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Head Coverings: The Pain and the Privilege

Head Coverings: The Pain and the Privilege

[Guest Author: This article was written by Carlton McLeod. If you’re interested in guest writing for the Head Covering Movement please contact us.]

Carlton Mcleod

Carlton McLeod is a native of Columbia, SC and grew up in Upper Marlboro, MD. In 1987, he enlisted in the United States Navy and reached the rank of O-3 before the Lord called him into full-time ministry. In 1997, Dr. McLeod and his wife Donna established Calvary Revival Church Chesapeake. Dr. McLeod is relentless in his pursuit to compassionately teach with a biblical worldview. After spending his early years in ministry attempting to pull young people out of the kingdom of darkness with all the world’s methods, the Lord led Dr. McLeod back to the Bible to see the critical need for constant, fervent, and Spirit led biblical family discipleship. The D6 Reformation was created out of this desire. Dr. McLeod earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Science from Hampton University; a Master of Theology and Doctor of Ministry from Andersonville Theological Seminary. He and his wife Donna have been married since 1992 and they have two beautiful daughters, Dori and Aryanna and a son, Jonathan.

In January 2013, the Lord prompted me to teach through the Epistle of First Corinthians, line by line.  Knowing what was in this Pauline letter to the church at Corinth, I was excited, but nervous.  Why?  Because of the implications of actually being obedient to what was written therein.  In fact, I “double-checked” with the Lord in prayer in an attempt to discern if this was in fact His will for our congregation.  I asked the other elders.  We talked about it and prayed.  Why all this consternation?  Because First Corinthians is a scary book; other parts of Scripture would have been much easier!  In May of 2013, we prayerfully began, finishing in December 2014.

Well, I can say my fears were founded.  The Epistle shook our church.  Why?  Because we refused to simply ignore or explain away tough passages and actually worked our way through them in context as best we could.  And as a result, we upset people.  We lost some people.  I was and have continued to be subject to increased criticism.  Again…why?  Because this section of Holy Scripture contains many things people in the modern era do not like, particularly in the areas of church discipline, gifts, church order, and women’s issues.  That is the bottom line.

In particular, 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 was exceptionally challenging.  I did the best I could to explain the Text, in the historical context, and even took the time to demonstrate how the church throughout its history responded to this ordinance.  Nevertheless, it was difficult for many women in our congregation to hear.  Some left our church.  No one ever said it was over the head coverings sermon, but I knew.  On the bright side, a small number began to cover.  Others have covered, and stopped, and started, and stopped, and started…  Our men continue uniformly NOT covering. :)

I must confess that I didn’t really understand how the head covering verses would affect our wonderful ladies.  As a man, I just didn’t get it.  Wrestling with shame?  Dealing with embarrassment?  Different fashion choices?  Modesty issues?  Having to process one’s self-image?  Having to fight against feminist indoctrination?  The whole “hair” subject in general?  Submission to male authority?  All these things and more were rolled into a piece of cloth on the head during times of prayer and prophecy.  I thought I “got it.”  Turns out, I didn’t.

Nevertheless, we worked hard to make sure no one felt judged.  Some did anyway, which is heartbreaking.  I suppose the visible nature of the symbol kind of causes that.  With as much love and grace as we could muster, all the ladies were given a choice to cover or not based on their family’s decision, but it has been hard to move on.  Literally it has taken us a full year to recover.

On a much happier note, our church is also stronger.  We gained people too.  We deepened our faith.  We took these apostolic directives seriously, and God has “blessed us in the doing!” (Jam 1:25)  Yes, it looks and feels a little odd…a church that is attempting to apply biblical directives without compromise in 2015.  We make tons of mistakes Lord knows, but we are trying.  Thank you Jesus for grace! :)

This Epistle does indeed challenge the all-too-often man-centered modern church, and that in my opinion is a good thing.  The American church is suffering now in part, because we refuse to take God at His Word.  In fact, I believe the church has lost her prophetic voice…her willingness to declare what thus says the Lord, and the entire world is hurting as a result. (I wrote extensively about this in my book, The Playbook: Five Strategic Plays to Restore the Prophetic Voice of the Church in America.)

