History of the Anabaptist Head Covering

Why do Anabaptists make rules about what the head covering should look like? Have they always done this or when did they start?  Why did we start refusing certain types of head coverings as not being acceptable for our churches?

These are questions that have been rolling around in my mind the last few years. And I have found that when you ask questions, some Anabaptist church members and ministers get very defensive and angry.  One minister said, “The only time anyone asks questions like this is because they are trying to find an excuse for the women to stop wearing it.

Statements like that do work well to keep the masses from questioning too much.

So I started studying history books instead to find answers. I am not a historian, but it’s been an interesting journey.  I found that some of my theories, such as assuming the rules came because women in mid-twentieth century society weren’t wearing any type of head coverings anymore and the Anabaptists wanted to keep the practice, weren’t as accurate as I thought.

In the first half of the twentieth century, most American women still wore some type of head covering at least to church. But yet, Anabaptists began making rules for their coverings in the late 1800’s.  So why did they start making the rules about the size, shape, and specific cloth?

Apparently, during the 1800’s, women wore prayer caps and bonnets both. But at some point throughout that century, women began to drop the prayer caps.  But Mennonite women who were members of the church continued to wear them to church.1

It seems that when Daniel Kauffman’s book, Manual of Bible Doctrines, was published in 1898, he publicized and drew attention to a list of seven biblical instructions (compiled by J.S. Coffman) that were referred to as the Seven Ordinances.  Although Kauffman wasn’t the one who came up with this list, because of his book, he is often credited for them.   (For more information on the Seven Ordinances, check out Dwight Gingrich’s outstanding in-depth study on in it here . 2 )

The Seven Ordinances named “Sisters’ Prayer-head-covering” as one of the ordinances and suddenly drew all kinds of attention to a Biblical command that hadn’t been emphasized this publically before in Anabaptist congregations.

The ordinances came at a time when Anabaptist women, as well as other woman in North America, wore coverings mainly to church. Apparently “it was customary in some districts for women to leave their coverings hanging on pegs at church and not even bring them home after the service”. 3

Interestingly enough, even the wife of J.S. Coffman, who first penned the seven ordinance list that we use, “wore her cap only in church as was the practice of others in the community at that time”.4

However, The Mennonite Brethren group, in 1878, did issue a resolution “that instructed women to wear head coverings in church and family worship”.5   So apparently the beliefs of this group at this time seemed to be also more about wearing it during times of worship with other believers, whether that was in public or with family members.

Anabaptist history from previous centuries – regarding how much the head covering was worn and where all it was worn to–is unknown. It wasn’t a subject that was written about by the early Anabaptists because their beliefs regarding it apparently did not differ from other believers around them.  While the head covering was practiced by the rest of the world, they did not bother giving much attention to Biblical arguments for the practice and application of the head covering. 6


Culture of the Period and Pattern of Ritualism

Throughout the nineteenth century, Anabaptists were doing a lot of good things but apparently had forgotten why. The culture around them had good morals and did a lot of good things.  But when the culture around them began to erode, they had to base their values on something else.  For many fundamentalists, the solution seemed to be to make specific rules to “lock in” the culture of that time.  But in doing this, they then faced the danger of holding traditions and rules as the reason for their religiosity.7

J.S. Coffman taught his list of ordinances because there was a desperate need for Biblical teaching. His intention was to give the Biblical reason for our practices.  For many, hearing 1Corinthians 11 expounded as the purpose for wearing the head covering was a wonderful revelation.  For many people it was the first that they had heard it taught.8  However, in attempting to bring correct teaching to these seven areas, a perhaps unintentional, consequence was that it also caused an elevation of the importance of these specific commands over all other Biblical commands.

