De La Rosa named Presbyterian Mission Agency interim executive director

Lifelong Presbyterian to lead PMA during a ‘pivotal time’

September 23, 2015

Luis Antonio (Tony) De La Rosa.

Luis Antonio (Tony) De La Rosa. —Photo provided


The Presbyterian Mission Agency Board today announced the appointment of Luis Antonio (Tony) De La Rosa as the interim executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, one of six independent agencies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) He takes the lead of the PMA following the July departure of Linda Valentine from the position, whose term was set to expire at the 2018 General Assembly.

A lifelong Presbyterian, De La Rosa most recently served as a commissioned ruling elder and interim lay pastor of Newport Presbyterian Church in Bellevue, Wash. He was commissioned by the Presbytery of Seattle in May 2015 to lead the Newport congregation of over 350 members during their time of pastoral transition.

De La Rosa is expected to begin his role Dec. 1, 2015. The term of his tenure has not been announced, although Marilyn Gamm, chair of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board, has indicated the interim may serve up to three years. The permanent executive director of the Mission Agency must be confirmed by the General Assembly, which meets every two years.

Gamm noted the search committee for the executive director will be elected at the fall 2015 PMAB meeting. Although the earliest next possible election of a permanent executive director could take place in June 2016, Gamm does not expect the interim or the elected search committee to complete their work by that time. As interim executive director, De La Rosa is not eligible for election to the permanent position.

De La Rosa’s appointment is a unique one for the Mission Agency: He is only the second Latino, and the first openly gay person, to take the helm of the agency.

“My sense of call leads me toward opportunities within the church that make use of my training in both law and theology,” De La Rosa said via an email interview. “I believe that the opportunity to serve the PMA as interim executive director at this pivotal time in its history permits me to exercise my training and my gifts. I am humbled beyond measure to be asked to lead the PMA into the next phase of its history as the coordinated mission expression of the PC(USA).”

“We are hoping Tony is the person to at least, in part, begin to inject the Mission Agency and the wider church with hope,” said Gamm when questioned why the PMAB selected De La Rosa. “We loved Tony’s energy and his passion for both the Presbyterian Mission Agency and for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Tony balances healthy realism with creative, out-of-the-box thinking. 

De La Rosa inherits an agency facing financial challenges. Gamm has called the impending depletion of supplemental mission budget monies, known as the Presbyterian Mission Program Fund (PMPF), a “fiscal cliff.” PNS previously reported on a projected funding gap of $925,000 in 2016 that could widen to $4.5 million in 2017 as the balance of this fund decreases to its mandated floor, resulting in the recall of approximately 40 of the 162 PC(USA) mission co-workers.

“In our interviews with candidates for the interim executive director we endeavored to paint a realistic picture of financial challenges, and an expected need to be willing to cut both programs and staff,” said Gamm. “To be honest, we see no way around the latter and we wanted to ensure that the candidates understood that these kinds of difficult decisions would be on the interim executive director’s plate.

De La Rosa, the former clerk of session at Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles, has volunteered for over 20 years on various PC(USA) General Assembly-level entities, including the Advisory Committee on Litigation and the Special Committee on Church-wide Compensation Policy Guidelines. More recently, he worked on the Special Committee to Study Issues of Civil Union and Christian Marriage that reported to the 219th General Assembly in 2010. In 2012, the 220th General Assembly elected him as a Director of the Board of Pensions of the PC(USA), where he serves on the Assistance Committee.

Before serving at Newport Presbyterian Church, De La Rosa was the interim executive presbyter of the Presbytery of New York City where he led a staff of five employees, 223 clergy members and 96 congregations comprising over 14,500 members. During his three-year term of service in New York, De La Rosa led the presbytery to adopt unified financial planning and a reconfigured staff, resulting in a balanced budget.

Prior his work in New York City, De La Rosa served for 10 years with L.A. Care Health Plan, the nation’s largest public health maintenance organization, with over 1.2 million Medicaid, S-CHP and Medicare members. From 1991 to 1999, De La Rosa served as the executive director of the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice. He managed the agency’s transformation from a storefront legal services program to a prominent advocacy firm for the poor and disenfranchised of East and Northeast Los Angeles.

De La Rosa received Bachelor of Arts, Master of Divinity and Juris Doctor degrees from Yale University. He and his husband, Michael P. Bendgen, have been together over eight years and were married in June 2015 at Immanuel Presbyterian Church. The couple will relocate from their residences in Los Angeles and Bellevue to Louisville later this year.