Without a doubt, 1 Corinthians brought some pain.  But I’d be remiss if I didn’t declare that it was indeed a privilege to hear what thus says the Lord in this Epistle, and do our very best to obey Him, regardless of the cost.

Soli Deo Gloria!


You can watch Bishop McLeod’s sermon on 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 below:

  • Kinuko H

    Dear Dr. Carlton McLeod, thank you so much for this post! Our generation do need the men of God who stand up for the Truth like you. May God bless you and your church abundantly. In Christ, Kinuko

    • Carlton C. McLeod

      Thank you so much for your kind words! :)

  • It’s a terrible sacrifice for men to have to give up wearing hats to church. Oh, wait, it’s not. Because men usually don’t wear hats anyway either. The exception being a cowboy church, but even there the men are expected to remove their hats during the prayer. We easily forget that back when women wore hats in church, men wore them to church as well. So I would suggest that the men follow the example of their predecessors – bring back the fedora, the bowler, and the homburg, wear suits, jackets, and ties. If you want women to wear hats, then bring back gloves as well. If you want to bring back hat culture, then do it all the way.

    • Jamie, while men may have shown up to church in a hat (i don’t know), they would not have kept it on during the service. The historical evidence is very clear on that. But even if they did, we follow Scripture, not tradition. We’re not trying to recreate the past but rather trying to follow biblical instructions today.

      • But the past was a the cultural understanding of complying with the Bible, was it not? Like the Lord’s Supper – in the Bible it was something more like one of our pot-luck dinners; it was nothing like the variation in my church with a single oyster cracker and a few ounces of grape juice. It’s how our culture continues an ancient practice; not by copying it directly, but interpreting and re-interpreting to be suitable to any given time and location. In the past, there was a big hat culture for men and for women. That’s not so now, so women have to something and men don’t have to do anything in order to comply with this verse. I did find a discussion about hats where it wasn’t uncommon for hat racks to be located in church – on Sunday Services they would be full of men’s hats. At least that was fair; in as much as the woman had to keep hers on, the man had to sacrifice wearing theirs to glorify Christ. But since fashions have changed, men are not expected to make that sacrifice today.

    • Christian Filbrun

      If the backbone and basis of veiling in worship had been either respect or hat culture, your suggestion would be an excellent one, sir! 😉

      • I’ve been looking into that – thanks to Google, I’ve searched for pictures of people going to church in the 1930s, 1940s, and back then there are group pictures where men’s hats can clearly being seen worn outside the church or in the hands of their owners as they are leaving the building. Hat culture was the norm for our society back then, for one it keep heads a good deal warmer in the cool of the morning (reliable heat wasn’t as common then as it is now.) Also everybody was dressed up in public at all times. At least because of hat culture, men too had to do something to obey this verse.

    • Another thought; in as much as this is the Head Covering Movement (for women), it’s also the Head Uncovering Movement (for men). Church is one of the places you get to not-wear a hat; but you can only not-wear a hat if it’s your custom to usually wear hats elsewhere. The trick is to bring back hats for men so that they can wear them to church but not in church – I suspect it would be met with much resistance, but it would be a visible sign of humility to see a church with a hat rack full of men’s hats: http://www.levinehat.com/pages/hat-etiquette

      • Christian Filbrun

        Au Contraire. I grew up in a church where the walls were lined with men’s hats every Sunday. It had more to do with legalism and tradition than humility. Just a thought.

        • I’ve never been to a church with a tradition of wearing hats so it was a guess on my part – but it seems to me better that men take off their hats for church than to walk into a building without a hat and pat themselves on the back and say “Our men continue uniformly NOT covering. :)
          I’m not surprised that legalism and tradition took-over; it’s part of human nature. In the years this site has been running, the primary message is “Ladies – wear hats!” In all of the time I’ve been here there’s never been a condemnation of men wearing hats. At least the cowboy church gets it right – that it’s not just something that women do and men don’t, but it’s something that men do differently.

