Meet the first Black and first woman to be elected Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese Of Mississippi

Dollita Okine February 15, 2024
Rev. Dorothy Sanders Wells has become the first African American and woman to be elected Bishop of Mississippi's Diocese. Photo Credit: Collegeville Institute

Rev. Dorothy Sanders Wells has become the first African American and the very first woman to be elected Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi. The pioneer was chosen after winning the majority of votes from lay delegates and more than two-thirds of the vote by the church’s clergy.

The audience cheered for a minute after current Bishop Brian R. Seage, who was elected in 2014, revealed the results early this month. Bishop-elect Wells was overjoyed when she addressed the crowd via Zoom.

“I cannot wait to get to know you all. I cannot wait to see the work that God can bring us to doing together,” Wells said, according to WJTV

The electee has been the rector of St. George’s Episcopal Church in Germantown, Tennessee, since 2013. In addition, she serves as the preschool’s chaplain. Wells previously served as Curate at the Church of the Holy Apostles in Collierville, Tennessee. In addition to her tenure on the Standing Committee, Wells was the Secretary of the Episcopal Diocese of West Tennessee. She has held positions as Chaplain to the Episcopal Church Women, Secretary to The Bishop and Council, and Member of The Bishop and Council.

Wells, a native of Alabama, moved to Memphis to begin her college studies at Rhodes College and has made Memphis her home since then. Wells has two daughters with her spouse, Herbert.

She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Vocal Performance from Rhodes, her Juris Doctor degree from the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law at the University of Memphis, her Master of Divinity degree from Memphis Theological Seminary, and her Doctor of Ministry degree from Candler School of Theology at Emory University.

Per the article, Wells practiced law and was a former adjunct faculty member at the University of Memphis, the Memphis Theological Seminary, and Emory University. She was also named a Distinguished Alumna by Rhodes College in 2011 and earned the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Service Award during the 2015 commencement.

In a few months, Wells will ascend to the position of 11th bishop in the Mississippi diocese, overseeing 87 parishes, missions, mission stations, and chaplaincies spread around the state with 17,600 members. Mississippi’s Episcopal Church has been operational since 1815. A majority of Episcopal bishops and diocesan standing committees around the U.S. would have to consent to the election before it becomes official.

According to the Clarion Ledger, Wells will be appointed Bishop-elect on May 1 and will work with Seage before being ordained on July 20. Michael Curry, the Episcopal Church’s first Black Presiding Bishop, will preside over the ordination.

Wells said, “We are reading all kinds of statistics and reports about declining church attendance and declining church engagement, but we know God is in the midst of all of this and I am looking forward to exploring with this Diocese all of the ways we can continue love God and love one another and serve our neighbors and care for the people around us.”

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: February 15, 2024


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