Dr. Joshua W. Sykes









Dr. Joshua W. Sykes

Apostolic Faith Movement

Much of the origins and ancestrial history of Dr. Joshua W. Sykes is not fully known. However, one thing that we do know is that after Charles Parham was no longer welcomed at the Azusa Street Mission in 1906, he (Parham) established another Apostolic Faith Mission in Los Angeles. Joshua W. Sykes also established the Apostolic Church in East Los Angeles. He adopted the tenents of the Azusa Street Mission, with one significant difference. He baptized his converts in the name of Jesus Christ and did not invoke the traditional Trinitarian formula.

It was during the first, worldwide Apostolic Faith camp meeting in Arroyo Seco, California in 1913 that Dr. Sykes got unexpected notoriety. Evidently he was considered to be an off-brand Pentecostal preacher during that time, because of his non-traditional baptismal formula. Therefore other Pentecostal ministers were somewhat leary of him due to this practice. When Canadian Evangelist Robert E. McAlister spoke during a baptismal service at the Arroyo Seco camp meeting, he talked of how the apostles never invoked the Trinitarian formula of Father, Son and Holy Ghost during Christian baptism. But always used the shorter formula, in the name of Jesus Christ when baptizing converts as is recorded in the book of Acts. When he said this, there was an inaudible shudder that swept the preachers on the platform and the people in the vast arena. McAlister noticed this reaction and himself stood in awesome silence. Brother Frank Denny, a missionary from China who was sitting down in the front row, mounted the platform in one bound, took Brother McAlister aside, and told him not to preach that doctrine or it would associate the camp with a Dr. Sykes of heretical reputation who so baptized.

Although Charles Parham had practiced baptism in Jesus' Name since as early as 1902, he had already lost most of his influence (among these particular Apostolic brethren) following the scandal of his alledged sexual misconduct in 1907. The reaction at Arroyo Seco, is a strong indication that in the early days of the Pentecostal movement that baptism in Jesus' name was indeed well known, but not fully embraced at that time.

In the summer months of 1908 Dr. Sykes emerged in the news again. He had teamed up with an African American preacher, Elder H.A. Garrison, and an African American woman, Mrs. Mary Taylor, to hold meetings at 2815 West Tenth Street. Throughout the month of July, the police had been called on repeatedly to protect these "holy rollers" when they were threatened by local residents. The press, with its typical objectivity, identified the sole purpose of their meetings as rendering "the night hideous by their delirious ravings after they have been worked up to a state of frenzy that borders on the insane." Finally a group of sleep-deprived residents filed a complaint against the racially integrated congregation led by this trio. On July 25, 1908, Garrison, Sykes, and Mrs. Taylor each went before Justice Rose, where they were charged with disturbing the peace. The trial was set for August 3. The date, however came and went with no trial. It seems that the court had erred when it notified the witness of the trial date. No witnesses appeared, and the case was dismissed.

The dates of his birth and death are not known to us at this time. However, Dr. Joshua W. Sykes will always be remembered in the annuls of modern Pentecostal history as a man who indirectly affected the outcome of the Jesus' name movement. The association of his name with Jesus' name baptism is forever etched in the history books concerning the great Arroyo Seco camp meeting in 1913. Whenever you read about the incidents that took place during this great Pentecostal gathering, and follow the script of how the revelation began to unfold, you will invaribly read his name in association with this turn of events that ignited the turning point in Pentecostal theology.