A Public Apology
When we first met the Holdeman people, we were delighted at the beautiful orderliness—and repulsed by the legalism and One True Church doctrine. Finally, we were enamored of the lovely lifestyle and embraced wholeheartedly the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite. We now are grateful that God works all things together for good, even when we ignore His warnings and choose a wrong path.
In our enthusiasm, Vivian wrote a book, and then we wrote one together, I gloriously describing the beauties of the Holdeman Church, which we mistakenly extolled as Zion. But God opened our eyes, and we found the
lovely vision to be merely a mirage. The genuine vision of Zion is far greater and lovelier, encompassing every born-again believer from every nation, tongue, and tribe. No Proselytes in Zion warns against pride, stubbornness, and offence, which is good. But the entire book was written based on our belief in the false doctrine of the One True Denomination. Were that true, the conclusions we reached would have been true. Therefore, I must renounce No Proselytes in Zion as erroneous and dishonoring to the Lord Jesus Christ, upon whom my eyes are now set. I apologize if I have led anyone into those same errors. Vivian’s book described doctrinal issues I never had, so I will let her write of her book below.
Whether it be of God
My story begins with sin. I criticized the saints. I judged the Churches of God, my fellow Christians, because they had among them shallow, weak people. I failed to realize that the New Testament church had the same, as do all churches today, including the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite, where they are just camouflaged by the dress and behavior code.
Then I drew a picture in my mind of what was or was not “worldly,” and I legalistically disdained those who didn’t meet my standard. The Bible itself defines worldliness, carnality, and sin in Gal. 5:19-21 and other places. I had no right to go beyond this description and consider worldly that which God has not listed as worldly. For this I have asked God’s forgiveness and am truly sorry to those I have harmed by my critical spirit in this book.
Chapter 1 The Meeting reflects my attraction to the Holdeman lifestyle, and the warnings I received from the Holy Spirit but did not heed.
Chapter 2 Outward Adornment The Bible says Christian women should dress modestly with shamefacedness and sobriety. The word modest in the Greek means “well arranged, orderly, decorous, decent.” Of course we should avoid pride in every area of our lives. But I do not believe Christians must reject the dress of their culture, for Jesus did not. To freeze the dress pattern of a certain generation into a mandatory uniform is not part of the Bible. To appear in public with clothes so outstanding they appear a costume, drawing attention wherever we go, does not seem shamefaced or orderly. (It may draw people who feel wistful for a bygone lifestyle, but does it truly draw them to Christ?)
Within any given culture, clothing can range from obscene to decent. It is my opinion that Christians should choose those styles that are recognized in their culture as decorous and proper. Neither should we become more modest than Jesus, who wore the tunic of his time, which history says sometimes reached the knee and sometimes the ankle. (One of the early church fathers, Clement, also recommended clothing reaching the knee.) This would apply to men’s or women’s garments.
As for what constitutes men’s or women’s clothing—I must remember that Jesus wore a dress and it was men’s clothing. Everyone wore a dress or tunic, so the distinction was not in whether the garment had one or two openings at the hemline, but in color or accessories. I believe we can follow the example of Jesus in wearing that which our culture accepts as men’s or women’s clothing.
Chapter 3 The Devotional Headcovering What an idol it can become, what a yardstick by which all other Christians are measured, all other churches judged! Yet after we left the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite, I continued wearing the same one, for it had never been a burden.
But one Sunday a young visiting woman sat in front of me with a beautiful long veil of hair upon her shoulders. I looked at the glory that God had given her with the appreciation I have for a beautiful sunset or the flowing mane of a horse. I looked past her at the other women with their hair hidden under white scarves. The contrast was startling. Could it be possible that the young woman was the only one wearing the actual, God-given veil? Were the others hiding their true veil and replacing it with a fabric substitute? An artificial, fabric “wig”?
