Tony De La Rosa, a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA), has been named the interim executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA). He will begin work on Dec. 1.
In announcing De La Rosa as the interim, Marilyn Gamm, chair of the Presbyterian Mission Agency said that he “understands our corporate complexity while able to speak pastorally and theologically.”
“The PMA needs a huge injection of hope,” she said. “We are hoping this is the person to at least inject the agency and the wider church with hope. We love this person’s energy and passion for both the PMA and the PCUSA.”
De La Rosa spoke of how “grateful I am to Marilyn and executive committee for entrusting me with the monumental task of seeing the PMA through this crucial time in its history.”
During a press conference, De La Rosa said he was “particularly excited to be working with people who I have grown up in this church knowing and working with that includes both staff and members of the board. … What I fear most is not being able to address some of the anxiety … in the church as a whole.”
Gamm said that De La Rosa could serve in the position anywhere from one to three years. De La Rosa and his husband, Michael P. Bendgen will relocate to Louisville later this year. They have been a couple for more than eight years and were married in June 2015 at Immanuel Presbyterian Church.
A life-long Presbyterian, he most recently served as a commissioned ruling elder and interim lay pastor of the 350-member Newport Presbyterian Church in Bellevue, Wash. He has also served as the interim executive presbyter of the Presbytery of New York City for three years.
De La Rosa has been a long-time leader of the movement to ordain practicing homosexuals in the PCUSA. He was also a member of the Special Committee to Study Issues of Civil Union and Christian Marriage in 2009-2010, which issue a report which stated in part, “We recognize that our interpretations of Scripture lead us to different conclusions regarding homosexual behavior and same-gender partnerships. We hold that the Christian life is one of sanctification, and we confess that Scripture holds out a transforming hope to radical change in Jesus Christ that requires us to be dead to sin and alive to all that is good. For some of us, that means same-gender couples should be encouraged to abstain from sexual relations; for others of us that means that same-gender couples should be encouraged to enter into faithful, covenanted, lifelong partnerships.”
He led a demonstration against the denomination’s prohibition against ordaining homosexuals at the 1996 General Assembly in Albuquerque, after commissioners voted to ask presbyteries to make the prohibition constitutional.
De la Rosa later served as chairman of the litigation committee that advised then Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick. He was the attorney for the administrative commission that deposed the pastors of First Presbyterian Church in Hollywood, further exacerbating a congregational split.
De La Rosa received Bachelor of Arts, Master of Divinity and Juris Doctor degrees from Yale University.
Following the announcement, the PMAB approved the nominating committee’s recommendation of members for the Presbyterian Mission Agency Executive Director Search Committee. They include:
- Marsha Zell Anson, ruling elder
- Joseph Morrow, teaching elder
- Jeffrey Joe, , ruling elder
- Kears Pollock, ruling elder
- Wendy Tajima, teaching elder
- Landon Whitsitt, teaching elder, (Chair)
- Patsy Smith, ruling elder
Ex-Officio members of the search committee include Gamm, General Assembly Moderator Heath Rada and a representative to be named by the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly.
The former executive director — Linda Valentine — resigned the job effective July 10. She was first confirmed by the General Assembly in 2006, 2012 and in 2014.
The Presbyterian News Service conducted an email interview with De La Rosa prior to the announcement of his appointment. The questions and his unedited responses can be found here.