Coffman was aware of the dangers of ritualism and even cautioned about it in a journal entry, dated July 29, 1890, regarding a book (a minister’s manual) that his boss was publishing saying, “One danger of the book is that it may encourage ritualism.”9

Near the end of his life, Coffman gave more warning against making rules about outward nonconformity: “The Virginia church and conference has done much legislating to keep our people down out of the world in dress and other things, but in spite of all the keeping down they have done, their young men are now more conformed to the world than ours at Elkhart where we do not legislate much, but do some teaching on this point, and instead put our young people to work and have them contend for these principles…. They have tried too much to do by force of law what grace alone can do. What is it worth to keep people down in any sense if they submit only by constraint? We are in the dispensation of grace, and I shall never again help to legislate on outward forms as I did once in the Virginia conference when I did not know better. But I shall work harder in another way for the same principle.”10

As the doctrinal significance of the seven ordinances brought renewed interest in these specific commands, the wearing of the head covering was also highlighted, and women began wearing it more often.  Many promoters of the ordinance began to push for woman to wear it at all times “if a woman was really to ‘pray without ceasing’”.  (Interestingly enough, the men were not instructed to never wear a hat using the same Scripture.) Gradually, Anabaptist women began to wear it at meal times, family devotions, and then finally all the time.11

Melvin Gingerich describes how after Daniel Kauffman’s Manual of Bible Doctrines was published in 1898, the practice of head covering was then also referred to as an ordinance by district conferences.  It has remained as that ever since. What we take for granted as a long established custom–although a biblical one–at this point took on a “hallowed meaning” and Mennonites began to view the symbolism as being almost in a same class as the Lord’s Supper. 12

The head covering then began to progressively be viewed as almost a mystical enigma among Anabaptists. It was thought to offer a woman physical protection from molestation, it was imagined to encourage virtuous behavior, it was thought to be a reminder to women of who they are “morally and ethically”.13  One group, the Manitoba based, Evangelical Mennonite Conference, called for women to wear them as a sign of humility. 14

Some Mennonite women began to view their head coverings as a banner of their religiosity and a symbol of status.15 Many groups began to employ the wearing of head coverings to signify other things as well. For some groups, different covering styles or colors were used to signify the availability of a woman for marriage (as old order Amish and some more conservative groups still do). For others, it signified the wearer had been baptized and was a member of the church.16

Mennonite church leader and Professor Harold S. Bender gave a more orthodox justification for it in 1922, when he wrote that the wearing of the covering was not of a moral or religious nature, but rather a social one.   He felt it was to preserve social order and to enforce woman’s submission to man.17

As dress codes and specific directives regarding head coverings for Anabaptist women began making their appearance throughout the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, Anabaptist women began to look more and more differently from the rest of society. 18 (Before this our female ancestors did not look much different from those around them.)


Responses to New Mandates

Fashion changes in the late 19th century included the demise of the Victorian-style bonnet and instead many women chose to wear a hat that was often decorated by feathers and flowers, etc.

This was alarming to Anabaptists who viewed the hat as being rather mannish and regarded them as being associated with and symbolic of women’s emancipation. The bonnet was then prescribed by church leaders as being the only acceptable head gear.  Church leaders feared that if the bonnet was discarded by women, the covering would also be dropped. (Bonnet enforcement by American Mennonite churches occurred earlier and more rigidly than in Canada –which was soon influenced by visiting American Mennonite evangelists) 19

Interestingly enough, Anabaptists of this time seemed to have forgotten that before the bonnets were in style, their ancestors wore flat hats. Some of whom were very reluctant to accept bonnets.20

The enforcement of bonnet wearing caused much tension, angry debates, and conflict. In the early 1920’s, one of the most bitter conflicts occurred at First Mennonite Church in Kitchener, Ontario, regarding the bonnet.  The struggle became so angry that it resulted in a church split and the formation of Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church.

A large number of women in this area had quit wearing the prescribed bonnets in favor of a hat while working at their factory jobs in town. (Many single Mennonite women started working factory jobs that were vacated by the men because of the First World War.) As a result of this, the ministers and deacons in that area had a district meeting and passed a resolution that made wearing a bonnet a test of membership for women.  When the district bishop refused to serve communion to anyone who did not agree with the resolution, a committee was assigned to investigate the situation. One minister who sided with the women argued that “making a certain cut of head gear the test of discipleship was …not borne out by the teaching of Jesus”.

This issue continued to be a source of contention for quite a number of years in this church and in 1924, resulted in three ordained ministers being excommunicated and about one-third of the members leaving the church. 21

When clothing stores no longer carried the out-of-fashion bonnet, women had to begin making their own. Many women gave resistance to the bonnets (and to the caps) through small acts of rebellion. Some would leave the strings hanging, rather than tying them, and some removed the strings altogether.  Some girls delayed their commitment to becoming a member of the Mennonite church so that they could wear the hat longer.  Some modified the hats to make them look more like a bonnet by adding strings that tied under the chin.