In Whether it be of God I wrote that the long hair could be construed to be the covering, but I casually dismissed the thought by saying women usually don’t wear long hair. I also blithely dismissed the cultural issue. Now I concentrated again on that passage, not because I wanted to discard the covering, but because I wanted to know whether other Christian women are disobedient or not.
I knew of the early church writings, but those men advised covering the face, the most vocal saying the veil should be waist or knee-length (like the Islamic burhka). He said all decent women of his day veiled in the street to hide beauty and avoid drawing attention. Wearing a veil was definitely a cultural issue when Paul wrote, and almost two hundred years later, when Tertullian wrote. So historical practice is not the solution to discovering Biblical meaning. I knew various other men in history felt women should veil in church, but opinion never carries the weight of the plain Word of God.
I contacted Jay P. Green, a lifelong Greek scholar whose translation of the Bible, The Literal Translation of the Holy Bible (from the same manuscripts which produced the King James Bible) is recognized nationwide. Here’s his reply:
“The way that I read the Greek, and understand the message, is that woman's hair is sufficient cover in the assembly. This I conclude because the contrast is being shorn, and not being shorn. To my knowledge there is no requirement that a woman wear a fabric hat at any time, much less at all times.”
I knew this passage deals with an unchanging principle of headship. Women must and men must not cover their heads “with something hanging down” (the literal Greek word meaning) as a sign for the angels’ sake. I had known for years that the original Greek also says a woman’s long hair is given to her “anti” instead of a cloth veil, cloak, or mantle. This word always means exchange, replacement, or substitution when two things are compared, such as long hair and veil. But verses 5 and 6 had stumbled me because I assumed shorn or shaven meant “cut off” in which case the long hair as covering doesn’t make sense. I failed to see that shorn or shaven are just that—shaved with a razor or shorn like a sheep. With that so, the passage could mean that if a woman has short hair, she should just go all the way and shave it off, for it does no good as a veil anyway, and she is usurping the man’s position of authority with her bold, mannish haircut. Even nature tends to make us cringe at a long-haired man and a woman with a man’s haircut. I once had my hair cut very short, and felt a burning shame. I had never heard of a head covering, so this feeling was the instinct of nature. But as a Christian, I prayed for 20 years with long hair as my only covering and never felt any shame.
God desires distinction between men and women, thus close-cropped hair for men, and the flowing veil of hair for women. (And nowhere in Scripture is uncovered hair immodest.) Even when worn in a bun, her hair is still recognizable as long.
Is that distinction better served with a veil of hair—or skullcaps that give a manlike silhouette and eventually cause bald spots and hair loss, reducing a woman’s glory to thin, short wisps?
The last verse says anyone who wants to be contentious should know that the churches have no such custom. A word study reveals that “such” means “such,” not “other.” It seems Paul knew that some might contentiously insist on the cultural practice of veiling with fabric, but he taught that the church has no such custom or requirement.
Matthew Henry agrees. He says of fabric veiling, “[They would be] odd...if they would quarrel for a custom to which all the churches of Christ were at that time utter strangers, or against a custom in which they all concurred.”
My husband and I personally believe a woman should cover her head with a cloth veil if culture or conscience demand it, but that the church itself has never had such a custom and considers the long hair sufficient as a veil for prayer and prophesying. (Adam Clarke also takes this view).
But how long is long? The Greek word is not “uncut.” Someone said that a length considered long on a man can also be considered long on a woman. Perhaps. I personally feel the longer, the better. Why mar God’s design and intended glory?
The passage teaches woman’s submission to man and God. My conclusion is that those who with a free conscience submit to their husbands by wearing a fabric veil are obeying God. And those who with a free conscience submit to their husbands by wearing the natural veil of long hair are obeying God. May God bless them both.
Chapter 4 Dispensationalism: I still do not believe people should use a dispensational view to discard the teachings of Jesus on earth. But my sweeping defamation of the doctrine of a literal 1000-year reign on earth was harsh and ill-informed. The early church fathers all believed this doctrine, though they allowed others to have a different opinion. I retract my statement that this doctrine is heresy and simply say that while I personally question it (and may be wrong), other good Christians believe it.
