“I’ve loved being a part of Duke as we have explored together what faith means to head, heart and hand in a diverse culture at a challenging time.” Wells said in a statement. “It has been an amazing privilege and joy to lead the ministry of the Chapel and share in the vibrant Duke and Durham communities. I shall miss it more than I can say.”
Wells will return to England to lead a prominent church that enjoys a close relationship with national leaders. Located in Trafalgar Square beside the National Gallery, the church is renowned for its high profile in the arts and engagement with poverty, often appearing in public broadcasts tied to issues of social justice.
“St. Martin’s is at the crossroads of London and the world, of faith and action, of social justice and the arts, of tradition and innovation, of commerce and charity, of political and personal struggle,” Wells said. “It is a great honor to be invited to join this dynamic ministry.”
The appointment committee reached its decision unanimously, saying, “We believe that Sam’s rich and varied experience, alongside his theological depth and integrity, make him ideal to be Vicar of St. Martin’s.”
In addition to serving as dean of the university’s iconic chapel, where he leads weekly services and oversees a staff of 25, Wells has worked closely with the associate dean for religious life to assist 28 student groups that minister to the spiritual needs of Duke students, Duke officials said in today's release. He has been an active leader of the Duke and Durham communities, making connections with students, campus deans and others to address ethical issues and establish close ties with diverse faith groups. He also has emerged as an influential voice on behalf of the poor, recently co-authoring “Living Without Enemies,” a book describing care for those directly affected by gun violence.
Known for his eloquence as a preacher and theologian, Wells has attracted a wide following within the Duke community and more widely through live Internet sermons and video recordings on Duke on Demand, the release said. A research professor of Christian ethics who has published 17 books, Wells also has been active in the university’s academic life, teaching graduate students in the Divinity School and undergraduate students in the Sanford School of Public Policy.