About Heart of America Council of Churches

The history of any Pentecostal organization cannot be written properly without starting with the beginning of Pentecostalism in the United States in the twentieth century. It actually started in a home on Bonnie Brae. The attendance grew and had to be moved to Azusa street. This great Pentecostal revival has commonly been referred to as the “Azusa Street Revival” that began in 1906 in Los Angeles, California. Most Pentecostal groups in the United States can trace their roots directly or indirectly back to the Azusa Street Revival. It was conducted by a man named William Seymour who had preached the Pentecostal message that emphasized receiving the baptism of the Holy Ghost.

Later, some Pentecostals accepted the revelations of water baptism in the name of Jesus, and that Jehovah God of the Old Testament was Jesus Christ of the New Testament. They believed Acts 2:38, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; is God's plan of salvation. These Pentecostals were referred to as Apostolic Pentecostals. After 1915, it was clear that this was the doctrine of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Inc.

Meanwhile, in the late 1800’s, Mother Belle Davis opened a church in Leavenworth, KS. She later gave the pastorate to Elder Herbert Davis. According to information given by Mother Mary Harris of Kansas City, MO. (now deceased), Official Mother of the NWDC, one cannot begin to think of the beginning of the NWDC without considering the former Bishop Herbert Davis of Leavenworth, Kansas, Pastor of the Pentecostal Church in Leavenworth, Kansas. He was mainly responsible for the development of the council effort in this area. Elder Davis became the District Elder and the first Chairman of the Council, which started in 1925 or 1926. At that time it included a wide area. The late Bishop G. T. Haywood, Presiding Bishop of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, frequently served as Bible teacher and main speaker during council sessions. From 1925 until 1954 we were just a loose organization of churches. In 1932, Bishop G. T. Haywood appointed District Elder Herbert Davis to oversee the churches in this area. He was elevated to Bishop in 1954.

Concurrently, Elder Robert C. Lawson was a great pioneer of Pentecost who traveled throughout the country preaching the Apostolic message and establishing churches. He had a special anointing on his ministry that enabled him to go into cities where there had been no previous Pentecostal activity and find a place to preach. Many souls would come to be saved. He came to St. Louis, Missouri and preached at Central Baptist Church (one of the oldest churches in the city). A small group of people accepted his message, embraced the Apostolic Faith. Elder Lawson loved the group, but he knew he was not going to reside in St. Louis for an extended period. He introduced Elder Austin A. Layne, then of New York, New York, to the group in 1918. Elder Austin Layne became the leader of this group and the Lord blessed the group tremendously under his leadership.

Elder Austin Layne established the Temple Church of Christ in 1922 and is recognized as the oldest Apostolic church in the Midwest. Later, other churches were established namely, Bethesda Temple Church pastor Elder Morris Golder, Lively Stone Church of God pastor Elder Phillip L. Scott, Refuge Temple Church pastor Elder William Thompson, New Bethel Temple pastor Elder E. C. Seales, Christ Temple pastor Elder Walter Scott and Good News Temple pastor Elder E. L. Gordon. Some of the ministers of these churches were responsible for founding and organizing the Midwestern District Council.

Because there was great fellowship among the pastors who were located in the Midwest (particularly those located within 150 mile radius of the capital of Missouri), these pastors desired to organize under the banner of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Inc. Mother Bell Davis, Sister Helen Davis Pettiford, Mother Parker of Minneapolis, Minn., Elder and Sister Leon Rich of Pratt, Kansas, Mother Mary Harris of Kansas City, MO, Elders William, Edmond and Dale Berry, all very young - along with Elder Nye of Council Grove, Kansas, Bishop Austin Layne, and many others made up the early council.  Later came notables like Dist. Elder E. L. Gordon and his wife, and District Elder Walter Scott and his wife, Sis. Zephyr.

There seemed to have been some reorganization in October 1932 at St. Paul, Minn. by Bishop S. K. Grimes and Elder E. F. Akers of Dayton, Ohio. The reorganized area of the Council included Minnesota, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri.

