By Kirk Petersen
The Diocese of West Texas held an election for bishop coadjutor on February 18, and one of the first things the winner did in the following days was apologize to the diocesan receptionist because of the confusion ahead.
Imagine the dialogue:
Caller: “May I speak with Bishop Reed, please?”
Receptionist: “Which Bishop Read?”
“Uh… Bishop David Reed?”
“Sorry, you still need to be more specific.”
The Rev. David G. Read, currently rector of St. Helena’s Episcopal Church and School in Boerne, Texas, was elected from a field of three candidates. Assuming he receives the required consents from bishops with jurisdiction and standing committees, he will be consecrated on July 8, and will serve as coadjutor alongside the Rt. Rev. David M. Reed, until the latter retires late in the year.
If not for the middle initial and one letter in the last name, they would not even need to get new office stationery.
The two men are not related, but “his father’s name is William, and my father’s name is William,” the bishop-elect said. “And we both have one daughter and our daughters each married a man whose last name was Rogers. So we just thought we’d carry that confusion from generation to generation.”
The other candidates in the election were the Rev. Ripp Hardaway, rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in New Braunfels, West Texas; and the Rev. Alex Montes-Vela, missioner for congregational vitality and new initiatives for the Diocese of Texas, in Houston.
Read-with-an-a is not quite a cradle Episcopalian, but close. He was born into an ecumenical family – his mother was Polish Catholic, and his father’s parents were Southern Baptist church planters. Read was in about first grade when his parents settled on St. Francis Episcopal in San Antonio as a compromise church.
“So I grew up in St. Francis, doing Sunday School and acolyting” and youth group, he said. He accompanied his father when dad was confirmed into the Episcopal Church by the Rt. Rev. Harold Gosnell, the fifth Bishop of West Texas. (Read will be the 11th.) His mother was the parish secretary at St. Francis for a while.
In high school and through part of college at Texas State University, he worked in a veterinarian’s office – the last paychecks he has received outside the church. There was an active Canterbury college ministry at TSU, where Read found both his calling and his wife Jackie. After graduation, he spent the summer working at the diocesan summer camp, then entered Virginia Theological Seminary.
Read’s entire ministry has been in the Diocese of West Texas, where he has served four churches – one of them twice.
“I was rector here [at St. Helena’s] from ‘98 to 2009. And I took a call to St. Luke’s in San Antonio, I was there about eight and a half years. And then I had a chance to return. They were doing a search and they asked me about it. And I came back about five years ago, in 2017,” he said. ”This is just a great, dynamic, growing parish, in a really dynamic growing part of Texas.”
Read expects church planting will be a big part of his episcopacy. He said “in the next 30 years, San Antonio-Austin will grow together into a metroplex like Dallas-Fort Worth,” and the population will grow by nearly 2 million people. The city of Austin is in the neighboring Diocese of Texas, but its suburbs and the rest of the developing metroplex are in the Diocese of West Texas, which extends down to the southernmost tip of the state. The diocese includes 60 counties and 69,000 square miles, with 87 churches serving about 20,000 members.
He’s grateful for the religious compromise his parents made. “I really love the way the Episcopal Church encourages people to use their God-given sense of reason, in balance with Scripture and tradition — encourages people to think and to read and to be educated and learn and keep learning,” he said. “I really value the via media, you know, the way the Episcopal Church can [avoid getting] bogged down in the polarized politics of our day, if we do it well, and rise above that.”
Read’s commitment to lifelong learning extended to completing a doctor of ministry degree from Bexley Seabury in Chicago in 2022.
He’ll have a chance to practice his via media skills because of two contentious issues in the region. The first is immigration – West Texas has the longest border with Mexico of any diocese, and a growing Hispanic population.
The second issue is gun violence. The diocese includes the small city of Uvalde, where a former student fatally shot 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in May 2022. The school is about a mile away from St. Philip’s Episcopal. “Our diocese is doing some great work there along with an organization called the Children’s Bereavement Center, which opened an office in St. Philip’s church,” Read said. He praised the rector there, the Rev. Michael Marsh.
The horrific shooting has had an impact on the entire diocese. Read’s church, St. Helena’s in Boerne, is fully 100 miles away – “that’s not very far, really, in Texas,” he points out. It’s close enough that the faculty at the 95-student St. Helena’s School posed in “Uvalde Strong” tee shirts on the school’s homepage.
Tensions will continue to flare on both of these issues, and Read intends to be a pastor to all sides.
In these “welcome to the episcopacy” articles, TLC always asks the bishop-elect to “tell us something quirky about yourself that our readers won’t learn anywhere else.” Read was stumped for a moment.
“I don’t know how quirky I am. I mean, other than having the same name as my predecessor, which is kind of weird,” he said. Yeah, but people can find that out anywhere.
“I was at a trampoline park on Sunday afternoon” with his grandchildren, he said – his first time in years jumping on a trampoline. That’ll do.