Bishop David B. Reed, 1927-2023

Bishop David B. Reed, center, smiled broadly in 1998 as Archbishop Robert Runcie was welcomed to the House of the Redeemer, New York City, by Bishop Peter L’Huillier of the Orthodox Church in America. | Archives of the Episcopal Church

The Rt. Rev. David Benson Reed, a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II and the senior member of the House of Bishops, died March 11 at 96. During his 59 years as a bishop, Reed stressed missionary work (which he considered central to being a priest), ecumenism, and equality for women in church leadership.

After retiring as Bishop of Kentucky, David Reed was Bishop in Residence at St. Matthew’s Church in Louisville.

He was a native of Tulsa, Okla., and a graduate of Harvard University and Virginia Theological Seminary. He was ordained deacon in 1951 and priest in 1952, and served as archdeacon in Colombia from 1952 to 1958. He returned to the United States to serve as vicar of St. Matthew’s Church in Rapid City, South Dakota, from 1962 to 1964.

In April 1964 he was consecrated as the first Bishop of Colombia, and he served as bishop in charge of the nascent Diocese of Ecuador starting the same year. He remained in Colombia until 1972, when he was elected Bishop of Kentucky. He remained Bishop of Kentucky until 1994.

Reed’s support of women in ordained ministry was evident when he led a one-year search for the dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Louisville. In 1986, Reed and the cathedral chapter announced the choice of the Rev. Geralyn Wolf, who served for eight years, until her election as Bishop of Rhode Island.

In his ecumenical efforts, Reed engaged in theological dialogue with Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians. He was chairman of the Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations, and was involved in the Consultation on Church Union. He organized and was chairman of the first Interfaith Relations Committee for the Episcopal Church. He was Anglican co-chairman of the Anglican-Orthodox Theological Consultation, served on the Committee on Foreign Relations, and was the first president of the Anglican Council of Latin America.

He is survived by his wife, Catherine; a sister; four daughters; a son; and nine grandchildren.


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