The Common Objects of Our American Love

The Common Objects of Our American Love

Published June 26, 2019

3rd Sunday after Pentecost/June 26, 2019

Just these lines my friends …

… to say that we had some beautiful days in the mountains at Lake Junaluska. It was Annual Conference week for United Methodist churches across Western North Carolina. The days were full, exhausting but renewing.

I heard Sanctuary worship from this past Sunday (June 23) was surprising (power outage in the 8:15 service), revitalizing, powerful and hopeful. Thank you Sanctuary Choir and Praise Band for all the beautiful, inspiring music.

Common Objects of Our Love

While at Lake Junaluska, I got into a Jon Meacham book. He is one of my favorite writers. He spoke at the funerals of both Barbara and George H.W. Bush. He is one of our leading historians and spoke recently to the graduates of Middlebury College.  In his address he referred to St. Augustine, who defined a nation as “a multitude of rational beings united by the common objects of our love.”  

Meacham repeated that phrase, the common objects of our love, and asked the question for our nation, “What do we love in common?”  Then he said, “The painful but unavoidable answer is: not enough.”  He went on to affirm the way the story of our nation’s history has the power to bring us together.  “We have always grown in strength the wider we have opened our arms–and the more we have opened our hearts.”  

It’s an understatement to say that we live in a moment when our nation is torn by the conflicting crosscurrents of polarized politics, which are the outward sign of a deeper rendering of the fabric of our life together, by tribal instincts that are often rooted in fear or resentment rather than reason or truth.

Perhaps we can find our way through the morass of our times by being reminded of “the objects of our love.”  Without blind denial of the importance of the issues that divide us, can we at the same time reclaim the things that could unite us?  The big ideas of human dignity and worth (all people are created equal), liberty (the Bill of Rights and the 13th, 14th, 15th and 19th amendments), and the compelling and uncompleted vision of “liberty and justice for all.” Meacham told the graduates: “The founders expected seasons of anger and frustration; they anticipated hours of unhappiness and unrest.  The country was thus constructed with an awareness of sin and a determination to protect the larger republican enterprise from the furies of the moment.”

One of our speakers at Annual Conference last week reminded us of how the Methodist Episcopal Church divided over slavery in 1844. She said, “Some predicted that if the Methodists couldn’t stay together, the nation never could.”

That 1844 General Conference was described by one Methodist historian this way: There was among the Methodists none of the Quaker sense of consensus, of aiming at or moving toward agreement.  Rather the whole principle of action was to create division, to draw sharp lines, ask that men [there were no women delegates] declare themselves for or against…At the most trying hour of their history the Methodist preachers [there were no lay delegates) in conference assembled used the tactics of conflict and the methods of the state.  (Organizing to Beat the Devil, p. 221-222)

Stephen Olin, delegate from the North, said, “If we push our principles so far to break up the connection, this may be the last time we meet.  I fear it!  I see no way of escape.”  (p. 223) And there was no escape.  The Methodist Church divided and remained that way until 1939.

Some say that we are at that place again; that there is no way for The United Methodist Church to remain united because of our differences of biblical interpretation and conviction regarding human sexuality.  But is division inescapable?

Perhaps we could find our way through this difficult time by being reminded of the common objects of our love. Some of us continue to believe that the things that we love are strong enough to overcome the things that divide us — our Wesleyan theology, our compelling mission, our spiritual tradition, and the strength of our shared ministry.  We dare to believe that the love of God in Jesus Christ can bring us together.

Might what Meacham said of the nation, in a much deeper sense, be true of the church?

“The point of America is not for all of us to think alike; that’s impossible and undesirable … Autocracies are about total agreement, or at least total submission; the American republic is founded on the notion that even the person with whom I most stridently disagree might have something to say worth hearing and heeding … The shame only comes when we take refuge in unjustified certitude rather than fearless openness of mind and soul.” I would edit his final words to read, “fearless openness of mind, heart and soul in the love of God in Jesus Christ.”  

Friends, I invite you from the deepest places of my heart to join me in praying, hoping and working for both our nation and our church to be “united in the common objects of our love.” 

“How good it is when the people of God dwell together in unity.” – Psalm 133:1

Annual Conference 2019

Lay and clergy delegates from across Western North Carolina met June 20-23 for the annual gathering of the United Methodist churches of Western North Carolina. This annual gathering takes place at Lake Junaluska, NC. There were a number of people from Matthews United Methodist participating this year: Teressa Clark, Jan Horai, Hugo Hernandez, Philip/Brenda Tate, Kent/Jeanette Winslow, Karen Wilson, Julie Cochran, Jeannette Coggins, Amy DeVore, Fred/Carol Goolsby, Kim Layton, Scott/Linda Lyons, John Ross, James Ross, Allie Little, and your pastors. All of our clergy at Matthews UMC have been reappointed for the next year.

The election of delegates to the next General (May 2020) and Jurisdictional Conference (July 2020), occupied much attention. I’m so pleased to announce that our very own Amy DeVore was elected as a Jurisdictional delegate. This will place her at the heart of our Conference leadership and the election of bishops for the Southeastern Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church. Be sure to congratulate Amy for this amazing honor that has been bestowed upon her.

