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Although we may idealize the early church, most of us would not have enjoyed a visit to a worship service at Corinth. The impression which one was most likely to receive was that of chaos and delirious insanity.

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The extent of appropriate sexual interest and involvement outside of marriage is an important question young adults face. It is also a question of concern to any Christian regardless of age or marital status. Our sexuality, in all its dimensions, is a wonderful gift from God, to be enjoyed and appreciated. Indeed, it is much more than a gift: it is an essential component of our personality and is as ever-present as our consciousness. The physical expression of our sexuality, just as our use of any gift, needs to occur in the right contexts.

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The specific experience that moved me to write this article grew out of telling Bible stories to neighbor kids who were expressing concern about the dangerous drug dealers who daily stalk the street. One eleven-year-old girl, most of whose female teenage relatives under her roof have babies, has a bleeding ulcer and cried when I told her that I was leaving town for a few days. When she asked me to be her godfather, I suspected what inquiry soon confirmed: Her father had abandoned his family and broken her precious heart.

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I was well into mid-life before I overcame the fear of my sexuality. That fear prohibited me from enjoying quality non-sexual relationships with women. When I finally overcame that fear, several wonderful gifts of life came to me.

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The current teaching about a husband being his wife’s “covering” is so popular that some people are surprised to find that is actually is based on a shaky inference from I Corinthians 11:2-16, a passage which is talking about a woman literally covering her hair during Christian worship. 

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The Hebrew view of marital sex, in contrast with Neoplatonism and early church, was not celibate. The Jews were never prudish about sex. The best evidence of this is the high place Solomon's Song of Songs, an ancient collection of poems on courtship and love, holds in the canon of Hebrew Scripture and in the worship of the synagogues, where it is usually read on the 8th day of Passover.

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We Lutherans all want to argue on the basis of God's revealed truth in the authoritative Scripture. Yet all of us come to this debate with our own personal history and agenda. My own history includes aversion to women in the public ministry as a result of experiences, first as a teenager, then as a student in Germany. More recently, I have developed a growing understanding of the just claims of Christian women who have been disempowered and marginalized in the church and a horror for what has been perpetrated in the name of male headship. A re-examination of the texts and another (this time happy) experience of having a woman as my pastor in the United States about a decade ago led me to abandon my previously held view that the ordination of women is not the Lord's will for his church today. I am now convinced to the contrary, although I do not like using the broad term feminist. My own personal pain is not only that close friends and relatives hold an opposing view, but that I fully understand that view as one who once held it (this is not said in any spirit of superiority).

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Sex is discussed openly, explicitly and directly from the first chapter of Genesis to the last chapter of Revelation. If the Scriptures are our only infallible rule of faith and practice, then as C. S. Lewis said, there’s no use being more spiritual than God!

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This article is an attempt to solve one specific problem: the proper translation of the word exousia in 1 Corinthians 11:10 (“For this reason the woman ought to have exousia over her head, because of the angels”). The translation of this word has been given much attention, because it is crucial for understanding the passage (11:2-16).

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The purpose of this essay is a simple one. I hope you will come away with a new understanding of one paragraph in Paul’s letters that deals with women and men in the church. The paragraph is 1 Cor. 11:2-16, a passage I have been studying and writing about for over twenty years.

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