Why My Family Joined A Non-Head Covering Church
Our family moved cross-country to Edmonton, Alberta and thus were in need of finding a good local church in our new city. Being a part of a local church is assumed throughout the New Testament and many commands cannot be fulfilled1) Believers cannot be disciplined unless they are actually committed to a local body (Matt 18:17, 1 Cor 5:2). Likewise, believers cannot submit to the elders who would be giving an account to God for you (Heb 13:17). Here’s a short video by John Macarthur on the importance of a local church. unless believers are a part of one. Not being part of a local church is like being without a Bible–your growth will be severely stunted without it. So we visited a few churches but ultimately settled at Fellowship Baptist Church. The preaching and doctrine is solid, the fellowship amongst believers is great and there are many other positives as well. After a few months of attending we made the commitment to become a member of this congregation.
Fellowship Baptist isn’t a “head covering church”. That’s likely surprising to you since I founded the Head Covering Movement and have spent the last 6 years defending this practice. It’s obviously a very important topic to me. But the church’s view on this symbol was not even on our radar as far as issues to consider before joining. We assumed they weren’t practicing it before we ever stepped foot in the building (safe assumption today) and we were okay with that. There are too many issues that are far more important than head covering and those are the issues that we wanted to have unity on. What kind of issues am I talking about? Well this church preaches the gospel, clearly. They’re evangelistic. They love the Bible and know it well. The congregation loves one-another and is involved in each other’s lives. They will carry out church discipline if necessary. They’re complementarian in their view of gender and reformed in their soteriology2) Though not agreeing with everything listed, here is a brief description of reformed theology. For more depth you can watch this series by R.C. Sproul. (two important distinctives for us). So for us the positives significantly outweighed the negatives. We don’t need to be in a head covering church: we just need the freedom to act on our conviction to practice it. This church allows freedom of conscience on such issues which makes it a church where we can thrive spiritually. While it would be nice if they agreed with our understanding, that shouldn’t be a pre-requisite for joining. We should never expect perfect agreement, but rather, we should seek unity on the most important issues. If we appreciate freedom of conscience to practice covering (even though its not their belief), how could we then turn around and say you must believe as I do on the same issue or we’re leaving/not joining?
Now don’t get me wrong, if there is a solid church that believes in head covering that would be the ideal. Before arriving at Fellowship Baptist we did visit a head covering church for a few Sundays to see if that would be a good fit for us. However, the preaching lacked substance. If I elevated head covering above the strong, accurate preaching of God’s Word, my family wouldn’t be thriving spiritually.
So if you find yourself in a situation like me where you’re seeking to join a non-headcovering church, let me share a few words of wisdom:
1. Don’t join a church to change it.
Choose your church because you believe it’s a place where you can grow in, serve in, have great fellowship, and spiritually thrive.
2. Ensure that you are allowed to cover.
Freedom of conscience should be a non-negotiable because if you are denied the right to practice what you believe God commands, you will be hindered spiritually. If the leadership doesn’t allow this it may be a symptom of a much larger problem with that church.
3. Respect their authority by not being divisive.
When you join a church you are placing yourself under the elder’s spiritual leadership. They have been given an authority by God and will answer to Him for those placed under their care (Heb 13:17). Since they are the ones in authority, respect that by not being divisive in the congregation with this issue.
4. Encourage the leadership more than you debate.
The Scriptures say that we’re to let the elders in our church lead with joy and not with groaning (Heb 13:17b). This is in the context of our submission to them. While there is a right time to bring up doctrinal concerns, thoughts for them to consider, and to have respectful debates–this should not be what characterizes you. Don’t be the person who continually corrects and debates them by pointing out everything you disagree with.
So if you’re looking for a local church, find one where you have unity on the most important things. It’s not essential that the leadership believes in head covering, but only that you are allowed the freedom to practice it. If you are a member of a solid church that grants freedom of conscience, I would not recommend leaving to find a “head covering church”. My hope is that those who consider themselves a part of the Head Covering Movement would be known in their churches as the most encouraging, loving, respectful, submissive members. May God grant us this grace.
Here is a picture from November 15, 2015 when my wife and I were received into the congregation as members:
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