RIP: Rt. Rev. David Reed, who led dioceses of Colombia and Kentucky, dies at 96

Posted Mar 24, 2023

[Episcopal News Service] The Rt. Rev. David Benson Reed, the first bishop of Colombia and sixth bishop of Kentucky, died March 11 at age 96.

Born in 1927, Reed was consecrated as bishop in 1964, becoming the first bishop of the Diocese of Colombia. He also was given responsibility for developing the Church in Ecuador, which he organized into a diocese. He was bishop for both dioceses until 1971.

In 1972, he became bishop coadjutor of the Diocese of Kentucky under Bishop Charles Marmion, whom he succeeded as Kentucky’s bishop diocesan in 1974. He led the Louisville-based diocese for 20 years until retiring in 1994.

Bishop David Reed

In the vanguard of the ecumenical movement, Reed was a respected negotiator and proponent of its goals. He also was an early champion of equality for women in the church.

Reed also had a keen interest in the missionary work of the church and considered being a missionary central to his vocation as a priest and bishop. He was especially mindful of the small, scattered congregations throughout Kentucky and tried to address their sense of isolation through the creation of area ministries, particularly in the Purchase and Barren River areas.

“I think David was a great representative of a sacrificial missionary approach to ministry that is not seen as frequently in today’s clergy,” noted Bishop Edwin Gulick, who succeeded Reed in Kentucky. “He was dedicated, faithful and tenacious.”

A native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Reed graduated from Harvard College with a bachelor’s degree in physics and from Virginia Theological Seminary, following service in the Navy during World War II.

Early in his priesthood Reed served the Episcopal Church in Panama and Costa Rica and was the first resident priest in Colombia, where he served six years.

Moving to New York, he spent three years in the Overseas Department as the principal architect for the Companion Diocese Program, which now links dioceses throughout the Anglican Communion. He served a mission church for the Dakota people in Rapid City, South Dakota, and was there when elected bishop for the new diocese of Colombia.

His missionary activities included the three years in New York, travels to companion dioceses in Central America and Africa, as well as personal involvement with the Episcopal Church in the Philippines, India and other countries.

In Kentucky, Reed led a one-year search to fill the deanship of Christ Church Cathedral in Louisville. In November 1986, he and the cathedral chapter announced the selection of the Rev. Geralyn Wolf as the first woman named to an Episcopal cathedral deanship since the decision by General Convention in 1976 to allow the ordination of women.

At the churchwide level, Reed served as chairman of the Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations. He also 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 was a member of the governing board of the National Council of Churches for nine years when he was on the executive committee and also served as secretary. He was president of the Kentucky Council of Churches and an active participant in numerous national ecumenical organizations.

Reed’s volunteer activities were myriad. He arranged for students of Virginia Seminary to be ushers at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. He served as a translator for international competitions of science students in Louisville. He collected books from the Louisville Free Public Library, then each month packaged and shipped 50 to 60 pounds of these to the North Regional Library in Ghana.

Following his retirement in 1994, Reed was assistant bishop of the Diocese of Connecticut for two years and then executive director of the Global Episcopal Network. He became bishop-in-residence at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Louisville in 1997 and was an assisting bishop one month each year in the diocese of the Central Gulf Coast.

He is survived by his wife, Catherine, and five children from a previous marriage: Mary Frances Reed, Jennifer Susan Reed, David Benson Reed Jr., Sarah Riggs Reed, and Catherine Elizabeth Reed.

Visitation will be April 14 followed by a funeral service at Christ Church Cathedral on April 15. Memorial gifts may be made to All Saints Center (mailed to the Episcopal Diocese of Kentucky, 425 S. Second Street, Suite 200, Louisville, KY  40202), The Home of the Innocents, or to the Louisville Zoo.