Episcopal Diocese Mississippi elects Dorothy Sanders Wells (first woman and first African American) as bishop

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Rev. Dr. Dorothy Sanders Wells (Photo: Diocese of Mississippi)

On February 3, 2024, the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi made history by electing Rev. Dr. Dorothy Sanders Wells as its bishop.

From a field of five candidates, Dr. Wells was elected as the first woman and the first African American to become the 11th bishop of the Mississippi diocese. Dr. Wells won by a vote of 69 out of 101 clergy and 93 out of 180 lay votes on the fourth ballot. 

The field of candidates included:

• The Rev. Jason Alexander, canon to the ordinary, Diocese of Arkansas.

• The Very Rev. Jennifer Andrews-Weckerly, rector, Hickory Neck Episcopal Church, Toano, Virginia.

• The Very Rev. Rob Courtney, rector, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and School, New Orleans, Louisiana.

• The Very Rev. Walton Jones, rector, the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, Starkville, Mississippi.

Dr. Wells will be ordained and consecrated as bishop on July 20, 2024, in Memphis, Tennessee. The ceremony will be officiated by Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. He is the first African American to serve in that position. Curry gained international attention as the preacher at the 2011 wedding of Prince Harry and Megan Markle.

Dr. Wells currently is the Rector of St. George’s Episcopal Church in Germantown, Tennessee, and serves as the chaplain of the church’s preschool. She will continue in her present position until April 3, 2024. She replaces Brian Seage, who was elected bishop in 2014.

In an exclusive interview, Rev. Dr. Wells said, “I am humbled that God and the diocese have placed the confidence in me to do the good work to be done and to shine the light of Christ in all places.” She described her major duty in the new position as “Chief Pastor of the diocese and pastor for more than 1,000 pastors and we as Christians believe as things happen, we will be guided by the Holy Spirit.” She said one of her first orders of business will be to get out and visit churches across Mississippi.

Dr. Wells is a native of Mobile, Alabama. She graduated from Rhodes College in Memphis with a degree in vocal performance. She has a Juris Doctorate from the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law at the University of Memphis. She also holds a master’s degree in divinity from the Memphis Theological Seminary, and a doctorate in ministry from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University.

The Rev. Dr. Wells is the mother of two adult daughters and is married to Herb Wells. 

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Episcopal Diocese Mississippi elects Dorothy Sanders Wells (first woman and first African American) as bishop

By Brinda Fuller Willis
April 1, 2024