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The rev. dr. dorothy sanders wells

The Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi chose Rev. Dr. Dorothy Sanders Wells as its new bishop Saturday, making her the first woman and first Black person elected to lead the church.

Wells was selected from a field of five candidates by delegates from 87 congregations. She will replace Brian Seage, who was elected in 2014 as the diocese’s 10th bishop. Seage said the historic vote reflected positive changes within the church.

“This is a historic moment and this marks a new chapter in our history,” Seage told the Clarion Ledger. “It’s the first time we have elected a woman and the first time we have elected an African American as the bishop of the diocese. I think this speaks dramatically for this movement within our church.”

Wells ascends to the position after serving as rector of St. George’s Episcopal Church in Germantown, Tennessee, where she was also the chaplain of the church’s preschool. A native of Mobile, Alabama, Wells graduated from Rhodes College in Memphis with a degree in vocal performance. She also holds graduate degrees in law and divinity.

Wells will be ordained on July 20. After the vote, she told the Ledger would be focused on public service amid reports of declining church attendance.

“I am truly humbled by the confidence that the council has placed in me, and I am so looking forward to working with the good people of the Diocese of Mississippi,” Wells said.

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