this matter I preach and teach the male headship principle ensuring all know its value and importance.  When I am officiating, I exemplify its provision in what I do and not do, say and not say, and invite others to do and not do, say and not say, in the midst of the congregation.  I try not to allow anyone to cause me to say or do or support anything in violation of it.

Yet, I am not about intervening in the worship service every time someone is out of biblical order. There is a time and place for all corrections and every time and place is not necessarily the right time and place especially if it is not a matter of salvation.

I think this is the spirit of 1 Corinthians 11:16 where Paul exhorts us to avoid contention about such a matter.

Let’s look at 1 Cor 11:16 again as unfortunately there are different translations and interpretations of it in the church world.

There are some bible translations that say the phrase “no such custom” means Paul is saying what he just wrote about the head covering is not the practice in the churches anywhere.  Well that makes no sense as why would he spend all that time to end my saying well forget all I said as we don’t do it anyway.

Others say he is saying if anyone is contentious about it, well what I said is our custom.  But then his use of the word no makes no sense if that is what he was intending to say.

I take the view that the word no applies not to the head covering custom but to a custom of being contentious.  Be mindful that a synonymy for the word custom is practice; that is, a custom is something that is common practiced.

So then Paul’s conclusion in 1 Cor 11:16 is that although what he has set forth in the preceding verses is the preferred mode of operation, it is not something churches should customarily contend about.  In other words preach and teach what ought to be done but if the women don’t, then don’t point them out in the public assembly but pray and hope they will grow and be obedient to represented male headship principle including its various symbolisms.  This is similar to his teaching on speaking in unknown tongues in 1 Cor 14.  There he says speaking in an unknown tongue is childish but yet don’t forbid it.  By that he means just like we don’t kick our children out the house because they talk babytalk but give them time to grow up so ought we to treat one another in the church especially over matters that have nothing to do with salvation.  This does not mean that some things or conditions are not serious enough to address publicly (e.g., Paul rebuke of Peter as recorded in Gal 2:11-14); it means leadership must be wise in so dealing with matters.

This principle of not being contentious about head covering also applies to females “in the pulpit”.  I simply preach and teach and practice the Word of God regarding the male headship principle.  It is others (male and female) responsibility to abide in that principle with respect to both attitude, position, and projection.


It would be dishonest and contradictory for me to say God is speaking through Paul with respect to those things I desire to be true and yet say God is not speaking through Paul with respect to those things I do not desire to be true.

So then if God considered women to be equal to their husbands and other men in the assembly could he not have had Paul to say something like the following in response to the issue of whether females are to wear head covering in the assembly:

  1. Females are commanded to be in subjection to their husbands in their homes but in the assembly this headship doctrine does not apply with regard to any man.
  2. So then let the females not wear a head covering in the assembly for they are equal to men before me.
  3. But let the females wear a head covering when not in the assembly and in public so as to avoid conflict with men whose society norms are that women are to be covered when in the public; do this so as not to be distracted from the message of salvation through Jesus Christ for the Lord God will deal with that society matter later.
  4. Or if God considered women to be equal to their husbands and other men everywhere could he not have had Paul to say something like the following in response to the issue of whether females are to wear head covering:
  5. Females are not commanded to be in subjection to their husbands or any man anywhere for they are in equal to men everywhere. So then let the females not wear a head covering anywhere even though it will cause conflict with society.

But of course God did not have Paul to say any of those things listed in the preceding list of items.


For a discussion of the male headship principle and role of females in ministry see Of Male Headship and Women In Ministry

To God Be the Glory!

Church Organization and Worship

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *