The new pastor at Wesley Temple A.M.E. Zion Church sees no discord with being a pastor and a lawyer.
“It’s all about the law — God’s law and man’s law,” said the Rev. Charles Tyler Sr., who has balanced the two vocations for 12 years.
Tyler, 38, an Akron attorney, recently was appointed to lead the historic African Methodist Episcopal Zion church, located at 104 N. Prospect St. His pastorate, which began June 30, has created a new enthusiasm in the congregation.
“Everyone is excited. It’s like a homecoming. He originally came to the church when he was in grad school. He sang in the choir, worked with the youth and trained and became a minister at Wesley Temple,” said Albert Fitzpatrick, a trustee and steward at the church. “Charles is a brilliant guy. He knows Akron. He knows the church. And he knows the members of the church.”
Tyler, a native of Norway, S.C., came to Akron in 1997 to attend the University of Akron. Wesley Temple, founded in 1866 and home to the city’s oldest African-American congregation, became his place of worship.
“It was within walking distance. It had religious fervor, great preaching and wonderful fellowship. And it was a family church, which allowed me to have a family away from home,” Tyler said.
Tyler earned his undergraduate degree in history education at the University of South Carolina in Orangeburg. He earned two graduate degrees in educational administration and public administration and his juris doctorate at the University of Akron.
Pamela Valentine, a member of Wesley Temple since 1978, met Tyler when he came to the church. She said that over the years she has witnessed his growth in the ministry, as an attorney and as a person.
“He is a son of Wesley Temple, and we’re happy that he is back home,” Valentine said. “He has a lot of vision and insight, and he does a lot of research to make sure he knows what he’s talking about. It’s clear that he wants Wesley Temple to continue its tradition as a church that is involved in the community.”
One of Tyler’s first acts as pastor was to get his hands on a demographic study of the area within a five-mile radius of the church.
“We need to know who lives in this community to strategically plan ministry that will serve their needs,” Tyler said. “We don’t exist for ourselves. We exist to meet the needs of the community.”
Felicia Easter, who became friends with Tyler when they were co-workers in the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office, said Tyler has the compassion and dedication to be both a good lawyer and a good pastor.
“He is one of the best people I have ever known. When my mother passed away a year ago, he was right there to see what I needed, and I’m not even a member of his church,” said Easter, a Summit County assistant prosecutor. “He puts passion into everything that he does. It comes from within. He helps people out of the kindness of his heart. He’s just phenomenal.
“I don’t know how he balances being an attorney and being a pastor, because both are so demanding. He has a great sense of humor and he loves his family,” Easter said. “No matter how busy he is, he always has time to spend with his wife and children.”
Tyler and his wife, Shannon, were married at Wesley Temple in June 2000. The couple has three children, all born in Akron: Charles Jr., 12, a seventh-grader at Miller South School for the Visual and Performing Arts; Aaron, 11, a sixth-grader at Litchfield Middle School; and Morgan, 9, a fourth-grader at Resnik elementary.
Shannon Tyler is a kindergarten teacher at Case elementary in Akron.
Although Akron is home for the family, Tyler has served pastorates in New Castle, Pa., Cleveland and most recently in Columbus, making a two-hour commute. Pastors in the A.M.E. Zion Church, one of the historically black Methodist churches, are appointed to serve a church for a year. Their appointments, however, can be extended.
“I was in Columbus for three years. And while I love the people there, it is good to only have to drive 10 minutes to get to church,” Tyler said. “I remember the first time we were driving as a family to Columbus. My son looked at me and said, ‘Dad, does the bishop know we live in Akron?’ ”
In addition to his duties as a pastor, lawyer, husband and father, Tyler served as presiding elder of the Trinidad and Tobago District of the A.M.E. Zion Church from 2005 to 2012. As presiding elder, he traveled to Trinidad every 90 days to provide leadership and training. He and his wife organized and contributed to programs that provided food, clothing, computers and other items to orphans and the needy in the Trinidadian district.
As an attorney, Tyler’s private practice is on Akron-Peninsula Road. He specializes in family, bankruptcy, personal injury, and trust and estate law. His experience includes work as a public defender, an assistant prosecuting attorney, a trial attorney with State Auto Insurance and a school board attorney for Richmond Heights schools.
The Rev. Audie Simon, presiding elder of the Cleveland district of the A.M.E. Zion Church, said Tyler’s compassion is the key to his success in balancing all of his responsibilities.
“He’s super intelligent, but he’s also very compassionate,” Simon said. “He’s just a wonderful person who really loves people.”
While Tyler is still developing his vision for the Akron church, he hopes to launch and continue ministries that will help people in the community. Some of those ministries include child care, nutrition, employment, educational and finance management programs.
“I want to make sure we are connected to the community and that we are a resource in the community. It’s not enough to talk about how bad things are. We have to do something to make sure our words and our behaviors connect,” Tyler said. “We have to be relevant to the people of this community.”
The church attracts an average of 150 people to its 10:30 a.m. Sunday worship service. It also offers Sunday School at 9 a.m., and Bible study at 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays. For more information, call 330-434-5800.