Chapter 5 Nonresistance: There was a time when I didn’t understand that the role of a Christian is to love our enemies and the role of the soldier and policeman is to bring those enemies under submission by force. Was I a murderer at heart? Is the policeman a murderer—or rather a “minister of God” who “beareth not the sword in vain” ?
All who follow Christ know that He taught us to turn the other cheek and bless our enemies. But some Christians feel this means in daily life among the citizenry and does not extend into national defense. After all, the examples were all civic inconveniences, not legal attacks.Those Christians who feel that their civic duty is the same as any unbeliever are not murderers any more than the solider is a murderer before God.
Chapter 6 Unconditional Eternal Security: I still believe that if one loses his faith, he loses his salvation, for we stand by faith. However, I believe God's keeping power will not allow a true Christian to permanently lose his faith. There have always been Christians on both sides of this argument. I retract my vilifying statements.
Chapter 7 Musical Instruments and Photographs: My conclusions were completely wrong in this chapter. Worshipping graven images is a world away from using the tool of photography. Yes, people go to excess, but they also do that with the fork, which we know is sin. And of course people like their photographs—they represent people they love! What’s the difference between a treasured album of photographs and a treasured Holdeman scrapbook with picture postcards? My arguments were weak and contrived.
As for musical instruments, the Bible calls them “musical instruments of God” (1 Chron. 16:42; 2 Chron. 7:6), tells us to use them for worship (Psalm 150: 3-6; 81:2; 98:5,6), predicts that in Zion, the Church, they will be used (Psa 87), and says they will be used to worship God in heaven (Rev. 14:2). . The Old Testament “proof text” ( Amos 6: 1-5 ) saying woe to those who invent them equally prohibits eating lamb, wearing hand lotions, singing, and lying on the couch! (The passage is about lazy luxury, not the sin of things.)
There is no prohibition in all the New Testament against using musical instruments. Singing is far superior, but we are encouraged to also use musical instruments, for the word “psalm” means to pluck the strings of a musical instrument.
I used to play hymns to the Lord, making melody in my heart, rejoicing over the meaningful words. When I first sat down at a piano after rejecting it as sin for seventeen years, I wept as my fingers remembered the old hymns. I felt remorse that I had condemned that which God has not condemned.
Chapter 8 Unity How I mourn the words I wrote in this chapter! I reduced unity of the Holy Spirit to a unity of dress code and practice. I wanted everyone to believe just exactly alike, forgetting that the Bible itself gives flexibility in conscience matters. What if I approached marriage like that and insisted that my husband and I agree in everything—the foods we like, books we read, or hobbies we pursue? What if I felt that we had no unity because I like to take walks and he doesn’t? Oh no, unity is much deeper than that!
The Bible speaks of different administrations, diverse operations, varying consciences, all within the bounds of true Christianity. The key is not homogenization. The key is respect, love, and harmony in spite of different views.
The Apostles Creed is very basic, yet the early church accepted as fellow Christians those who believed it. Wouldn’t God be pleased if, instead of laboring in division, the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite, would also accept fellow Christians?
Chapter 9 The One True Church It took me a half-hour to write an emotional and logic-filled letter to a friend, which later became this chapter. My reasoning was circular. I even said that the tragic demeanor on the faces of the expelled was proof that they had left the One True Church! Now I know that walking into a room full of disapproving people who consider you hell-bound would make anyone’s face tragic ! Dear expelled Christians living for Christ—I’m sorry for that statement.
The doctrine that there is One True Visible Church, made up of all genuine believers, is absolutely true. But the doctrine that the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite, is that Church is utterly false. I thoroughly repent. Please forgive me.
Love letter to the Holdemans:
Whether it be of God and No Proselytes in Zion--a Re-examination: (this is the original pamphlet sent to 2,000 members of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite)
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