Bishop Herbert Davis was the Diocesan of the NwDC until his death. Subsequently, Bishop Karl Smith and Bishop Oscar Sanders served as diocesans of the NwDC. District Elder E. L. Gordon was Secretary/ Treasurer, and his wife, Sister Lorene Gordon, assisted him.

In 1945 the group of pastors from the Midwestern region attended the National Convention of the P.A.W., Inc. in Indianapolis, Indiana to appeal to the Executive Board of the P.A.W. for permission to start a council, and that the council be named the Midwestern District Council. The executive board gave the brethren from the Midwest the permission by common consent to organize the Midwestern District Council that would eventually be comprised of Southern Illinois and Missouri.
In 1945, Bishop James Leo Sipes was assigned to the newly formed Midwestern District Council as its Diocesan. The Midwestern District Council was organized as the 12th Episcopal District of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Inc.

In 1959, Bishop Raymond Robinson of Ohio was assigned to serve as diocesan of the NwDC. At this time, another change was made in the boundary lines causing the NwDC to encompass only three states: Colorado, Kansas, and western Missouri at Highway 65.

Subsequently, in 1960, a ruling was handed down by the Executive Board of the P.A. of W. which stated that all new churches in the new area of the NwDC must be affiliated with NwDC.

In October 1967, Elder James A. Johnson from St. Louis, Missouri, General Secretary of the P.A. of W., began his tenure as Diocesan of the 14th Episcopal District (his first Diocese) and served faithfully for 19 years. He was then transferred to the Midwestern District Council in June 1987.
The Executive Board of the P.A.W. transferred Bishop Samuel Austin Layne of St. Louis, Missouri, to serve as Diocesan of the 14th Episcopal District. He began his tenure of service in October 1987 in Wichita, Kansas, and continued until his death in 1997.

In 1998, the NwDC was again blessed again with an awesome leader in the person of Suffragan Bishop Horace E. Smith from Chicago, IL who was elevated to the office of Bishop and assigned to the 14th Episcopal District of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Inc. In 2004, Bishop Horace E. Smith was elected to serve as the Presiding Bishop of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Inc. Even though his task is enormous in leading this great organization, he continues to faithfully serve the NwDC as its diocesan.

In August, 2014, the Executive Board of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the Word released the Colorado churches to form their own Council - the 61st Episcopal District of the Pentecostal Asseemblies of the World, Inc. Their 1st Diocesan is Bishop Jones Foote. Now the NWDC consists of 20 churches in the state of Kansas, and 20 churches in western Missouri.  This transition took place under the guidance and leadership of Bishop Horace E. Smith.  

In June of 2105 Bishop Mark C. Tolbert was installed as the 8th Bishop of the NWDC.  Growing up in the NWDC and taking the reins of Christ Temple Church in 1989 following in the foot steps of his father Suffrgan Bishop Lee A. Tolbert who pastored from 1967 to 1989.  Bishop Mark Tolbert was elevated to the Bishopric by the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World in August of 2009.  Bishop Tolbert served the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World as General Treasurer for 2 terms from 2002 to 2007. 

In October, 2015, Bishop Mark C. Tolbert the new Diocesan led the NWDC council to see the need to identify a new move and a new name.  After much thought, discussion and prayer among pastors and delegates the decision and vote was cast to officially change the name of the Northwestern District Council to the Heart of America Council of Churches of the PAW Inc. Bishop Mark Tolbert is the first resident Bishop of this area.

A side note, in the 1934-35 Minute Book of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, 19th Annual Convention Minutes, it is recorded that the Northwestern District reported $5. Most other Councils were reporting 1 and 2 dollars, and some even pledged $5.

In the same minutes it was noted that $250 was being held in trust for the Saints of Kansas City, MO until such time a church can be established.  (Christ Temple was organized in 1938).

Bishop Mark C. Tolbert


Bishop Samuel Layne


Bishop Raymond Robinson


Bishop Horace E. Smith


Bishop Oscar Sanders


Bishop Karl Smith


Bishop James A. Johnson


Bishop Herbert Davis