The historical periods of time when women were involved in non-farm occupations seemed to bring the most resistance to the bonnet. Many women chose to only wear the bonnet to church but refused to wear them to their jobs. 22



Today, mandates for coverings still exist in some form for most conservative Anabaptists, but for most, the “bonnet” is a prayer cap and each church/ conference has its own specific rules for their covering style. Many wear head coverings with strings attached, but hanging. Others no longer have strings attached at all. The hanging veil, in either black or white, has also been added to many circles as being an accepted form of the head covering.

Church membership is not granted for those who do not follow the specific practice of the church they are in. And baptism is usually denied to those who are not willing to become members.  Members that dare differ from their established church prescripts are confronted and eventually excommunicated if they refused to wear the right style of covering.23



It seems the wearing of the head covering for Anabaptists continues to be a ritual with extra man-made rules that are still held as highly as Scriptural commands. This does not seem much unlike the Pharisees that Jesus was reprimanding in Mark 7 and Matthew 15.

We are often more grieved about the prescribed shape/size/color of the covering not being followed exactly than we are about women who are not living obediently within the headship order that her head covering is supposed to represent. It seems we teach “commandments of man” for “doctrines” as Jesus spoke of in Mark 7:7.

We regard the head covering as a mystical cloth that carries protective powers of angels for our women (using 1Cor. 11:10—and yet the word protection is never used in this verse) and empowers them to somehow live a more righteous life than those who do not wear it. It has become, in essence, an idol that seeks to take the place of grace (the only thing that can empower anyone to live above sin) and attempts to diminish the power of an omnipotent God who will not allow anything to come into your life without His permission–whether or not an angel is guarding those covered women who are deemed to have “extra protection”.

Wearing the head covering for praying women is a good thing; but the elevation of it, the extra commandments we’ve added, and the idolatry we’ve been allowing, needs to be repented of. If the seven ordinances are the root cause of this, then we need to go to the root.

The Catholics had their seven sacraments that caused ritualism and adding to Scripture. This is another area that the earliest Anabaptists strove to break free from.  But we have unwittingly allowed a variant of the same type of thing (however well-meant its intentions may have been in the beginning).  Is it not time we turn from ritualism and sacraments (or ordinances as we call them) and just teach all commands in Scripture as being equally important?


I’d like to publically thank Dwight Gingrich for all his help and patience with all the questions I’ve peppered him with the last while.  Also for giving tips and editing advice with this blog post and for directing me to some additional resources.  It was greatly appreciated!


  1. Melvin Gingerich, Mennonite Attire through Four Centuries (Breinigsville, PA: The Pennsylvania German Society, 1970, dist. by Herald Press, Scottdale, PA), pg. 126
  2. This essay is still in “draft” version with further revisions planned, but I have found it to be an excellent historical source with all the research he has done
  3. Marlene Epp, Mennonite Women in Canada: A History, pg.186
  4. Andrew C. Martin, “Creating A Timeless Tradition: The Effects of Fundamentalism on the Conservative Mennonite Movement” (MTS thesis, University of Waterloo and Conrad Grebel University College, 2007), 60-62; available from <http://uwspace.uwaterloo.ca/bitstream/10012/3441/1/Thesis%20The%20Effects%20of%20Fundamentalism.pdf&gt;; accessed 31 December 2011.According to Martin, the information about Coffman’s wife came from Coffman’s son S. F. Coffman, recorded by Melvin Gingerich in “A History of Mennonite Costume” (n.p., n.d.), 40-41.   Credited in Dwight Gingrich, 125 Years of Seven Ordinances: An Historical and Biblical Review, pg. 20
  5. Marlene Epp, pg. 196
  6. Melvin Gingerich, pg. 127
  7. Melvin Gingerich gives an example of this: “J. S. Hartzler (1857-1953), an Indiana school teacher, who was ordained as an Amish Mennonite minister in 1881 told J. C. Wenger that at that time he did not know there was ‘any Scripture’ for the cap.” pg. 127
  8. Melvin Gingerich, pg. 130
  9. Dwight Gingrich, pg.17
  10. (letter to brother-in-law Lewis J. Heatwole, December 12, 1893; recorded by Barbara F. Coffman, 254) credited to Dwight Gingrich, p.17
  11. Marlene Epp, p. 186
  12. Melvin Gingerich, pgs. 130-31
  13. Marlene Epp, pg. 186
  14. Marlene Epp, pg. 196
  15. Strangers at Home, Jane Pederson “She May Be Amish Now, but She Won’t Be Amish Long”: Anabaptist Women and Antimodernism, p.351
  16. Marlene Epp pg.197
  17. “The entire question is not one of moral or religious nature, but social…–it is a necessity to preserve the divinely ordained social order from disruption and to enforce the lesson of woman’s submission to man.” Harold S. Bender, “An Exegesis of I Cor. 11:1-16″ (paper, 1922), 19. Mennonite Historical Library, Goshen, IN
  18. Jane Pederson, pg. 352
  19. Marlene Epp, pg. 187-188
  20. Melvin Gingerich, pg. 112 records the story of a woman from Forks church community in Lagrange County, Indiana, who on her deathbed, begged her daughters to promise they would never wear a bonnet. She wanted them to always wear the flat hat.
  21. Marlene Epp pg.188-189
  22. Ibid pg.193-195
  23. I have personally observed this happen

