Dluxe's World

Saturday, June 3

What would John Wesley say?

I was peeking at a friend's blog today and he cites an article from the MN Star Tribune. It seems that the United Methodist Minnesota Annual Conference has voted to urge the larger church "to fully welcome gays and lesbians and to support gay marriage and the ordination of gay clergy." The official Annual Conference summary is here and the Star Tribune article can be read here.

It makes me sad to read this article... You see, I grew up at a UMC church. My parents were married there (long before I came along, I should note), I came to faith there, cleaning the church was my first 'job'. I worked on an advisory council to our conference on engaging youth. Life revolved around the white building at 200 Weiner Ave in Harrington.

Those of you who don't know me should understand that I was a music major in college. While in school, I had many gay friends... Many of them were fraternity brothers who I still talk with and love deeply. I hope that they would confirm that, while it is obvious I don't agree with or condone their lifestyle, I have not been hateful or uncaring towards them. They are and will always be some of my dearest friends.

However, I cannot escape the fact that I am convinced their conduct is sinful. And as someone aspiring to become a pastor, I feel almost compelled to comment on the statements of some pastors at the Minnesota Annual Conference. Quotes here are taken from Star Tribune article.
"The half-dozen biblical references to homosexuality do not reflect what we understand today about loving relationships. This is an identity, not a sin." Rev. Dan Johnson of Good Samaritan UMC

I find this kind of reasoning troubling. Reverend Johnson is willing to place his own convictions above the acknowledged, clear teaching in Scripture. I suppose the idea is that we now know more than the Bible writers did thanks to science, years of social evolution, and the like. In some cases, people offer so-called 'trajectory hermeneutics' in which we claim to know where the Bible was going and, based on that trajectory, are completing God's revelation in our time.

Even I learned, in my liberal UMC confirmation class, that the Bible was written by the Holy Spirit - not men - and therefore was authoritative. Johnson would have us set that aside in favor of our human 'higher knowledge'. Herein lies the flaw in Wesley's Method - the misapplication of reason and experience...

It's interesting that Johnson appeals, partly at least, to biology. The argument seems to be that, since we now know people are born homosexual, the behavior must be valid and not sinful. I'll ignore the debate around such data for now. Regardless, I wonder what Johnson would say re: the other people in the world who could be equally predisposed towards pedophilia or violence. If biological impulse makes right, then we have no logical basis to discriminate against other such behaviors.
"Many of us are greatly concerned about the direction the [denomination] has taken toward exclusion... We'll keep putting the pressure on." Retired Rev. Carl Caskey of Northfield

A little bit of historical revision implied here, isn't there? The traditional position of the church has been that homosexuality is a sin. That issue has been argued more than a couple times in church history with the historic, orthodox position always winning the day. The only current 'direction' of progress has been towards a rejection of the consistent teaching held by the church for the last two thousand years.
Like those on the other side, I wish we could get beyond this issue to do the things we're called to do... We are united on issues like serving the poor and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ." Rev. Daren Flinck of Grace United Methodist

Sadly, I must respectfully and earnestly disagree with Reverend Flinck's statement. These two camps are not "united on ... sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ". And I fear that is the most terrible thing about the issue of homosexuality within the church. While Methodists and Calvinists can argue about 'free will' vs. 'predestination' and the like, we emerge from such arguments with the core message of the Gospel being affirmed unanimously. We agree that Christ was God's Son, we are wicked sinners, that Christ's sinless life and atoning death provide the only channel to God, and that we become partakers of this unmerited gift of grace through faith in Christ as Lord and Savior.

The end result with issues like homosexuality is that a very different gospel emerges. The result is a gospel where God is not holy, Christ is not Lord, and the Bible is simply another flawed guidebook (among many) on the shelf. Incontrovertible biblical evidence and the entire testimony of the church through the generations is set aside for the sake of our personal impulses and desires. Impulses and desires that we, as Christians, would affirm largely spring out of a mind that is sinful and hostile towards God.

I trust that the National Convention of the UMC will not accept the recommendations that have come out of Minnesota this week. Still, I suppose there's a lot of 'reason and experience' that could happen between now and 2008.