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  1. Congratulations, Tony! Best wishes as you begin this new adventure.

    by Carmen R. Toledo

    November 4, 2015

  2. Only now hearing about this exciting appointment, I am a past missionary to Sri Lanka (UCBWM) and a member of Northminster Presbyterian in Seattle, commssioned in 1981 by Woodland Park Presbyterian in Seattle. Best wishes.

    by robert porter

    October 10, 2015

  3. Thank you for selecting Mr De La Rosa for this position. Clearly, he has the courage and wisdom needed to facilitate this transition and the transformation of the PMA.

    by Jeanie Bakker

    October 1, 2015

  4. Not only will this appointment alienate our mission partners, it will alienate others. The unity of the church and the future and trust of the church will suffer. The bleeding is not stopping and not many care on either side.

    by Ben Sloan

    September 28, 2015

  5. The news from Louisville Presbyterian Center is getting from bad to worse. Now we hear a poor choice of leadership in the PMA. How the denomination would solve the financial cliff by hiring a self-confessing gay that would chase away and/or freeze up more faithful evangelical Presbyterians! In addition, the denominational leadership always talks about money, money and structure/restructure instead of spiritual health, which is the fundamental problem of the denomination.

    by Yushin Lee

    September 26, 2015

  6. Aiii que a todo dar! You and the church will be in our prayers as you take on this tough important role. Si se puede, hermano.

    by Lidia serrata

    September 26, 2015

  7. Is PCUSA doing anything to help the refugee crisis in Europe?

    by John w freeman

    September 26, 2015

  8. I’m sure Tony is a capable person. My concern is what this communicates to our brothers and sisters in the global church, many of whom strongly disagree with our recent decisions re redefining marriage. As one who works closely with the global church, the fact that long standing global partner churches continue to end their relationship with the PCUSA over this issue deeply grieves me. I am surprised and saddened the PMA Board chose a candidate which will further alienate us from the majority of the global church.

    by Andrew Adair

    September 25, 2015

  9. To a friend from the past: congrats, and you'll show them you can serve fairly and equitably as well as effectively.

    by Houston Hodges

    September 24, 2015

  10. PMA is very, very fortunate to get you for their ED. You are going to do a terrific job. I am so excited for you!

    by Stephen Roselius

    September 24, 2015

  11. As a Presbyterian and a long time friend of Tony De La Rosa I am glad for this wise decision, Toni has the experience, preparation, passion and love fro the church, my prayers for Him as the Spirit uses his skills in this time of transition. My prayers for Tony and the PCUSA.

    by Ricardo Moreno

    September 23, 2015

  12. Perhaps a very capable individual, but his choice as Interim Director simply rubs salt in the wounds of evangelicals trying desperately to hold our congregations together and within the PCUSA. This does nothing to help further the "peace, unity, and purity" of the church.

    by John Mike Loudon

    September 23, 2015

  13. Congratulations, Tony God will guide and lead you in your new role serving the Church. My prayers are with you & your family

    by Alpha Brown

    September 23, 2015

  14. The New Testament offers a lot of counsel for the Call to mission and the Support for mission servants. May our UPUSA Body of Christ focus on this to guide us all and Mr De La Rosa as we continue from our heritage. in thiis faith-obedience in the Holy Spirit.

    by James d. Shotwell SR

    September 23, 2015

  15. Well done, search committee! This is the most hopeful news I have heard from our national church structure in a very long time.

    by Gusti Newquist

    September 23, 2015

  16. What a wonderful news! Congratulations. Our God will guide and lead you in your new role serving the Church. My prayers are with you.

    by Linda Gruel

    September 23, 2015

  17. This choice was an act of God's energy and Spirit. The correct person was selected. Blessings on Tony.

    by Donald &Dianna Bell

    September 23, 2015

  18. You're both, Tony, an answer to our prayers and in our prayers!

    by Tom Heger

    September 23, 2015

  19. Congratulations, Tony. I congratulate the committee who nominated Tony. I know that he is the right person for this right moment in the life of our beloved PCUSA.

    by Carmen M. Rosario

    September 23, 2015

  20. My prayers are with PCUSA at this time as we move toward a permanent director and denominational reform across the board.

    by Adolfo Griffith

    September 23, 2015

  21. Mr. Tony De La Rosa was and is an outstanding choice for the position. I praise God for him having been chosen as the interim executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, and I joyfully thank the committee who nominated and PMA for choosing him. No doubt, Mr. De La Rosa will perform his duties with respect, integrity, efficiency, effectiveness and above all, he will be the compassionate humble servant of God. Peace and blessings!

    by William Reyes

    September 23, 2015

  22. What an inspired choice. You'll be in our prayers, my friend.

    by Mike Ferguson

    September 23, 2015