32 thoughts on “History of the Anabaptist Head Covering

    • Hi Arthur,
      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I think you are right. And then there are also some practices done for “good” reasons–though still not quite aligned with Scripture.

      Is it that we have forgotten the original purpose for why we do it or do we know that we aren’t quite in line with Scripture and lack the courage to take a stand when everyone around us is not? We often use the excuse of “unity” and “not offending my brother” (both legitimate Biblical teachings but not applicable if our practices are not in line with Scripture) I don’t know.. Been searching my own heart.


      • I would lean toward the former. There is a conversation about this going on at Dwight Gingrich’s blog. It can seem that on many topics there is a lack of interaction with opposing views, leaving it as a practice we do just because that is what we do.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Hello, thanks for stopping by my blog.
    This essay is very interesting and draws some of the same conclusions that I have come to as well, but it appears that you have researched the topic more throughly than I have and certainly presented it much better as well. I too have read the book by Melvin Gingerich and found it very fascinating and revealing….I know that the topic of headcovering is volatile among those of Conservative Mennonite background, with some reading something like this and finding it a good reason to drop it completely. Others may feel threatened that it erodes the foundation of this sacred cow. I see this information as good news. We can examine this practice from a cultural standpoint and free ourselves from that obligation. But then look at the Bible and examine what it actually has to say about head covering. Doing so, I believe, reveals an exciting and compelling practice that like baptism and the Euchrist, the physical and the spiritual realities interact.


    • Hello Sharon,
      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

      I agree, the topic of the head covering can be a bit volatile. And maybe not just for those of Conservative Mennonite background–it seems to get people of almost any denomination pretty worked up at times. But it does seem to be our sacred cow and our people are often pretty defensive to anything negative said about how we practice it.

      I like what you said about freeing ourselves from the obligation of doing it “from a cultural standpoint”. If we’d practice it according to Scripture only, I think the possibility of it being viewed as a blessing rather than a ritual would be greater.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks much for your hard work, Simon, in researching and sharing this article. What we don’t know can indeed hurt us, and if knowledge of history can free us to rely more fully on Scripture as God’s primary revelation of foundational truth for his church, then by all means, let’s learn our own history better!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So what do we do with circumstances among mennonite ladies where they have escaped harm because they were veiled? I specifically know of several cases where this has happened and the ladies were told that it was because they were veiled. I also know of a case where evil spirits spoke and told a lady to take off the symbol of power and authority off of her head. Is this all just coincidence or does this actually mean something to the angels (good or evil) when they see a veiled woman? These are some things I have been thinking of and wondering if maybe we have become too dismissive about some of the reasons we veil.


    • Maybe another question would be, “What do we do with circumstances among Mennonite ladies where they did not escape harm even though they were covered?” Growing up, there was an Amish woman that was a neighbor of mine that was raped even though she wore a covering. And a similar story of a conservative Mennonite woman who shared an account of what happened to her as a teenager–she didn’t get receive any “extra protection” even though she wore a covering. Why did that not keep them safe? Also think of the many early Anabaptist women who were martyred–shouldn’t their coverings have protected them?

