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Mississippi makes history with new Episcopal bishop

Rev. Dr. Dorothy Sanders Wells (Photo courtesy of the Mississippi Episcopal Diocese)

History was made within the Episcopal Church of Mississippi on Saturday.

The Rev. Dr. Dorothy Sanders Wells was elected by the 197th Annual Council of the Mississippi Episcopal Diocese to be the church’s next leader. Wells will be the first woman and first African American to serve as Bishop of Mississippi when she is ordained on July 20.

Wells, who was chosen on the fourth ballot during the election held at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School’s Ridgeland campus, comes to Mississippi after serving as the rector of St. George’s Episcopal Church in Germantown, Tenn.

“I am humbled by the confidence that this Diocese has placed in me, and I am so very thankful that God has called us together to work for the furtherance of God’s Kingdom,” Wells told the council virtually after the vote. “The Church is faced with both opportunities and challenges in our world, as the Church’s continued relevance is questioned by so many.

“But we recognize that the Body of Christ has preserved through persecution and trial, through war and violence, through sickness and suffering. With God’s helped and God’s grace – and our own commitment to seeking justice and respecting the dignity of every human being – we will continue to be a bright, shining light not only in Mississippi, but throughout the world. I look forward to getting to know and serving alongside the people of the Diocese, strengthening our faith communities, and sharing the message of God’s love and grace with all of God’s people.”

A native of Mobile, Ala., Wells has an extensive career within the church. Prior to her time at St. George’s, she served as curate at Church of the Holy Apostles in Collierville, Tenn. She also served as secretary of the Diocese of West Tennessee, as a member of the Standing Committee, and as chaplain of the West Tennessee chapter of the Episcopal Church Women.

She earned her undergraduate degree at Rhodes College in Memphis before getting a juris doctorate from the University of Memphis, a Master of Divinity degree from Memphis Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Emory University.

Wells will succeed Bishop Brian Seage, who has held the position since 2014 and was vital in leading the church through the COVID-19 pandemic. Wells won the election over four other candidates: The Rev. Canon Jason Alexander of Arkansas, The Very Rev. Jennifer Andrews-Weckerly of Atlanta, The Very Rev. Rob Courtney of Louisiana, and The Very Rev. Walton Jones of Grenada.

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