The largest Presbyterian denomination in the United States has for the first time appointed an openly gay person to serve as interim executive director for one of its agencies.
Presbyterian Church (USA) announced Wednesday that Luis Antonio De La Rosa will be appointed to the position of interim executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.
An attorney who campaigned to have PCUSA become more accepting of homosexuality, De La Rosa said in an interview with Presbyterian News Service that he considered his appointment to be a "glass ceiling" moment.
"Every appointment of this nature represents a further shattering of the glass ceiling that continues to limit access to leadership for so many," said De La Rosa.
"I pray that my appointment signals to traditionally disenfranchised persons that the Church of reformed faith can indeed be reformed, that it can embrace change, welcome the outcast, and honor the face of Christ in all God's people."
The agency that De La Rosa will soon head has been mired in controversy following the sudden firing of four PMA employees, including deputy executive director the Reverend Roger Dermody.
In June, Dermody filed a lawsuit against PMA over his dismissal, arguing that the allegations leading to his firing were false.
"Dermody alleges that PCUSA, by itself or through its directors, officers, and/or employees, acting within the scope of their employment, repeatedly and falsely published that Dermody had engaged in 'unethical' conduct as an employee of PCUSA," read the suit.
"To the contrary, all that can reasonably be said of Dermody's alleged conduct is that he failed to perceive or comprehend … that certain other PCUSA employees had improperly created, incorporated, and funded a separate nonprofit corporation to perform PCUSA-approved ministry work, rather than to perform that work through authorized PCUSA corporations and bank accounts."
Later in June, long-serving Executive Director Linda Valentine announced that she was stepping down from her position. She did, however, deny that her resignation was connected to the lawsuit.
Over the past few years, PCUSA has become increasingly accepting of homosexuality, passing at their General Assembly meetings measures allowing for the ordination of openly gay clergy and the changing of their definition of marriage to include same-sex couples.
Earlier this month, PCUSA held its first-ever same-sex wedding ceremony at its national headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky.
These changes have come with a cost, however, as over 200 congregations have voted to leave PCUSA over the past few years because of the theological direction of the mainline denomination.
When asked by PNS about the likelihood of working alongside people within PCUSA who may object to his same-sex relationship, De La Rosa replied that in his previous work with the Church he has "been blessed with nothing but respect and courtesy from those who might be otherwise discomfited by my service."
"In my work within the Church, I have attempted to support and honor the views of others who may disagree with me with the same degree of respect and courtesy I have been shown," continued De La Rosa.
"I would advise those anxious of what my appointment might entail to contact like-minded colleagues in New York or Seattle and hear from them directly whether my work has ever served to undermine their theological perspectives or ministries."