      While there may be stories of women who were told they were left alone because they were veiled, does that give credence to having “extra protection” from angels, or was that just something that happened for that particular circumstance?

      1 Cor. 11:10 (NKJV) says, “For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head because of the angels.”

      No one knows for sure what all that may be referring to. It definitely says something to the angels, but we may never understand completely what in this life. I personally believe it says something about authority to them because that is the reason women are to wear it. You might find this article that addresses this verse to be of interest: http://www.headcoveringmovement.com/articles/why-head-coverings-reason-2-angels

      One thing I would point out is that it is the act of a woman praying/prophesying with a covered head that says anything to the angels–not just the wearing of a head covering. Otherwise, any unsaved woman wearing a head covering as she walks around would be making the same statement to the angels.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Acually there are quite a number of Wicca followers that are taking up the practice of covering their heads for this very reason. A simple search will turn up plenty of testimonies.
        Satan rejected his role in heaven as the “annointed cherub that covers.” It is a sore subject with him and the headship he rejected. So he will do what he can to discredit any such practice.
        This subject will always stir a passionate response from mortals especially in this age where submission is a most despised word and often equated with legalism and the serving of dictators. The beauty and role of Christ like submission and headship is often tainted by us men not fully submitting to Christ. Not laying down our.life for Christ, or spouse, or anyone else.
        May your journey be grounded in all truth.


      • Thanks for reading and commenting, Leon.

        Satan would love to have a sign of headship and submission to be tainted, twisted, and destroyed. And as Sharon pointed out in her comment above, one of the responses you will see from people who have experienced a “twisting” of, or extra-Biblical practices being put on the covering is that some just throw the whole thing out altogether, assuming that the “twisting” of it discredits it all.

        Wearing a head covering from a cultural standpoint only, or for any reason other than what is outlined in 1 Cor. 11, puts the wearing of it on the same level as a Muslim or a Wiccan because then it is no longer the intention God has for it. And why would Satan want to a Wiccan to wear a veil? Because he likes to take anything God has ordained and subvert it into a false replica that he then uses to deceive people.

        I agree, submission is a despised word in our society. Probably because of some of the reasons you just gave. The beauty of submission is when it is something done freely. Forced compliance is not submission–it’s just another way Satan attempts to discredit the beauty and role of Christ-like submission and headship.

        May we stay rooted and grounded in God’s Word as the only Truth.


  4. I get that many see this as a “Sacred Cow” of modern Anabaptists, and buck at it being an “addition to the Scriptures,” etc. But the head veiling is not the only example of cultural rules enforced by Anabaptist churches, and Anabaptists generally are pretty open about the fact that others can do things differently and still be Christian. For example, rules against TV, radio, Internet, college education, etc have no direct Scriptural backing, as does the particular style of the head covering. But the rules are made to protect the stability of the culture for future generations, something that has obviously worked, and there is Scriptural backing for being wise about such things.

    Historic Anabaptism was every bit as radical to the Reformists as it was to the Catholics. It was a departure from the highly ritualistic nature of the Catholics, but it did not veer to the anarchist (meaning lawless, not Antichrist) doctrine of “Grace-only nothing else matters” that had been espoused by most Protestants. So yes, looking at it from the latter perspective will cause it to look ritualistic and empty. But I prefer to call it “winning the cultural battle.” Specifically with head coverings, do you have any idea how uncomfortable they make any semblance of modern radical feminism?

    There’s a larger underlying issue here that has to do with how Protestants vs Anabaptists look at evangelism. Protestants are all about saying a magic prayer, while Anabaptists are all about how much you are willing to give up, and if you aren’t willing to give enough up then perhaps you aren’t ready to be a disciple of Christ (you can guess, with such descriptions, which view I hold). As such Anabaptists feel free to ask more of followers of Christ than just the “bare minimum” for Church membership. Anyways, this is a very deep issue.

    So basically I have a lot of respect for churches who choose to have a written standard that is not without controversy. It is a wise, forward-thinking thing to do, and should not be ridiculed as being Pharisaical for just that reason alone. If you want to talk about Pharisaical, let’s talk about the Sinner’s Prayer and modern rock concert/worship services where they overlook all kinds of violations of God’s commands among even their clergy.


