The Prayer Veil (Annual Conference Statement)

Whereas, the long-time-honored practice of sisters wearing the prayer veil is being greatly neglected over the general Brotherhood, and

Whereas, many brethren and sisters no longer believe in Paul’s teaching along this line, as has been understood and practiced by the church in the past centuries,

Therefore, we, the members of the Quinter church, hereby, through the District Meeting of Northwestern Kansas, petition Annual Meeting to give a plain interpretation of the doctrine of the prayer veil, as taught in the eleventh chapter of First Corinthians.

Report of Committee

This text in general with the book of First Corinthians is a corrective of a disorder in the church at Corinth. In order to meet this condition Paul lays down a divine order of headship as a basis for his argument–God as the Head of Christ, Christ the Head of man, and man the head of woman (v. 3). Both men and women are instructed on this matter; therefore he says, “Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covereth, dishonoreth his head [Christ]” (v. 4). And on the other hand, “Every woman praying or prophesying with her head uncovered dishonoreth her head [man]” (v. 5a).

As reasons for this practice Paul first of all appeals to creational relationships. “For a man indeed ought not to have his head covered forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God” (v. 7a; cf. Genesis 1:27). But on the other hand, the woman ought to have her head covered for “the woman is the glory of the man” (v. 7b; cf. Genesis 2:20-22).

He further states that a woman who complies with these requirements brings herself into right relationship for angel ministry (v. 10; cf. Heb. 1:14; Psa. 34:7; and 1 Cor. 4:9).

He finally states that naturally a man’s short hair and a woman’s long hair suggest the appropriateness of man’s praying with an uncovered head and a woman’s worshiping with an artificial covering on her head (vs. 13-15). Paul does not specify what the nature of this artificial covering should be, but we would naturally conclude from the oriental practice of that day and from the spiritual import of the purpose that it should comport with the genuine modesty and sacredness of Christian womanhood.

The Corinthian church seems to have been lax in her duty in this respect, and to those who were disregarding this teaching and were contentious about it, Paul states that what he taught was the universal practice among the churches of God (v. 16).

We therefore conclude that Paul’s arguments on this subject, instead of being local in their application, are general and apply to the churches throughout all Christendom.

Committee: E.B. Hoff, Chairman; Bertha M. Neher, R.W. Schlosser, Sec.
Report Accepted.

[Web Editor’s Note: This is the official position of the Church of the Brethren up to the present. E.B. Hoff was one of the founders of Bethany Seminary. Bertha M. Neher was a teacher and author. R.W. Schlosser was president of Elizabethtown College.