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13 Comments:

  • OK, so "half-dozen Biblical references" isn't enough for Rev Johnson to supersede his own knowledge. I wonder how many would be enough to convince him that maybe God knows more than he does?

    Sad.

    By Anonymous Brendt, at 8:47 AM, June 04, 2006  

  • Hey Brendt...

    ... how many [Biblical references] would be enough to convince him that maybe God knows more than he does?

    No number would be sufficient, and that's the problem. They have a conclusion in mind and would come up with a way to get there... More evidence against simple means more 'explaining away' to get through.

    The conduct with which homosexuality is metioned in Leviticus should be enough to make you guess God really doesn't like it.

    Of course, perhaps God didn't realize it was a biological predisposition...

    And my guess is that Johnson would offer that Paul didn't have homosexuality in mind when he harped on sexual immorality in 1 Cornithians, either.

    //sorry... ranting again.

    By Blogger HeavyDluxe, at 7:52 PM, June 04, 2006  

  • Ding! You hit the nail on the head. The current push for acceptance of homosexuality is only being accomplished by substituting some other authority in place of scripture.

    Good post. Keep it up!

    By Anonymous Larry B, at 11:37 PM, June 04, 2006  

  • Sadly, it's not just the Bible, but even science that the pro-gay communiy is warping (though the Bible is the more important!)

    When I was in high school health class (in something like '71 or '72) we had to do sexuality reports, and mine was on homosexuality. I had no problems finding lots of very good, secular research that indicated homosexuality as a pathology, with its own environmental and psychological triggers - simply put, it was a sad disease caused by some poor social conditions. During the next two decades, both the APA and the AMA made platforms that distinctly ignored and discouraged such research - basically (in my reading of the politics) from then on research teams that didn't come up with the desired conclusion wouldn't get funded or published. Suddenly - no surprise - the foreordained conclusion (that "gay" is a gene) is showing up in the only published science - and with very thin evidence, I'll add!

    I have friends who are gay, too, and love them and pray for them. That doesn't mean condoning the behavior, but rather lamenting the effects it has on their bodies and minds. If you love an alcoholic, you don't embrace their drinking!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:48 AM, June 05, 2006  

  • Larry B: Thanks for the compliment... Glad you stumbled across the post.

    Anonymous: "it's not just the Bible, but even science that the pro-gay communiy is warping..."

    Very true. And when I first formulated the post, I started writing paragraphs on the debates (even among secular scientists) surrounding the biological precursors for homosexuality.

    My posts are too long anyway, so I snipped it.

    The bottom line is that there are other behaviors that are likely to operate out of pre-wired, biological impulse. If we simply use that as the standard for acceptability, there are other 'bad behaviors' that we need to start praising as normal.

    "That doesn't mean condoning the behavior, but rather lamenting the effects it has on their bodies and minds. If you love an alcoholic, you don't embrace their drinking!"

    Well said...

    By Blogger HeavyDluxe, at 9:02 AM, June 05, 2006  

  • Wow!

    I was deeply involved in music ministry for the UMC in college (in Minnesota I might add). My wife and I were married in the UMC. Our UMC pastor was a man deeply commited to God and his congregation.

    In fact, I used to play on the worship team for the UMC MN Annual Conference every year in college.

    I will pray for them earnestly. Clearly they have lost direction...

    By Blogger paradigm shifter, at 10:24 AM, June 05, 2006  

  • Glad you stopped by, Josh.

    "Only six verses" is irrevelevant. One verse is sufficient.

    True dat. God's clear command shouldn't have to be repeated for us to accept it. You're dead on.

    Still, I wanna play Plato's advocate, again:

    Humanity is told to go forth and multiply. Man-man/woman-woman cannot complete the fullness and/or the intent of the creation of being made in the image of God, thus making it a sin, and why I am against it.

    Taking that argument a step further: Is being single a sin then? A single person cannot complete that fullness or intent either. I agree that "it is not good for man to be alone", but I think being a Godly single is not inherently sinful.

    With that in mind:
    I will say that the bulk of the references in the Bible that are often used to speak against homosexuality are not in fact in reference to an act of consentual love between two consenting adults. In the original language (Greek) they refer to man-man rape, man-boy rape, etc.