    • If evangelism for Protestants is all about “saying a magic prayer” and evangelism for Anabaptists is all about “how much you are willing to give up”, then may I suggest that they are both deeply mistaken because neither “ditch” will bring you salvation. We are saved by grace alone through faith. Nothing can earn it. (Eph. 2:8) True salvation will be followed by works (James 2:20-26) While Jesus did ask some to give up things to follow Him–and He still does today– it is not the giving up of things that saves us. Works are the natural outcome of grace changing who you are from the inside out. As Steve Stutzman has said it, “Your ‘want to’ changes”.

      No matter how stable of a culture we are able to maintain by rituals and extra-Biblical rules, if the heart doesn’t change, if there is no relationship with the One who died to make the way for us to know Him, then what good is any of it? In working with moderate Muslims, I have found that they have a very stable culture (not that unlike our own) that they continue to pass down through generations as well. If the only thing we can offer in evangelism is our outward appearance, our brotherhood (close community), and rules about what to give up, then I don’t know of any reason why any would convert. Too them, that would say that Jesus doesn’t offer anything different than Mohammed. The rules that they have to “protect the stability of their culture for future generations” works well too.

      But Jesus didn’t come so that we could save our culture.

      I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it is a sin for a church of “likeminded Christians” to agree to a set of standards, but to base your salvation on it or to look down on others who don’t do the same as you is wrong. A caution I would have is that when we add directives to God’s Word, it can become an opening for Satan to call God’s character into question. (Think of Eve’s conversation with Satan in the garden. Gen. 3)

      Liked by 2 people

  5. The most common mistake about this passage is the belief that it is talking about a piece if cloth (noun) to cover the head. When in fact it is only speaking of covering ( verb) the head or not covering the head. What one covers the head with is never mentioned. Size is never mentioned. But what is mentioned is the natural covering – the hair. Logically thinking, this would mean that one would cover as much of their head as what the hair covers. The action of covering (women) or not covering (men) symbolizes the obedience to this scripture. When viewed as an action rather than a thing then it matters not what is used to cover the head. The thing becomes immaterial. The act becomes more important.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Henry Eicher I believe you are exactly right with your verb vs noun argument. I have made the same argument for a long time. If people would simply recognize 1 Corinthians 11 as speaking of a simple act of rather an object it would clear up a lot of controversy and confusion. The fact is that this passage is talking about covering something rather than displaying something.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Simon, I appreciate your scholarly work on the matter of the history of head coverings among Mennonites. You are evidently writing from within the bounds of the conservative Mennonite tradition, but I am curious as to the heading of your blogsite: Another Radical Reformation. Is it your goal to maintain the historical doctrines of Anabaptism (believer’s baptism, Arminianism, clericalism, nonconformist regulation, etc.) and seek to improve it around the edges, or to take the position of an iconoclast and declare that all without a firm foundation scripturally has to go? In full disclosure, we left the Mennonite Church 27 years ago after realizing that a scriptural reformation of it was hardly possible, perhaps not even desirable.

    Head covering for women as in I Corinthians 11 is still practiced by many believers who are not Mennonite, I am happy to say. Again, I appreciate your work on this subject, and the article on baptism in your archives was insightful as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi John,

      Thanks for your interest and comment.

      A number of years ago I found myself questioning some things in our circles that I felt were not lined up with Scripture. My questions were not “met with grace” by fellow Anabaptists. Frustration at it all led to being ready to walk away from it altogether. But a conversation with a friend led me to do some studying on the earliest Anabaptist history (1500’s) and I found that they didn’t used to practice a lot of things that we do now. They had a lot of things right! That made me curious why things changed–did we gradually move away in these areas, or did something happen to cause it?

      So that started this blog. It’s a backward look to where we were, where/when we strayed, and a call to repentance for areas we are no longer aligned with Biblical truth.

      My prayer is not for another conference or schism, my prayer is only for repentance. The generation of young people that are coming of age are hungry for something more authentic. A lot of them see no choice but to leave because they aren’t finding what they’re looking for in our churches. But why not stay, make their voices heard, and bring change? Maybe that is being too idealistic, but I’m praying for that all the same.

