Questions From Readers
In what situations is it appropriate for a Christian woman to wear a head covering for spiritual reasons?
“Every woman that prays or prophesies with her head uncovered shames her head,” wrote the apostle Paul. Why? Because of the divine principle of headship: “The head of a woman is the man.” Praying or preaching in the Christian congregation is normally the responsibility of a man. Hence, when a Christian woman cares for matters pertaining to worship that ordinarily would be performed by her husband or by a baptized man, she should wear a head covering.—1 Corinthians 11:3-10.
Situations in which a Christian woman ought to wear a head covering may arise in her marriage relationship. For example, when the family comes together for a Bible study or for a meal, the husband normally takes the lead in teaching them and in representing them in prayer to God. If he is an unbeliever, however, this responsibility may fall on his wife. Therefore, when praying aloud on behalf of herself and others or when conducting a Bible study with her children in the presence of her husband, a Christian sister rightly wears a head covering. If her husband is not present, the wife need not wear a head covering, since she is divinely authorized to teach the children.—Proverbs 1:8; 6:20.
What, though, if a young son in the family is a dedicated, baptized servant of Jehovah God? Since the son is a member of the Christian congregation, he should receive instruction from its male members. (1 Timothy 2:12) If his father is a believer, the son should be taught by him. However, if the father is absent, then the mother should wear a head covering if she conducts a Bible study with the young baptized son and the other children. Whether she calls on the baptized son to pray at such a study or at mealtime is left to her discretion. She may feel that he is not yet sufficiently capable and may choose to offer prayer herself. If she chooses to pray on such an occasion, she should wear a head covering.
While sharing in certain congregation activities, Christian women may need to wear a head covering. At a midweek meeting for field service, for example, there may only be Christian sisters present, no baptized males. There may be other occasions when no baptized males are present at a congregation meeting. If a sister has to handle duties usually performed by a brother at a congregationally arranged meeting or meeting for field service, she should wear a head covering.
Must Christian women wear a head covering when giving oral or sign-language translation of Bible discourses or when publicly reading the paragraphs from a Bible study aid that is being used at a congregation meeting? No. Sisters handling these duties are not presiding or teaching. Similarly, no head covering is required for sisters taking part in demonstrations, relating experiences, or handling student talks in the Theocratic Ministry School.
While teaching within the congregation is to be done by baptized men, both men and women have the responsibility of preaching and teaching outside the congregation. (Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20) So when a Christian woman is speaking to outsiders about God’s Word in the presence of a male Witness of Jehovah, she would not need to wear a head covering.
However, the situation is different when a regular, scheduled Bible study is being conducted in a home and a dedicated, baptized male is present. This is a prearranged session of teaching where the one conducting the study actually presides. Under these circumstances, a study becomes an extension of the congregation. If a baptized female Witness conducts such a study with a baptized male Witness present, she would rightly wear a head covering. However, the dedicated brother should offer prayer. A sister would not pray in the presence of a dedicated brother unless there were some exceptional reason, such as the brother’s having lost the physical power of speech.
A Christian sister may on occasion be accompanied on a Bible study by an unbaptized male Kingdom publisher. If she wishes, she may ask him to conduct the study. But since he could not properly represent the baptized sister in prayer to Jehovah, it would be proper for her to pray at the study. When conducting the study and when praying under these circumstances, the sister should cover her head. Even though the male publisher is not yet baptized, outsiders identify him with the congregation because of his preaching activity.
“The woman ought to have a sign of authority upon her head because of the angels,” wrote the apostle Paul. Yes, Christian sisters have the privilege of being good examples to the millions of angels who loyally continue to subject themselves to Jehovah. How appropriate that godly women give due consideration to wearing a head covering when the occasion calls for it!
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A head covering is a sign of respect for headship