Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Hats off? Debate continues on the covering of women in churches

Published:Saturday | March 5, 2016 | 3:00 AMCecelia Campbell-Livingston

"Judge among yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonour to him? But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering." 1st Corinthians 11 : 13-15.

any denominations in Jamaica make it a requirement for women to be adorned with hats before they can be a part of the church choir. Some pastors encourage women to wear hats whether they are part of the choir or not. According to them, it is a great dishonour to be in the house of the Lord and not have their heads covered. For them, the worship experience is not complete if women are not properly adorned.

Males are the only ones who are exempt from going to church in hats as unlike their female counterparts, it is seen as dishonouring God to be in church in their hats.

Modern-day worshippers are now resisting this practice, calling it outdated and restrictive, especially for women who are not fond of wearing hats.

It is the norm now to go to many houses of worship and see the vast majority of women with uncovered heads.

Family and Religion sought the opinion from youth minister Klent Elson of the Mile End New Testament Church of God in St Ann.

Elson agreed that the issue of women wearing hats has been a long debate attracting various views and interpretations of scripture.

 

UNDERSTANDING THE SCRIPTURE

 

"In understanding the Scripture, one must take into consideration a number of things - the culture, the geographical location, what preceding passages say, and even the origin of the word in its native language."

According to Elson, the Bible was not talking about the literal 'hat', but based on his interpretation of the Scripture, 'covering' for the woman is her hair.

"In Corinthians, it was forbidden for men to have long hair. Paul, in addressing this issue, made it explicitly clear that a man should not have long hair as stated in verse 14 of 1 Corinthians 11. There, it is clearly stated that he was not talking about a hat.

"The idea, is, therefore, that women should not shave their heads as this act disgraces and dishonours their husbands. God has a divine structure in which He operates, and He puts man as his representative in their houses, so if a woman acts in a manner to dishonour her husband, they, by default, dishonour God," said Elson.

"God does not judge a person - male or female - by what they are wearing or not wearing, but by their hearts. The Scripture tells us that "if we regard iniquity in our hearts, the Lord will not hear us". Therefore, it goes to say that whether you have on a hat or not, God is concerned with the heart and not the hat.

 

DISHONOURING GOD

 

Elson points out that wearing hats yet choosing not to follow the Scripture in one's daily life is what is really dishonouring to God.

"I remind you that wearing a hat but not doing what the Scripture says will bring dishonour to God," he said.

For Elson, if women want to wear their hats, they can do so, but for those who are members of churches with leaders who make it part of the rules, they should obey.

"The Scripture reminds us to obey those who have rule over you, and if the teaching of the church is to wear hats, then that rule should be upheld as it is the guidelines of that church. For women who are within churches that teach this doctrine, then such persons should be mindful of obeying their pastors and shepherds," he said.