      Not sure if this answers your question adequately or not.. I may see myself as being in a “position of an iconoclast and declare that all without a firm foundation scripturally has to go”, but there are still others that will say there is much more than I have and am planning to address that needs to go. More than anything I want to pray, hear the voice of God, and act in obedience to whatever He leads.

      **And yes, I have found there are many women outside of Anabaptists circles who still practice head covering. It’s been interesting to watch this website http://www.headcoveringmovement.com/.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. I think that the practice of headcovering is something that any woman of Abrahamic faith should read and pray about. I always thought the Anabaptist prayer cap had an enigma and a wonderful wholesomeness to them. When I was given a gift of a prayer cap recently it was quite an honor.


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  9. I am a former Mennonite (raised Baptist) who was in the Charity movement and wholeheartedly adopted the veiling style covering until my husband (raised Charity-family Old Order Amish) and I, did a word study. We came to the conclusion that while the Bible endorses covering a womans’ head it never describes it, even to the point of saying her long hair is given her instead of a mantle, or cloth covering. From this viewpoint we have decided that myself and our daughters will have long hair. Not untrimmed, unhealthy, cumbersome hair, but long feminine hair in respect to the command. Blessings to all who seek to obey the Word.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Would be curious Simon to hear what you’d like to see happen in the ‘conservative’ Mennonite church that isn’t there. Would you mind sharing? Would you like to see pastors teach headcovering as a scriptural ‘good thing’ -but not a commandment? Would you like to see any style ‘approved’ – even skinny headbands? Let each decide for themselves the ‘when’ and where and what? Would you like to see it not ‘required’ for membership? Or to be a teacher, etc.? Would you like to see church fellowships with mixed practices – some wearing it and some not? Would you like to see us each give grace to each other and our own interpretations of this scripture? I have watched all of this happen in a church – indeed in a whole conference… . Guess where those churches are today…. But it’s true … if someone is doing something ‘right’ for ‘wrong’ reasons… tho they are still doing ‘right’ – God is very aware of what’s going on in the heart. But it’s also true that there are always those – in fact many – that find it very difficult – to do the the ‘right’ thing unless others are doing it with them. We all tend to be followers sooner or later… So let’s follow Jesus AND His Word – no matter what!


    • Hi Joyce,
      Have you ever wondered why it is only the outward appearance that we are so worried about maintaining control over? Have you ever wondered why we don’t have applications/rules for other commands in Scripture? Do we decide “when, where and what” in regards to others obeying the Great Commission? Do we require that for membership or communion? Do we allow “mixed practices” for that in our church fellowship? Or do we give grace to each other because we trust that others will practice it as led by the Holy Spirit?

      How about rules for much money we should have?(1Tim. 6:10) How many hours we should have to work?(2Thess. 3:10) How about rules in regards to men lifting their hands while praying?(1Tim. 2:8) Have you ever seen membership or communion denied to someone who was covetous, or a railer, or an extortioner? (1Cor 5:11) Have you known people who fit this description and yet it was never even addressed?

      Who gets to decide which commandments are greater? Why do we refuse communion to someone only when they disobey our favorite commands but then are willing to overlook commands that we deem “less important”?

      Anabaptists are not the only ones who wear head coverings. Many others practice it. Why is it that the Head Covering Movement is spreading more and more and yet they have not had to make any extra rules about what it should look like? They just teach the command. (I realize you don’t agree with all their teachings, but God is at work in their ministry regardless.)

      I have also seen a conference that has mostly lost the head covering practice. I have wondered if it was because they did not view it as a Biblical command but rather as a “scriptural good thing” as you put it. But there are also churches that teach it as a command without extra things added. They treat it the same as any other Biblical command. I have observed churches that had no rules regarding the head covering and yet the percentage of those wearing it went from 20% to 80% just because a pastor began preaching it as a Biblical command across the pulpit and the Holy Spirit brought conviction. They treated it just as any other command.

      So what would I like to see happen? I would like to see the God’s Word preached as truth without adding to it. God doesn’t need our extra rules to help Him. His Word is enough. I recently heard “idol” defined as anything we put our trust in instead of or more than God. It seems to me that we put more trust in our extra rules for our coverings to keep our people obeying God’s command than we trust in God Himself.