    With all due respect, I'm not sure I agree with this statement. Up front, I should admit that I am a layperson whose depth of knowledge in Greek/Hebrew consists of racing through the Greek alphabet in fraternity hazing rites and knowing the correct way to open Strong's without cracking the binding.

    Ok... I'm not quite that bad, but you get the idea.

    Anyway:
    1) Did you mean to say Hebrew instead of Greek? The rape passages (Gen 19, Judges 19) are OT Hebrew...

    2) Any inference of 'rape' into any of the Greek NT texts seems to be a bit of a stretch (Romans 1, 1 Timothy 1, Jude 5-8). The possible exception is probably 1 Corinthians 6 with its distinction between 'effeminate' (malakos) and 'homosexual' (arsenokoites)... Though it's likely referring to prostitutes (who willingly allow themselves to be defiled) in Corinth regardless of their 'personal' heterosexuality.

    3) Regardless of consent in these relationships, I would state that I believe Scripture clearly shows homosexuality to be the at or very near the 'end of the line' for sexual sin.

    So, I think having a 'handful' of verses is important. While suffiency is established with a single verse, the meaning, context, and extent are best interpreted in light of others. Otherwise, all those 'singles' ministries around should just sign their participants up for eHarmony and be done with it. ;-)

    By Blogger HeavyDluxe, at 11:05 AM, June 07, 2006  

  • No, I meant Greek...Septuagent (The OT in Greek). But the same argument can be made as well in the original Hebrew.

    I agree with the OT passages... I was just confused b/c I thought you were referring to the ones in the NT as dealing with rape. Thanks for stopping back to clarify!

    A person being a homosexual in and of itself is not a sin anymore than a person who is a hetrosexual. The distinction is in the act, not the sexual identity.

    I see where you're going. I think it's a bit of both... Is thinking about adultery a sin? Jesus certainly said it was. I'd think that a single person who is 'aflame with passion' is being sinful, no matter if it's heterosexual lust or homosexual lust. It's especially troubling in that homosexual lust has no biblically valid 'outlet'. Paul could tell the unmarried and widows to marry rather than be consumed with lust. There's no corresponding vent for homosexual passions (cf 1 Corinthians 7).

    Maybe I too lean a bit liberal in that, but I see nothing wrong with a person's sexual identity being homosexual as long as he/she does not act on that tendency. This argument is easier to convey in person :)

    You did just fine conveying it electronically! (-:

    I just can't agree 100%. The issue with sin is in our hearts than just our actions. Not consummating the sinful impulses of our flesh is important, so I certainly don't want to diminish that. But, our sinful desires are just that - sinful.

    I speak this as someone who, admittedly, has battles with (heterosexual) lust in my life. The impulses alone show me that my flesh is weak and that I am still sinful. Acting on these impulses simply shows that I have descended further on the ladder toward utter depravity... Any desire for sin in us proves we aren't holy yet and stand in need of grace.

    Thanks for comments... I love chatting with you. Besides, simple math skills tell me that having you visited represents a 20% increase in my readership! ;-)

    By Blogger HeavyDluxe, at 8:42 AM, June 08, 2006  

  • I was not refering to someone who is lusting after another...

    My point is that physical action is not required to mark something as a sin. That was the whole point of Christ's whole point in Matthew 5. Perhaps, given homosexuality as our topic, I should've chosen a different sin as an example.

    So let's take anger (Matthew 5:21-22) that appears in the pericope just above the one on lust. What's Jesus driving at? Confirmation to the law is far higher a standard that just what I do! My feelings, impulses, and emotions are enough to make me subject to judgement.

    If that's true, than desiring something that Scripture tells me is taboo is a sin. Any time I cling to any behavior 'because it is normal' that is clearly outlined as sin in Scripture I am guilty of sin. The desire is condemning in and of itself - not to mention the idol I've made of it by placing my desire for X above my desire for God's glory.

    My point is that a heterosexual can lust just as much as a homosexual, and yes, both are sins, so why do we elevate one and diminish the other?

    I don't. They're both wrong. We must allow the Holy Spirit to tear out everything that is sinful from inside of us. If God's word clearly outlines homosexuality as a sin and I cling to that sin (the desire with or without the behavior), I'm not submitting myself to Christ as Lord. The same is true of heterosexual lust or anything else.