Also, our very own Laurie Little was celebrated with the Harry Denman Award for Laity. I’ll tell you more about it later in this Just These Lines.

A petition to be sent to the General Conference to remove the “incompatibility” language from the Book of Discipline (that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching”), after vigorous debate,  was supported by the Western North Carolina Conference. Also, a resolution rejecting the Traditionalist Plan approved by the General Conference earlier this year was affirmed. Please be reminded that the actions of the special called General Conference of February 2019 remain in place. Those actions go into place on January 1, 2020. The actions taken by the Western North Carolina Conference are aspirational votes that will be placed before the regularly scheduled General Conference of May, 2020. Many, even most conferences across the United States have done the same. For additional information on Annual Conference 2019 you can click here.

Laurie Little Presented with the Prestigious Denman Award

The Harry Denman Award program honors a person within The United Methodist Church of Western North Carolina whose exceptional ministry of evangelism – expressed in Word (what), Sign (why), and Deed (how) – brings people into a life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ. What distinguishes a Harry Denman Award recipient is the commitment to consistently introduce others to the Good News of Jesus Christ in all ministry settings. Their ministry is exceptional for the number of new Christ Followers who credit encounters with this person as critical in helping to start or reignite their faith journey.

Our very own Laurie Little is the 2019 recipient of the prestigious Harry Denman Award for Laity. It was given at the Western North Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church at beautiful Lake Junaluska. Laurie is one of the brightest lights on this planet. From her early days as a child involved in Abernathy United Methodist Church in Asheville to United Methodist churches in Ohio, Maryland — and now for well over 30 years in Matthews, NC — she has been sharing her faith every step of the way. She loves God and loves like God.

Laurie Little knows how to extend evangelistic hospitality better than anyone I know. She builds community that creates strong bonds. She brings people together. If you can imagine this, through the years Laurie and Tommy have hosted nearly 1500 meals in their home involving over 25,000 people. And that, friends, would be a conservative estimate. Laurie told me one time, “We have always truly loved and felt called to invite folks to gather around the table to share life and to make them feel at home and loved like family. These times with folks have been a huge blessing in our lives.”

I’m thinking of the hundreds of young people who have made decisions to walk in the Way of Jesus due to her efforts. I’m thinking of the nearly 50 persons who have felt that nudge upon their heart to enter the vocational service of ministry because of her efforts, many of them as United Methodist clergy. I’m thinking of the numerous persons who have made decisions to live and work among the poor because of her efforts. I’m thinking of the dozens and dozens of adults she equipped to share gospel good news with teenagers and young adults. I’m thinking of the hundreds of young people and adults that traveled with her in mission service around the United States who were allowed to bring only a change of underwear and a toothbrush. I’m thinking of poor mountain communities, inner city young people and backwoods rural stations that were touched by the loving service of these young people and adults. I’m thinking of the hundreds of persons who have traveled with Laurie to Haiti to serve among the poor and those with special needs.

Join me in celebrating Laurie, and please click here to read more about her ministry journey and Rainbow Express Ministries, which she now leads to equip and nurture a community of young adults, with and without disabilities.

This Sunday (June 30) in Worship

We begin a holiday week this Sunday. You may find yourself getting an early start on some traveling. But in case you’re celebrating the 4th of July right here in Matthews, remember, we’ll gather in worship at MUMC. CCH continues the series titled Springs in the Desert801South and Pastor Corey will continue the series, Altar Ego. This week we will explore our need to seek the approval of others. And in our morning Sanctuary services, we get started in our summer worship series called Modern Family. What does a modern family look like? How can the relationships in which we live become the tangible expression of the love of God being made real in our world through us? The story of the first family teaches us about our own families. The story paints the living portrait of God’s dream for all of our human relationships. The story reminds us that none of our families are perfect. Come join us and hear what the Bible has to say about our families. In preparation for Sunday, June 30, read Genesis 1-3.

In addition to our Photo Challenge, there are a number of important dates for your calendar, including Dr. Wilkinson (July 14-15) and Rev. Nicole de Castrique Jones (Aug. 11). Please refer to our most recent Celebration News or the featured events on the bottom of our homepage for all the details.

Keep shining your light this week. Be safe in your travels. In all you do, remember to Reach, Teach, Praise and Serve.

Keep Love Alive, 

Dr. Charles (Chuck) W. Wilson II

Did you know that Pastor Steve Combs, former pastor at Matthews UMC, retired and shared his last sermon on Sunday, June 23, at Salem United Methodist Church in Albemarle?

Did you know that a multi-generational team from CCH and MUMC served nearly 80 migrants, who are legally seeking asylum, at the Greyhound bus Station on Wednesday, June 19? Contact Amy DeVore to participate.

Did you know that Nicole Swaim and Jon Stevens were married on June 21 at Zion National Park in Utah? Nicole is the daughter of Elaine Arnold and John Swaim.

Did you know that 14 men and women from our CCH congregation roofed a house in Maxton/Lumberton, while Dan Deckard installed duct work for the heating and air? Get involved in the Adopt-A-House program at