      And as far as the size/style, I’m guessing that there are probably other Anabaptists that don’t feel your head covering is big enough or covers enough either. We are all on different places in our Christian walk and we can’t expect everyone to be at the same place that we are because God has not taken us all on the same journey. Let’s be patient with each other and allow God to work at whatever rate He deems necessary in our brothers and sisters.

      Liked by 1 person

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  15. This is a wonderful essay. I have begun attending a Conservative Mennonite Church
    I really get a lot out of the church services and associating with these wonderful people,, but as a 63 year old woman, the head covering and the cape dress, 5he color of 9ne’s socks and shoes for women, don’t make sense to me as Biblical in any way, shape or form. Instead, they echo the Pharisee’s legalism and a strange double standard. The ordinances do not apply to men at all, as you point out.

    In addition, making of the headcovering itself, has become a form of esoteric, secret knowledge and the consensus in the church I am attending is that only a few women can make it properly. There is only one book that tells one how to make it, but the making of it is so exacting that few women are able to do it. Isn’t esoteric, secret knowledge only available to the initiated one of the signs of a cult?


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  17. A few comments here point to hair as a head covering for the woman. But consider how even that becomes legalistic. One comment says that the woman’s hair should be long. Rules, rules, and more rules. Should the long hair hang loose, or should it be piled high on the head after a certain age? Are elastics and ribbons and barrettes allowed?

    It’s important to remember that in Pentecostal churches with Hispanic or Black members, these rules about long hair often get jettisoned in favor of reality. If someone has coiled hair due to their genetic ancestry, “long hair” isn’t easily possible unless you’re talking about creating the appearance through relaxers, weaves, wigs, braids woven in, etc. People have learned to be respectful of the the genetic diversity God has given humanity, and demanding long hair on women from every ethnic group is not being loving to your neighbor, but legalistic. We need to examine the Scriptures carefully for where there is liberty, and not put people under a burden they cannot carry, like the Pharisees. The blood of Jesus has set us free.

    The many rules about head coverings are equally problematic, as you’ve pointed out, Simon. Hats, bonnets, triangular handkerchiefs, scarfs, and colored or non-colored bobby-pins…. Is it for modesty? Some married Mennonite women who say they never let their hair down except in their bedrooms with their husbands try to shame other Christian women who don’t cover their hair, implying they’re being overtly sexual with “the display” of their hair. They wrongly project motives onto other women based on their own sexualization of uncovered hair in their bedroom practices with their husbands. The condemnation and damage these false accusations and insinuations cause should not be dismissed. I can testify to them personally.

    Is it for supernatural protection? That Mennonite girl who was abducted, assaulted and murdered in NM a few years ago covered her hair, and God allowed unspeakable things to happen to her, along with the unmentionable violation of those women in the Mennonite community in Bolivia by their own men. Anecdotal and scriptural evidence of violation and martyrdom ought to silence the false teaching that a cloth covering wards off evil and brings protection. This is to say nothing of the incest that has happened within Mennonite families.

    Jesus said we should ask the father for the gift of the Holy Spirit in Luke 11:13. After doing this, many receive gifts of the Holy Spirit. The gift of tongues, or praying in the spirit, is for edification of the one with the gift, and when uttered in a meeting and combined with the gift of interpretation, is equal to prophecy. When God himself gives such a gift to a woman with uncovered hair, you put yourself in a position of saying either God himself was wrong, or the woman is deluded and isn’t actually praying in the spirit. That is a terrible, but that’s what legalism about head coverings results in — calling people liars, or calling God a liar. And religious people prefer not to call God a liar, so they prefer to condemn their neighbors. God himself will call them to account. “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”

    Christian women who wear pants understand that the OT prohibition against wearing clothing of the other gender is actually a prohibition against transvestism — a sexual perversion of deriving sexual pleasure from wearing under/clothes of the opposite sex. Even men (including Jesus) never wore pants for thousands of years. After pants were invented, they were considered only men’s clothing for a short period in history, before many cultures adopted them as appropriate for both genders.

    God has given us great freedoms that he wants us to be responsible with. When we see Christian women who do not wear the Mennonite uniform, we had better be careful about condemnation and contempt, and false assumptions about their character or salvation. Much of what is put forth is human tradition rather than Scriptural instruction, and Colossians 2:8 warns us plainly about human traditions, how hollow and deceptive they can be, and how they take men captive.


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