Denver Fighter for Social Justice, Rev. Timothy Tyler, Aims to Bring Message of Hope to the Church While Campaigning to Become an AME Bishop

DENVER, CO - JUNE 21: The Reverend Dr. Timothy E. Tyler preaches the word to his congregation during Sunday service June 21, 2015 at Shorter Community A.M.E. Church in support of the shootings in Charleston. Parishioners of all races gathered together in prayer along with U.S. Senator Michael Bennett and Congresswoman Diana DeGette. (Photo By John Leyba/The Denver Post)
DENVER, CO – JUNE 21: The Reverend Dr. Timothy E. Tyler preaches the word to his congregation during Sunday service June 21, 2015 at Shorter Community A.M.E. Church in support of the shootings in Charleston. Parishioners of all races gathered together in prayer along with U.S. Senator Michael Bennett and Congresswoman Diana DeGette. (Photo By John Leyba/The Denver Post)

This could be the last Easter sermon that the Rev. Timothy Tyler delivers at Shorter Community African Methodist Episcopal Church, so he wants to bring a message that people will always remember. Known as a talented storyteller, he’ll start with the darkest part of the Easter story — how the friends of Jesus laid his body in the tomb. 

“For them, it was all over — their hopes and dreams, the promise of a new kingdom and a new life,” Tyler said.

Then he’ll remind the Denver congregation of battles they feared they’d lose, like their four-year fight to get justice for Marvin Booker, the homeless preacher who died while in police custody in 2010, which resulted in a $6 million settlement to the Booker family.

“But it wasn’t over till God said it was over,” he said. “On Resurrection Sunday, I’m encouraging people that even when we lay things in the tomb and say they’re over, God always intervenes.”

Since he moved to Denver in 2008 to become the pastor of Shorter, Tyler has built a reputation in the larger community as a voice of hope.

“He’s very courageous and not afraid to speak truth to power and to be on the side of justice, even if it’s not popular,” said community activist Jeff Fard.

Under his leadership, Fard said, Shorter has become a magnet for the community.

It’s where Denver Freedom Riders, modeled on the Freedom Riders of the 1960s, gathered for training sessions in nonviolent resistance and where they boarded the bus headed to Ferguson, Mo., and where they later gathered to watch the verdict in the Michael Brown case.

This is also the place that state Sen. Mike Johnston came to in the middle of the night to tape a letter about unconditional love and racial injustice on the night that a white supremacist killed nine people at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. Two of Tyler’s friends, including state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, were killed during that shooting.

“What I love about Rev. Tyler is that he keeps alive a great tradition of pastor as spiritual leader, as community activist and as a moral force,” said Johnston. “He views leadership of the church as a key part of leadership of the city.”

But it’s uncertain how long he’ll remain in Denver.

Tyler, 52, is campaigning to become a bishop in the AME Church.

The process is similar to American political races — with a raucous nominating convention and fierce competition for votes from 1,600 delegates — and if Tyler wins, he’ll have to leave Shorter to preside over a jurisdiction that could be in Africa, Europe, the Caribbean or the United States.

Thirty candidates are campaigning for six open seats.

In the past year, he’s traveled more than 150,000 miles to lobby delegates in such countries as South Africa, Zambia, Jamaica and Bermuda.

“These campaigns are tedious, time-consuming and financially difficult,” said long-time church member Elvin Caldwell Jr., a co-chairman of Tyler’s campaign. “But he knows what it takes to win.”

The election will be held in Philadelphia in July, part of a historic event — the bicentennial of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the oldest denomination in the United States organized by African-Americans.

“We are the only denomination born out of the social justice issue,” said Tyler.

A former slave named Richard Allen helped form the church after white officers in the Methodist church where he worshipped told a group of black clergy that they needed to move aside so that white members could pray in that space.

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Source: Denver Post | Colleen O’Connor