The Authority of the brother
The complex belief system of the Brethren places them in the present Church Age, when the spiritual relationship of the church with Christ is paramount. This relationship is expressed as one of marriage, with the church as His submissive bride. Church practice should reflect this relationship, they assert, and so the sister should be submissive to the brother and cover her head in the assembly as a symbol of his headship. This belief in male headship is reinforced by St Paul’s admonitions to early churches that women should remain silent in the assembly. It is further reinforced by the strongly counter-cultural nature of these beliefs and practices, since the worldly criticism they arouse indicates that the Brethren must be right. Lurking in the shadows are the premodern archetype of woman as Eve the temptress, and the fear of sexuality which it expresses. More generally, patriarchal attitudes to women are typical of premodern societies. They are simply another example of assumed authority justified by reference to the Bible.