          • Christian Filbrun

            In as much as this is the Head Covering Movement (for women), it’s also the Head Uncovering Movement (for men). Valid point, and it’s one of the weaknesses of worship-time-only veiling view. Incidentally, I haven’t seen the back patting you referenced, but there are some of us men who uniformly DON’T generally cover our head, and aren’t trying to be snarky or proud of it.

            And regarding “hat culture”, how have you determined when to use it for the plumb line? In this case, your reference seems to be to 19th/early20th century, although perhaps I misunderstood…? Why not go back another 200 years, or even 2000, if you’re going to use “hat culture” as a determinate factor rather than considering the Scriptural teaching, it’s context, and the “hat culture” of that day?

          • I found this patent: http://www.google.com/patents/US57076 for a church pew (seat) / hat rack combo design from 1866 while looking up as far back as hats were a thing. I already knew that older drawings of certain religious groups did show that even while women were universally covered in bonnets or hats, many men opted to wear them as well: “By 1652 the religious movement, “Quakerism”, had begun. Quakers often disrupted Puritan religious services and refused to remove their hats when it was the custom to do so.”

            The problem is that the further back one goes, the more difficult it is to tell what the traditions or customs were regarding hats and churches or culture or how specific sects understood this verse differently than others. It may very well be an oddity that only now it is uncommon for men and women to wear hats: “Virtually everyone wore something on their heads in the Middle Ages, to keep off the sun in hot weather, to keep their heads warm in cold weather, and to keep dirt out of their hair. Of course, as with every other type of garment, hats could indicate a person’s job or station in life and could make a fashion statement. But hats were especially important, and to knock someone’s hat off his or her head was a grave insult that, depending on the circumstances, could even be considered assault.” http://www.spokesman.com/timelines/brief-history-hats/ – this timeline shows the history of hats going back hundreds of years. Were we a ‘hat culture’ because of the Bible?

          • Christian Filbrun

            The real point, dear sir, is that you are presuming culture shifts trump the ongoing/culture-transcending relevance of the Scriptural teaching, a relevance you have continued to deny but not disprove. 😉

          • If anything, the teaching of the Scripture shaped the cultural understanding from the foundation of the one church, throughout the middle ages, and well into the 20th century. It can’t be coincidence that the discontinued practice of wearing hats altogether was also right about the same time that schools ended the practice of prayer unless the influence of the totality of scripture was beginning to wane.

          • Christian Filbrun

            Which is very possible, being a century or so after the Age of Reason. If you want to link other things that “couldn’t” be just coincidence, we could look at women’s lib movements, i suppose…

            It’s an apples/oranges problem, tho. You keep appealing to culture to establish the relevance of the scriptural teachings this site is dedicated too, whereas most here would appeal to scripture and its context to establish relevance. Not sure we’ll get anywhere, with said disconnect. :(

          • The Bible was written by a foreign culture, translated to another culture a few times. Understanding the Bible as being divorced from its culture is like trying to separate lemonade from water, you lose flavor and color.

    • Mark

      Actually, many men DO wear hats today (ball caps). I wear one almost all the time. I wear it at Walmart, at home, at work, everywhere except church. The men in our church take off their ball caps because scripture says to. The women cover mostly with mantillas. A few wear hats. No problem.

      • Usually the guys in this region that wear hats at all tend to wear camouflage hats whenever they’re in public – but I’ve never seen them wear hats to/from any of the three or so churches I’ve been to in the last five years. The only woman I know of who wears a head covering does so because she’s a cancer patient. Other than that there’s a significant Amish presence in this area and both their men and women are almost always wearing hats.

