Hair and head coverings

The Bible speaks of women covering their heads in worship or prayer to show honor to their husbands and avoid offending the angels present in our worship services. Why doesn't WELS go by that instruction to the church by the Holy Spirit?

The short answer is that we are not the Christian congregation in Corinth in the first century A.D.

1 Corinthians 11, the apostle Paul was speaking of a custom or practice that existed in the city of Corinth. The practice included women having long hair or wearing head coverings and men having short hair or not covering their heads. In the everyday, pagan culture of Corinth, men and women adorned themselves this way because they recognized the different roles of men and women. They came to that recognition not on the basis of Scripture, which they rejected, but from the natural differences that they observed between men and women.

The directive in 1 Corinthians 11 was that the Christian women in Corinth not be social renegades by disregarding what their heathen counterparts were doing, but be living examples of biblical principles regarding men and women (1 Corinthians 11:3). By mirroring cultural practices that were occasioned by the natural knowledge of God and conscience, the Christian women of Corinth could reinforce that knowledge and display their faith so others could be positively influenced (Matthew 5:16).

In 1 Corinthians 11:16, the apostle Paul identified the head coverings of the Christian women in Corinth as a “practice” or custom: “If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.” In the original Greek, “other” is really “such.” The apostle explains that the hair/head covering situation in Corinth was a local practice and not compulsory for all Christian women of all time. That explanation also includes men and what was said about their long hair.

A local practice or custom is far different from a universal principle from God, binding all women of all time to do the same. Because the Bible limits the instruction of head coverings to the women of Corinth in the first century by calling this a “practice,” women of other places and times are not bound to follow that instruction.