Editor’s Ink -- By: William David Spencer

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 20:3 (Summer 2006)
Article: Editor’s Ink
Author: William David Spencer


Editor’s Ink

William David Spencer

Several years ago, a Russian Christian who had just immigrated to the United States and spoke no English began to attend occasionally at our small city church. He would stand by the coat rack and smile and sway with the music, but all attempts to communicate beyond responding smiles and signs of the cross and the “one way” were futile.

After quite a long absence, he returned with a smattering of English, and, as one of our members had begun to study Russian, it was an exciting day when he opened up a Bible from the pew and in his halting new tongue pointed out to us a verse that was obviously close to his heart. The verse to which we all followed his finger was 1 Corinthians 11:14: “Does not nature itself teach you that, if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him…?”

Then we followed that same finger as with regret he pointed it at a recent seminary graduate we had elevated into leadership, who, while leading our praise team and doing a life-changing ministry among our youth, sported shoulder-length hair, although shorter than his wife’s flowing locks. Philip Payne’s article in the present issue not yet having been written, not to mention translated into Russian, I tried my best to explain the passage largely in the same way: The issue had to do, not with length itself, but with adopting a style that promoted gender confusion. But words and gestures to communicate such a sophisticated argument failed me, as he kept pointing to the passage and the pastor, and we never saw him again. We were sorry to lose a relationship stillborn at the first birth of communication.

Shortly afterward, we found ourselves transported from the defensive mode to the critical when we saw photographs of a new church that had been established next to our little school in Haiti. All the women were in white and all had hats and other head dressings despite the stifling heat. Some of us thought it looked cultic. All of us wondered what kind of theology of women’s roles our girls and boys would learn if they worshipped at this church next door.

While a topic like the meaning of “head” might always be relevant, forty years ago doing an issue on head coverings might have elicited the response, “What for?” In the 1950s, I can remember my mother wearing a little hat with a little white token veil to church on Sundays, but, by the freewheeling late 1960s and early ‘70s of the Jesus Movement here in the United States, only the Catholics and the communes seemed to have preserved the fashion of women under shawls. For the rest of us, in our bell bottoms and flowered shirts, clutching our blue denim covered...

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