Bishop Dennis Rayford Bell
Pentecostal Churches of the Apostolic Faith
1923 ~ Present
Bishop D. Rayford Bell was born July 9, 1923 in Carroll County, Mssissippi. Dennis was the youngest of two children born to Mae Ella Hawkins. Unfortunately, he was not blessed to be raised by his parents. He never saw his father.
Growing up in the racially tense suburbs of the south and having seen, felt, and tasted the conspicuous injustice that surged from the opposition, still he somehow managed to acquire a bit of classroom education. A great deal of credit goes to Dennis' grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Edmond Hawkins who readily assumed the responsibility of raising him and seeing to it that he received the little education that was made available. Dennis was unable to attend classes, but could freely go when there was no work to be done on the farm. His grandparents, being quite poor, were for three years unable to buy his textbooks. Therefore, he was kept out of school during that time. Black schools unlike the white schools, were only open five or six months out of the year. In spite of all these obstacles, he completed his basic education and was graduated from the eighth grade.
Nevertheless, nothing could stop Bell now. His teacher wanted him to attend Alcorn College in Lorman, Mississippi, but his folks simply couldn't afford to send him. Since they couldn't and there was nothing to do at that time of the year, he went back through the eighth grade, two or three times. It wasn't until he came to Chicago that he finally finished his high school education at LaSalle University. When referring to his early obstacles, he said, "I concur with President Lincoln; 'The little advance I now have upon this store of education, I picked up from time to time under the pressure of necessity'."
At age 15, before attending High School, Dennis left Mississippi and went to Morley, Missouri in search of a better life. Discontented in Missouri, realizing life was not as easy as he had hoped it would be, he returned to his hometown in 1938 still in search for a better life or perhaps, something better in life. Once back at home, he discovered that some new girls had moved into the district. One of these was named, Darlene. She came from a good family and her strong puritan background had a haltering affect upon his life. It wasn't but a few years before Dennis and Darlene were joined together in holy matrimony. This took place inj Cruger, Mississippi, July 20, 1942. To this union two children were born.
D. Rayford Bell understood the importance of securing a job and providing for a young family. He worked as a plater for the Chicago Plating company and later as the head-mixer in the Bulk Department of the Inter-Chemical Corporation whose headquarters was in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1958, Bell resigned in order to give his full time to Christian service. The most interesting point about that decision is that, he was not a pastor nor had he ever conducted a revival. Bishop Bell believed that God Himself had spoken to him and told him that he should serve Him in full time ministerial capacity. Therefore, Bell obeyed and resigned from his job.
Being the pastor of many people from various walks of life, Dr. Bell felt that it was expedient that he further his education, especially in the religious field. This led to his enrollment at Southwestern College in Oklahoma. Here he received his Bachelor of Arts degree, graduating with honors. In his book entitled, "The Philosophy of Christ," Dr. Bell stated that his congregation forced him to study. At the American Bible College in Pineland, Florida, he maintained a straight A average and went on to receive his Master of Theology degree, graduating March 10, 1978. August 5, 1979, from Toledo Bible college and Seminary in Tennyson, Indiana, Pastor Bell received his Doctor of Theology and Doctor of Philosophy degrees, with honors.
In 1957, D. Rayford Bell's pastor, Elder Barnes, left the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World. This was the same year that the Pentecostal Churches of the Apostolic Faith Association was formed. Dr. Bell states, "It was only natural that I would leave also, therefore, I resigned from the Illinois District Council of the P.A.W." The first National Convention of the P.C.A.F. was held in Indianapolis, Indiana. It was here that Bishop Bell was ordained. In August 1961 Bell was promoted to the office of District Elder. Just a mere three years later, in August, 1964 he was promoted to the Bishopric. In August of 1970, he was elected Assistant Presiding Bishop of the P.C.A.F.
Bishop Bell can best be characterized as one who possesses the strongest of human wills. He has that kind of mind and determination that once he's intrigued by and attracted to something, there is simply no stopping him until the object of attraction has been completely conquered. A realist more so than an optimist, Dr. Bell is not easily taken by trickery, false representation, and the like. He possesses a kind of uncanny ability for discernment.
As for pulpit expertise and style, he's highly regarded as one who speaks with great authority. He does not use a high volume of words nor does he give into a preacher's temptation to use repetition of phrases or words. But like a great skilled swordsman, he uses the Word of God to pierce, divide and discern even the very thoughts and inents of man's heart. Audio Recordings of Bishop Rayford Bell are available in the audio library.