    I must be active in laying my sins before God, asking for the strength to fight them, and actively pulling the roots out of my life (by God's work and grace).

    We heterosexual Christians diminish our sin and elevate the sins of a homosexual, even though they may be the exact same thing...lust without physical action.

    You're right! And we shouldn't do that. Nonetheless, pastors calling anyone's biblically prohibited proclivity 'ok' just because there is no action is contemptable.

    [I voted yes to] the two surrounding weather or not homosexuals should be allowed membership into local congregations. I feel that no one is apart from the love of God, and we all deserve that love, and all are welcome to be a part of the body.

    I'm sorry, Josh. This position is Biblically untenable. For now, I only want to focus on the ecclesiological issue:

    We are to lovingly embrace those who are in the world and need to hear of Christ's love. They must be confronted with their sin, their need for grace, and the steps needed to secure that gift.

    Once they come in the door as members: What does church discipline look like in your mind? Better yet, what is church discipline meant to accomplish?

    I they call themselves a Christian brother or sister then a different standard applies:
    I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 1 Cor 5:9-13

    And what do you make of the "deliver him to Satan for the destruction of his flesh" passage earlier in chapter 5 (v4-5)?

    We are not called to judge the world - God will handle that. But we are called to judge and strongly correct sinful behavior in the church.

    I've admitted openly that I have battled lustful impulses in my life. I'm thankful for brothers in Christ who have helped me struggle through temptation, held me accountable for my heart, and have exhorted me. I hope they have seen in me a person who is genuinely struggling with my dark heart - it grieves me to feel what I feel because I know it to be wrong.

    The minute I stop grieving my impulses... The very minute that they become something I just shrug and say "That's who I am - besides I'm not acting on them" is the very minute I would expect those brothers in Christ to begin to discipline me more severely. If I fail to turn back with a contrite heart, they shouldn't allow me to continue to fellowship with the Church.

    Your vote should've been 'no' all around. Please understand, I would've urged you vote 'no' had the issue been 'adulterous desires' or 'unholy love of money' or 'gluttony'. The issue isn't the particular sin, it is the slow intrusion of accomodation of sin at the expense of God's Word and His holiness.

    The issue at hand is homosexuality - and it is sin both in desire and act.

    By Blogger HeavyDluxe, at 10:02 AM, June 09, 2006  

  • this is but one problem with christians. most of you get all excited about homosexuality and how its a sin because the bible says so. well why do you choose to follow this rule but you decide to overlook others? how many friends and family members have you murdered for believing in other religions? do you offer up your virgin siblings or children to be raped by your homosexual friends instead of engaging in gay sex? are you really following gods word?

    please... i would honestly like to understand why you pick which rules to follow and how you decide which ones are important.

    By Blogger veganerd, at 2:09 PM, June 09, 2006  

  • Veganerd,

    do you offer up your virgin siblings or children to be raped by your homosexual friends instead of engaging in gay sex? are you really following gods word?

    Now I remember you! I saw your name during the whole Flemming debate thing on centuri0n's blog (and associated websites). Assuming you're referring to the Judges 19 incident, I'd urge you to read Bugblaster's excellent summary here. This was written in response to Amy who tried to raise the same issue from a feminist viewpoint.

    The bottom line is the same: The whole point of several of these passages were to show what people were like "when there was no king in Israel". We are sick people who are prone to terrible sins... Nowhere will you find this conduct condeoned in Scripture. It's simply a chronicle of the twisted things some people were doing apart from God.

    well why do you choose to follow this rule but you decide to overlook others? ... i would honestly like to understand why you pick which rules to follow and how you decide which ones are important.

    First of all, please note that I said in my last comment that "I would've urged [no vote on a measure like the one in MN] had the issue been 'adulterous desires' or 'unholy love of money' or 'gluttony'. The issue isn't the particular sin, it is the slow intrusion of accomodation of sin at the expense of God's Word and His holiness."

    Let me be honest: I see far darker desires in myself sometimes, if I dare to look honestly, than homosexuality. So, understand that I'm not trying to make anything out to be some 'super-sin'. But, the real issue is that even a small sin is enough to condemn before a Holy God.

