The late Bishop D. Rayford Bell was born Dennis Raphael Bell, in Leflore County, Mississippi, on July 9, 1923; to sharecropper parents. Dennis was raised by his grandparents.
In spite of the absence of a dream of better conditions; something within him, at a very early age, rebelled against the status quo. He discovered in the South, if Black people refused to sink in despair and accept things as they were, then they had better have a ray of light from above. Bishop Bell is convinced it was that ray of light that brought him from the backwoods of Mississippi to the glorious heights of Pentecost; from a Mississippi plowboy to a Prince of the Church of God!
In 1938, after living briefly in Morley, Missouri; a fifteen-year-old Dennis returned to Mississippi to find a new girl had moved into the area; Darlene Griffin. On July 20, 1942, Darlene and Dennis were married. To this union were born two sons, Harvey and Curtis, and nine grandchildren. Shortly after Harvey was born, Dennis was drafted into the U.S. Army. After training, he was sent to Europe, where he saw action in the campaign of Northern France, Ardennes, Rhineland, and Central Europe. He was honorably discharged December 9, 1945.
Bishop Bell received the Holy Ghost on April 1, 1949. Since that day, God has continually perfected that which concerned Bishop Bell. It has not always been easy, but the ray of light has never gone out.
Bishop Bell has constantly sought to improve himself. After finishing his high school education at LaSalle University in Chicago, one of his teachers told him “if the elevator to success is not running, take the stairs.” Bishop Bell continued on to earn his Bachelor’s degree with honors from Southwestern College in Oklahoma City, OK. As a straight “A” student at American Bible College, he earned a Masters of Theology. He continued onward with his education and received a Doctoral degree in Theology and Philosophy by Toledo Bible College and Seminary. Bishop Bell was the first person in that school’s history to earn two doctorate degrees in one year.
In August of 1990, after 48 years of marriage and a lengthy illness, a grieving Bishop Bell buried his beloved Darlene. In God’s timing, the Lord saw fit to send a ray of sunshine into Bishop Bell’s life, in the form of Jacqueline Collins of Cincinnati, Ohio. They were married in April of 1991.
An Apostolic preacher for over 55 years, Bishop Bell has spent a great part of his life serving the people of God in many ways. In addition to serving his church, he also serves the community as a Chaplain for the Chicago Police Department. Bishop Bell came up through the ranks of Christ Temple Church, serving in such positions as Sunday School teacher, Assistant and then Superintendent; Vice and Chairman of the Youth Department; Trustee; Assistant Pastor; Pastor in 1958 and now Senior Pastor. He is the founder of the Christ Temple Apostolic Church in Joliet, as well as, the founder and President of Midwest Apostolic Bible College in Chicago. He also founded Samuel Barnes Christian Academy, a K-8th grade school named in memory of his pastor and he created the Mother Darlene Bell Scholarship Fund to assist the educational dreams of deserving students.
Dr. Bell served as the Assistant Presiding Bishop of the Pentecostal Churches of the Apostolic Faith, for 19 years, along side his best friend, the late Bishop Elzie W. Young. Thereafter, his tenure as the Presiding Prelate was from January 1990 to July 2000. He now holds the title of Senior Bishop.
Bishop Bell has preached the Gospel from the street corners of Chicago to 49 states in America, over 50 countries, on all five inhabited continents, and to the isles of the sea. His chief joy continues to be the opportunity to share the life of Jesus Christ with someone. The sentiments of his heart play almost like the lyrics of a song which says, “if I can help somebody as I travel along, if I can cheer somebody with a word or song, if I can tell somebody that he is traveling wrong, then my living shall not be in vain.”