D. Rayford Bell
D. RAYFORD BELL was born Dennis Raphael Bell on July 9, 1923, in Sidon, Leflore County, Mississippi, to Mae Ella Hawkins, and raised by his grandparents, Edmond and Annette Hawkins. In 1942, He married Darlene Griffin and to this union was born two sons, Harvey (d. 2014) and Curtis. Bell served in the U.S. Army and was honorably discharged in 1945. On August 8, 1990, after 48 years of marriage, he was preceded in death by his wife, Darlene Griffin Bell. On April 13, 1991, he and Jacqueline Collins of Cincinnati, Ohio, were united in marriage.
Bishop Bell received the baptism of the Holy Ghost on April 1, 1949. Constantly seeking to increase his knowledge, the studious Bible teacher earned a bachelor’s degree from Southwestern College, a Masters of Theology from American Bible College, and doctorates in Theology and Philosophy from Toledo Bible College and Seminary. He has also authored several books over the years. Through his ministerial career, he founded Christ Temple Apostolic Church in Joliet, Illinois, and Midwest Apostolic Bible College (Now D.R. Bell Apostolic Bible College) in Maywood, Illinois. He also founded the Samuel Barnes Christian Academy in Chicago, and created the Mother Darlene Bell Scholarship Fund. In 1958 he became pastor of Christ Temple Apostolic Church in Chicago where he would serve until the end of his life. He also spent a great part of his life serving in other ways including as chaplain for the Chicago Police Department.
A charter member of the Pentecostal Churches of the Apostolic Faith International (PCAFI), Bell was ordained as an elder at the first national convention in 1958 and steadily rose through the ranks, becoming a district elder in 1961, a bishop in 1964, assistant presiding bishop in 1970, and presiding bishop from 1990-2000. He previously served as chairman and later diocesan of the Illinois State Conference. In his role as presider, he was committed to energetic domestic evangelism and worldwide membership recruitment.
On Sunday, September 29, 2013, just ten minutes into his morning sermon at Christ Temple in Chicago, Bell collapsed and died a short time later. It has been said that he stayed on the battlefield and died doing what he loved the most. His strength of character, stalwart leadership, and undying commitment to the Apostolic principles of holiness made him a national treasure to the PCAFI.