  • Gretchen

    Bishop McLeod, this video teaching was in many ways the video that really opened my eyes to covering. I think I must have watched it at least three or four times, taking notes and really challenging my thought process. I then showed my husband and it challenged his thought process. What an excellent challenge. Thank you for being so bold and brave as to truly search the scriptures and teach about such an overlooked practice. Headcovering comes with so many blessings! Thanks for helping me personally work through some tough questions. Blessings!

    • Carlton C. McLeod

      Thank you so much. Our goal was to honor Christ alone. He alone deserves honor and praise! Thank you again! :)

  • Gemma Valerie Brown

    McLEOD.. This has been one of the best sermons I’ve ever witnessed!! So amazing how you’ve studied, prayed & with Elders of the Church come to the dicision to teach & get across God’s word regarding this greatly neglected issue on not only head covering.. But also the ordinanance of God. As a young Christian woman myself, I untill fairly recently have only ever worn a hat/head covering to Church to copy the rest of the congregation or to blend in; sadly never had really looked into why?!
    But a few months ago I was lead onto reading a really good article about the importance & reasons behind why a woman should be wearing a head covering – that to have long hair is a glory to me & therefore to wear that covering symbolises my submission onto Gods governing authority & His order in which He created things ‘Woman for the man’ I consider myself to being completely against this new feminist culture & how women see it as being put down / valued less… Which as a Christian makes absolutely no sense atall as to why any Christian woman of God would feel the need to argue / go against what God has set as an order in which we are to follow.

    I really loved everything you mentioned & brought together in this sermon, how by giving in to these newer found cultures also gives in to so-called ‘equality’ making same-sex marrige to be okay.. Which it most certainly isn’t!
    1. God is unchangeable & yet 2. People say you need to ‘change with the times’.. No we are to remain firmly grounded in our faith in Gods word & commands to us!

    And I want to thank you for such an enjoyable & important message, may God mightily bless you in your service & teaching. I pray that this issue being addressed will not create much division, but Infact stronger willingness for His people to follow & do what’s right & expected of them, for His glory. Amen! From a loving sister in Christ ❤️

    • Carlton C. McLeod

      Very humbled. Thank you so much. Solus Christus! :)

  • Brother McCleod, I commend you for your willingness to look at the Scripture and say, “Let’s follow it.” Would to God that all pastors would start preaching God’s Word as relevant to today instead of some warmed-over letters from yesteryear!

    • Kinuko H

      Amen to that, Joel!

    • Carlton C. McLeod

      Thank you sir! :)

  • Kinuko H

    Dear Pastor McCleod,
    Hello. I’d like to inform you joyously that this post was translated into Japanese and published on my Christian blog! Here is a link;http://christiantestimonies.blog.fc2.com/blog-entry-383.html
    And it is also going to be placed on this website soon.
    May God touch the hearts of Japanese pastors through your powerful testimony! Amen.

    • Carlton C. McLeod

      That’s a first for me! Wow! :) :)

  • John D.

    Does the Bible mandate head coverings with 1 Cor 11?

  • Colin Saxton

    Dear brother McCleod, love rejoices in the truth. I am in complete agreement with you on this teaching. Some other passages too for reflection regarding this issue. Ephesians 5, 2 kings 5 – naaman only received the blessing when he obeyed the Word of God through the prophet….how many blessings today are lost through our disobedience and ignorance of the simple commands of God required of us. By doing the simple tasks asked of God He strengthens us in His grace and mercy to do the greater and harder tasks that we must all walk through in life.

    Every blessing

    • Carlton C. McLeod

      Every blessing to you as well! :)

  • Greg Cowen

    19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven….Kudos for your faith and courage, Pastor McCleod. Thanks for your encouragement and this helpful video resource.

    • Carlton C. McLeod

      Thank you SO much!

  • Barbara

    It’s very sad that following this directive is so difficult today. For 1900 years women covered their heads in church and when out of the home (and still do in the Eastern churches), but to today’s church people it sounds like a wild, extreme idea.

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