Why I Cover My Head For Church And Why I Don’t Believe All Women Should Cover Their Heads

Photo of me wearing a purple hat

I’m known at my church for my collection of hats. One lady in her 80s looks forward to seeing how I match my hat to my outfit each Sunday. My signature look of wearing hats shifts the attention from my disability, giving me the identity as “the Hat Lady.”

Only a few friends know that I wear hats out of a personal conviction derived from 1 Corinthians 11:

Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you. But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head. But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head. For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake. 10 Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God. 13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God. ~~1 Corinthians 11:2-16 (NASB)

During my engagement to John, I spoke out against the idea of having a woman serve as an assistant pastor in the church he attended (and that I would presumably attend once I moved to Massachusetts). One night I chatted online with a woman from his church who disagreed with my stand on the matter. She said I was inconsistent to stand so firmly on 1 Timothy 2:11-14 when I didn’t obey 1 Corinthians 11:2-16.

For years, I had struggled with 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. wondering why that passage could be considered merely a cultural mandate while 1 Timothy 2:11-14 was considered universal. I’ll work through that question in a separate article, but at the time of that online conversation I decided that integrity demanded me to cover my head.

I did not, however, want to make other women uncomfortable by covering in an obvious way. Years earlier, a friend of mine went through a time of wearing head coverings in a way that broadcast what she was doing. I judged her as a legalist when she did so, which I shouldn’t have done. Learning from that experience, I resolved to follow my convictions in a manner that wouldn’t cause people to stumble into the sin of judging me (see Romans 14).

So I decided to wear hats. After a few weeks of wearing them, I noticed that they hid a stubborn cowlick. I said to some friends, “I guess the Bible teaches head coverings to protect women from bad hair days!” After that, one guy at church teased me about having so many bad hair days on Sundays.

Over the years, I’ve continued studying 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, and I’ve become less certain that it carries the same universal weight as 1 Timothy 2:11-14 does. I’ve read a few articles by respected people in the Reformed camp as well as discussing it with my own pastor. The general consensus is that First Century head coverings served the same purpose as present-day wedding rings.

Again, it will require another blog post to explain how people have arrived at that conclusion. I’ll be happy to write that post once I’ve studied the matter a little more. At present, I’m leaning toward that point of view.

Throughout the 19 years that I’ve worn hats to church, I’ve always thought of my practice as a personal conviction. Therefore, I have resisted periodic temptations to impose my convictions on my sisters in Christ. Head covering should never bring a woman under the yoke of legalism! Nor should it allow me to cultivate an attitude of pride, thinking that I’m more obedient because I cover.

Interestingly, my disability has progressed in the past year to the point that I’m having greater difficulty holding my head up. As a result, sometimes my hats fall of during the sermons, distracting me and probably distracting those around me. I have trouble with the idea that God would want anyone to do something that would draw attention away from Him.

Ladies, each of you is accountable for your own personal convictions. Each of you is also accountable to carry out your convictions in ways that (as far as it lies with you) don’t cause your sisters and brothers to stumble. If you cover, do so discreetly, not judging your sisters who see no need to cover. If you don’t cover, respect your sisters who believe God wants them to cover.

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7 thoughts on “Why I Cover My Head For Church And Why I Don’t Believe All Women Should Cover Their Heads

  1. Very interesting. Am looking forward to your article comparing and contrasting the two passages mentioned here.

    On a more practical note, would a hatpin work for you? Finding them might be tricky in today’s society, but I’d guess they’re out there somewhere.

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  2. Thank you for this post. I’ve often thought about this passage in the past couple of years. Every time I read it or hear about it there is a part of me that thinks maybe I should cover. But then I think about my husband. He is very strongly against it. We live in a place where there are many hutterites and holdeman and he does not want us to be associated with these groups. He has spent time working with men in the second group and for them much of their lives are very legalistic. And so I believe to cover my head would be dishonoring my husband and even causing him to stumble.
    I also remember a lady coming to our church for a short time who made it very clear that she was covering and I too judged her and it was a struggle in my heart to watch her. I would hate to be that distraction to the members of the church and especially my own husband.
    So again, thank you and I too look forward to your future comments on this subject.

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    • The original purpose of head covering was to demonstrate a woman’s submission to her husband. In your case, wouldn’t covering be hypocritical, sense your husband opposes it? Praise God that you lovingly submit to him, not wanting him to stumble. Your attitude is more beautiful than any head covering!

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  3. reacently i stumbled upon a pastor on youtube named geno jennngs i truly enjoy his teachns but he makes it well known that women are to cover heads and no women reachn, he uses the bible to prove his point but i wonder if his interpetation is correct. i am an ordained Elder but he says according to the Bible thats a Sin,, Any Comment Are Welcomed Thank youi

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    • Although the matter of headcovering certainly is debatable, Margaret, Scripture is very clear that women must not teach men or hold positions of authority in the church. You can find several articles on my blog explaining the Scriptures that prohibit women from teaching men. I realize it’s unpopular to accept the gender roles that God has established, but we must obey His Word.

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  4. This is the most I’ve ever heard this topic explained in any way more than “it was cultural.” I’ve seen the passage completely disregarded in studies which I find to be rather troubling. Disregarding Scripture as culture about which no one seemed to know the context of always bothered me. I believe many married women still covered in churches until the 60s. Which made me think that UNcovering was “cultural” feminism, which is apparently what this is about. I started “covering” my head during mixed gender meetings just a few years ago. I don’t preach it. Most don’t realize that’s why I wear a scarf, hat, headband, or snood. But it’s not about them. It’s about me and my relationship to my God and to my husband. It’s for my conscience and no one else’s.
    Thank you again for your article.

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