    Given that you have a quasi-formula in the heading of your blog, let me botch an attempt to illustrate it mathematically:
    God's Standard = 0 (zero)
    Our smallest sin = .000001

    Can you describe the delta between those two numbers? No, you can't. The difference from nothing to anything is INFINITE. Similarly, even our 'smallest' sin shatters our hope of 'personal perfection', separating us from God with a chasm we can't bridge.

    So, what are we to do about that? The Bible tells us that we are helpless to fix the problem of our in our own strength. The incredibly good news is that God, in an unmerited and unbelievable act of mercy, choose to intervene and rescue us. Jesus Christ, God's eternal Son, went to His death in order to pay the just penalty for every big, little, massive, and miniscule sin we'd ever commit. By putting our faith in Him, we can have life and fellowship with God. I pray that you'd think about that and that God would work in your heart...

    God's perfect law is something we could never uphold, but now we have peace in Christ. Jesus secured a new covenant (contract) between God and people who put their faith in Him... We're no longer held to the rigidly strict standard of the law, by God's great grace.

    I'd urge you to take 10 mins and read the passages here. If you seek honestly, I believe you'll find all the answer you need. Paul even addresses the

    Thanks again for stopping by... And for reading this monster comment!

    By Blogger HeavyDluxe, at 3:30 PM, June 09, 2006  

  • For starters, I'm going to ask just one question: Josh, how would you explain, unpack, or interpret 1 Corinthians 5:9-13?

    While waiting for that response, I will address each of your questions in order.

    I must pose the question as to what part of love of neighbor you claim is "contemptable"?

    None.

    To restate my point: People need to understand that sin is not just action - it can be just a thought. If a pastor is teaching that simply 'not acting' on sinful impulse means you are "ok", I believe that is contemptable. We must force people to confront their actions and their hearts - both of them are damning and both must be submitted to Christ.

    Why are you choosing to pick this sin as exclusionary?

    To quote original remarks: "Please understand, I would've urged you vote 'no' [on allowing membership] had the issue been 'adulterous desires' or 'unholy love of money' or 'gluttony'."

    I'm not trying to make homosexuality the single, solitary exclusionary issue. The core problem here isn't really homosexuality at all... The real issue is the slow, slipping compromise of Biblical authority and church orthodoxy.

    I believe 1 Corinthians 5, among other passages, clearly states that we should not tolerate the barefaced practice of sin in our midst (speaking of the Body of Christ - the Church). Such conduct among Christian brother/sisters should be identified through application of Scripture and dealt with using the Biblical foundations for church discipline.

    Again, I'm interested in any alternative way to read that passage (1 Cor 5) you might suggest.

    Which part [is biblically untenable]? Love extended to all? Offering up the love of God? God's grace? Ministry to the lost and broken?

    Please don't try and apply my statements outside of the issue I was addressing. Including homosexuals in the membership of a church is the issue you raised and was the (only) issue I was addressing with that statement.

    A note: I am reading your word 'membership' to mean a full, confirmed, recognized, 'all rights and responsibilities pertaining thereunto' person in the church. As noted above, I believe the testimony of Scripture is that open rebellion in the Body is to be identified and disciplined. That isn't just homosexuality, but any other sin of which you can think. If someone is light-heartedly hanging onto their gluttony, then that should be dealt with in the same way.

    Did Jesus say I am not going to minister to you based on your sin?

    I mentioned the clear distinction between BELIEVERS IN THE BODY (e.g. members) and THE LOST WORLD (e.g. everyone else).

    We are to extend the grace of Christ in unlimited measure to the lost people in the world. We are to love them and minister to them in their sin. You think we (you and I) are on different missions... Perhaps, but not for the reason you think. I agree the doors of the church should be open for the lost to come in and find redemption. They do need to hear why they need grace and redemption, however. So sin must be mentioned.

    But, once someone calls themselves a believer, claims faith in Christ, and is grafted into the Body, a whole different standard applies. Believers in open sin are to be disciplined. (Again, see 1 Cor 5:1-13, 2 Thess 3:6-7,and others)

    I would submit that Christ's model in Matthew 18:15-17 applies as well.

