The PCA General Assembly voted to form a study committee regarding the place of women in the church. Conservatives have decried this as an attempt to overturn the foundation of the PCA, effectively declaring, “been there, done that, case closed.” As the ordination of women was one factor in leading to the split between what would become the PCA and PC(USA) in the early 1970’s.
But I must ask the question, is treating perennial theological questions as off limits really the attitude that seeks to give defference to Scripture? Or, does continual asking allow Scripture to speak afresh to each successive generation to the questions it inevitably encounters?
I am inclined to agree with the latter if for no other reason than the current controversy in Reformed Complimentarian circles regarding the supposed Eternal Submission of the Son (ESS). (I hope to write on this topic soon) The issue regarding the place of Women in the Church has lead to big questions regarding the nature of God. We all certainly agree that question regarding the nature of God supersedes those regarding gender, however, when answers to questions of gender evoke problematic descriptions of God, our account of gender must be reexamined in light of the Biblical witness that testifies to both.
Lesser theological questions always have grand implications for foundational theology when doctrines are constructed backwards.
To truly defer to Scripture we ought to hold lesser doctrines looser if for no other reason than an apprehension about unintentionally implying things about God we’d later see as problematic when addressing new theological questions.
To treat theological questions as settled (even foundational ones but especially lesser ones) lends itself not to a respect for tradition but a crass traditionalism that subverts the authority of Scripture as the supreme authority for every generation. In principle questions as foundational as the Trinity or Hypostatic Union are always open not because they are uncertain but because scripture and not councils is the final authority for faith and life.
PCA, ask the question of the role of women in the church, and continue asking and answering it out of love for Scripture because certain iterations of their role are being seen by many to be inconsistent with our Gospel confession of the identity of God. Seek to be ever more faithful in our conceptual formulations.