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The membership of Crossbridge Church Key Biscayne, the Presbyterian congregation on the island, voted overwhelmingly on Sunday to leave the denomination associated with the church for half a century over the issue of women serving in the pulpit and other leadership roles.

Rev. Felipe Assis told members that the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) had become even more restrictive on women serving in leadership roles, adopting a policy banning them from even administering communion. 

“That’s why we feel it’s not a good fit for us,” Assis said.

He urged members to move on from the PCA and explore joining another Presbyterian denomination, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC). The vote was 22-3 to leave the PCA.

Church leadership will come back in the spring for membership to vote formerly to join the EPC.

which takes a less restrictive stance on women serving as ordained deacons, elders or other leadership roles.

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“EPC says the churches decide what the offices and roles of women are,” Assis said.

Assis and two assistant pastors were sanctioned by the PCA for having a woman preach at Crossbridge Church Pinecrest. They were ordered to confess their sins in front of the congregation, but instead Asiss and elected leaders there opted to move the Pinecrest branch of Crossbridge out of  the PCA.

Crossbridge Church in Key Biscayne, Fla. Members voted Dec. 3 to leave the Presbyterian Church in America, a denomination the church has been afilliated with for 50 years. (KBI Photo/Tony Winton)

Crossbridge Church Key Biscayne is now looking to join the EPC, which does not believe that the issue of the ordination of women “is an essential of the faith.” It allows congregations to decide for themselves on the issue.

“EPC says the churches decide what the offices and roles of women are,” Assis said,

Crossbridge Church Key Biscayne  will likely vote to  join  EPC in the spring. The delay is to make sure that the church’s non-profit status is secure and that the church-run Key Biscayne Presbyterian School on site isn’t negatively impacted. The EPC also has its own approval process, Assis told the congregation. 

Assis said his mentor, the late Rev. Tim Keller, was moving the church in the direction of the women in leadership roles, but “a lot of people questioned that” in the PCA. Keller’s Redeemer Church in Manhattan helped to launch the Crossbridge family of churches in Miami-Dade County. 

Key Biscayne Presbyterian Church members voted in 2017 to affiliate with Crossbridge but it has a rich history on the island – on the front lawn sits the bell U.S. President Richard Nixon rang to announce the end of the Vietnam War. 

Another Crossbridge Church in Miami Springs is a member of yet another Presbyterian denomination known as ECO.

The PCA had become quite steadfast in its position that no woman should serve in a leadership role, taking its direction from the Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 2:12-14, a passage interpreted by some that women cannot hold leadership positions.

One worshiper of Crossbridge Church Key Biscayne protested loudly outside on Sunday, making it clear to those arriving for Sunday service he disagreed with leaving the PCA. Key Biscayne police told him he could protest but to stop disturbing the peace by yelling at congregants. 

While other churches – Episcopalians, for instance – have long allowed women in leadership positions others are just now wrestling with the issue. In February, the Southern Baptist Convention ousted Saddleback Church, the second largest congregation over the issue. 

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JOHN PACENTI is the executive editor of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.

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JOHN PACENTI is the executive editor of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.