    I'd be interested in your alternative exegesis of any of these verses.

    Find me one verse in the Bible where it says to shut out people based on sin...

    The issue you raised was that you voted 'yes' to allowing people who are homosexuals become members of a church. So, my comments are confined to MEMBERS, confessing believers of Christ.

    I've provided several verses that specifically address 'shutting people out' who have a history of open, unrepentant sin. I think the Biblical testimony is clear.

    For those who are not believers, we should preach the Gospel to them and pray that the Holy Spirit will convict them of their sin and bring them to faith in Christ. That should be done lovingly and selflessly, regardless of the specific 'sin baggage' that any of them bring.

    [Brian, you] are a better man of God than I am given this position of being without sin.

    Wow... that's really twisting my statement.

    I never said I was without sin... I'm tempted to just re-quote my original statement since the meaning was quite clear. Instead, I'll offer another shot just in case there were clouds that need to be cleared away.

    I am drenched in sin. Sin comes out of my mouth, from my hands, and into my thoughts more often than I like to admit. I would never dare claim that I have some reason to be elitist and smug in my 'holiness'. I have no righteousness but Christ - nor does anyone.

    The Church places me in community with believers who will assist me in my sanctification... They confront me with my sinfulness, convict me with Scripture, and pray with me as I confess my broken nature to God.

    If a sin is identified in me, called to my attention by those in my church, and I fail to handle that sin appropriately, I should be disciplined for my own good. If that pattern of rebellion is systemic, I should be 'disfellowshipped' until such time as I repent and restore my faulty relationship to God and with my fellow believers.

    We are born into a sinful world...all of us, and I am called to minister to those in need, who are hurting, broken, lost and in need of the grace and love of God.

    Amen! And we should preach that from the rooftops.

    The second you can show me a Scripture reference where it tells me not to do this, I will reconsider....

    If the issue is outreach/evangelism, there's no verse. We wouldn't be having this conversation if we were talking about reaching the lost for Christ. I'm way more 'missional' than you think (and prolly more than some of my peeps like).

    But the issue here (which you raised by disclosing your two 'yes' votes) is the sanctioning of an obvious sin though granting church MEMBERSHIP.

    Those who are grafted into the Body of Christ are expected to be attempting to submit to Christ's lordship. When we Believers fail to deal with our sins productively, the church is to come along side of us to support us and correct us. If we repeatedly fail to respond to the discipline of Christ, exercised through His Body (the church), we should not be allowed to continue in fellowship or membership until we have come to repentance.

    This is about disciplining believers... Not evangelism.

    I have offered several verses that affirm the points outline above (Matthew 18:15-17, 1 Corinthians 5, 2 Thess 3:6-7, 1 Pet. 2:11-12).

    I believe that 1 Corinthians 5 (particularly vv.9-13) is full and unambiguous. It addresses the patterns of relationship between believers and with the world. If there is an alternative interpretation I have not considered, please explain these verses in that context and with other Scripture.

    By Blogger HeavyDluxe, at 12:19 AM, June 12, 2006  

  • Welcome back, Josh.

    It's obvious that we have a slightly differing viewpoint on something that we both agree is a sin (Believe it or not, I do believe it's a sin).

    I do believe that you think it's a sin. And please know that I'm not trying to lance you with any of these comments. I am trying to understand how you reconcile the whole of scripture to your view.

    What I have come to is that the differing viewpoint stems from what's right and OK in accepting and what's not.

    That's certainly true... Perhaps a better question would be how you intend to preach on or counsel people in re: homosexuality when you are a pastor?

    We could go on and on about the differing theologies, beliefs and practices of our two different denominations.

    Depending on the role you see infant baptism playing (symbollic of being grafted into the church or a means of salvation/grace), we might not have a huge disagreement.

    The only other thing I want to say is that some things are worth going on and on about. They're important.

    In this case, I think the issue meets that threshold. How do we confront/handle sin? What is the role of the church in reaching the world and disciplining the flock?

    These, I would submit, are not simply 'angels on the head of a pin' issues, but rather very critical issues of Biblical interpretation and authority.

    Prayers for you and your ministry.

    By Blogger HeavyDluxe, at 1:44 PM, June 17, 2006  

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