Friday, 2 November 2007

America's culture wars spreading to Europe

WILLIAM BUCKLEY, the grand old man of the American right, once argued that a conservative's duty was to stand athwart history shouting “Stop!” So far this special report has argued that modernity has been surprisingly helpful to religion. The reverse is not necessarily true. Pious people are shouting “Stop!” (or at least “Slow down!”) to things liberals regard as progress. The three main battlefields are culture, science and economics.

Such a sweeping generalisation requires an immediate caveat. The three battlefields are reasonably well defined, but the people fighting on them are not. On the secular side, progressive Parisians and New Yorkers may both be modern, but often have very different attitudes to economics. The religious side is even more fragmented. Conservative American churches tend to embrace modern capitalism, but are suspicious of biotechnology and modern culture; by contrast, leftish American evangelicals are much more bothered about globalisation than about stem cells. The technophobic Catholic hierarchy in Europe is mildly hostile to modern culture, science and capitalism, and technophile Muslim fundamentalists loathe all three.

Slowly a phenomenon that America knows as “the culture wars” is going global. Abortion, gay marriage, stem cells and euthanasia are popping up all over the place as rallying calls for religious people. In many developed countries politics is increasingly driven by problems of identity and values rather than economics. Read more
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Schism plans develop after U.S. meeting

The split between liberal and conservative Anglicans grew wider in September as bishops of the U.S. Episcopal Church reaffirmed their denomination’s more-inclusive stance on homosexuality and a breakaway group of bishops moved to form a “new ecclesiastical structure” in North America.

About 150 Episcopal Church bishops met in New Orleans from Sept. 20 to 25, along with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, several primates (national archbishops from other countries) and members of the international Anglican Consultative Council (ACC). At the end of their meeting, the American bishops issued a statement that they said was the best expression of a position on which all present could agree. (Several conservative bishops had left the meeting early.)

It reiterated decisions made by the church’s governing body, the General Convention, which pledged to “exercise restraint” by not agreeing to the consecration of bishops “whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.”

They acknowledged that “non-celibate gay and lesbian persons are included among those to whom (the resolution) pertains.” They also pledged “as a body not to authorize public rites for the blessing of same-sex unions.”

The vote essentially maintained the status quo in the Episcopal Church and represented a rejection of calls from some primates for a stronger stance in favour of the view that the Bible bars gay relationships. Read more
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Bolivian Bishop Blasts Indianapolis Bishop for Saying He is Not Recognized by ABC

The Bishop of Bolivia, the Rt. Rev. Frank Lyons has written to VirtueOnline incensed that the Bishop of Indianapolis, the Rt. Rev. Catherine Waynick has written a Pastoral letter ( to her diocese saying he is not a legitimate bishop recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Bishop Waynick ordered the Pastoral Letter to be read last Sunday, October 23rd, to all her churches.

"She unfortunately and disagreeably misrepresented my standing as the legitimately ordained Bishop of Bolivia, and a constituent member of the Province of the Southern Cone under Archbishop Gregory Venables," said Lyons.

Waynick wrote: "It may help you to know that this bishop of Bolivia is not recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury. He recently came here to celebrate confirmations and ordinations, though he is well aware he is in defiance of ancient church councils and Anglican tradition, and his actions have been denounced by the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates."

Not true, said Lyons. To quote Mark Twain, "The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated. If she had referred to the Episcopal Church's own Episcopal Church Directory for the present year, she would have found my name there nestled quietly among the dioceses of the Province of the Southern Cone on page 483, in communion with Canterbury, a full member of the Anglican Communion and in good standing." Lyons says he has received a full invitation to the Lambeth Conference next year in Canterbury. Read more
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Christianity may yet rise again in Europe

[...] Grace Davie of the University of Exeter argues that there are really two religious economies in Europe. In the old one, religion is “a public utility”: there is one state-backed supplier, and most Christians follow their religion vicariously (in the sense that somebody else does your churchgoing for you). For instance, around 75% of Swedes are baptised as Lutherans, but only 5% regularly go to church. The church pockets a staggering $1.6 billion in membership fees, collected by the state through the tax system. It has been rare for Swedes to opt out, though that seems to be changing.

Alongside this old religious economy, a smaller one, based on personal choice, is growing. Together evangelicals, charismatics and Pentecostals accounted for 8.2% of Europe's population in 2000, nearly double the rate in 1970, according to the World Christian Encyclopedia. Pentecostalism is France's fastest-growing religion. London's immigrant-packed East End is thought to have twice as many Pentecostal congregations as Church of England ones.

However, most evangelicals and charismatics are contained within the older religions. Over 2m Britons have now taken the Alpha course, “an opportunity to explore the meaning of life”, which began at Holy Trinity Brompton, a posh church in Kensington. Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, uses Alpha veterans to “rechurch” areas of his diocese. Read more
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Thursday, 1 November 2007

The Koran according to Cherie Blair

It’s really quite disturbing that Mrs Blair, one of the country’s most eminent barristers, should make claims about the Koran that are contradicted by a plain reading of the text. But we’re seeing a lot of this at the moment: statements about Islam that attempt to paper over the vast chasm between bien pensant myth and reality.

Just as Mrs Blair wants us to think that the Koran doesn’t sanction violence against women, so Sir Iqbal Sacranie wants us to believe that there is “zero tolerance” of hate literature in the Muslim community.

Karen Armstrong and the good people at Radio 4 may think these statements are true. But that’s their little fantasy. The rest of us have to live in the real world. Read more
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All the law suits currently going on in The Episcopal Church

(Ed: Source, Anglican Mainstream)

In a private session of the Executive Council, meeting in Dearborn, Michigan, October 26-28, the Presiding Bishop's Chancellor, David Booth Beers, gave an extensive review of the state of property litigation and other legal issues and related disciplinary considerations confronting the Episcopal Church and articulated the policies of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori regarding those issues.

"This is hard. The concepts are hard," said Beers. "It is costly. And it requires a lot of pastoral care of those involved."

Beers talked about three types of situations confronting the church:

* When a group of congregants decides it no longer wants to be part of the Episcopal Church but intend to retain the church building and other parish assets;

* When a bishop and diocesan leadership determine to allow such a group to retain Episcopal Church property under certain circumstances;

* When a bishop and other diocesan leadership decide they no longer want to be part of the Episcopal Church.

In the first group of cases, Beers said, litigation has recently been successfully concluded in the dioceses of Missouri, North Carolina, and Rochester, while other court decisions in recent years favoring the Episcopal Church have been made in Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Virginia, New York, and several other dioceses.

Favorable lower court decisions have been issued by a trial court in the Diocese of South Carolina and by an intermediate appeals court in three cases from the Diocese of Los Angeles. All of those decisions are being appealed. In Long Island, a decision is expected within a month in the case of a parish that sued the Episcopal Church and the diocese. Lawsuits are also pending in the Dioceses of Colorado, Connecticut, Northwest Texas, San Diego, and Virginia.

The Presiding Bishop has been asked to file an amicus brief in a lawsuit involving the Diocese of Colorado, where the dispute is complicated by the fact that the congregation's rector has been accused and found guilty by a diocesan court of embezzlement.

The lawsuit against a group of 11 breakaway Virginia groups is "robust" litigation, said Beers, which has raised interesting questions about the nature of the Anglican Communion itself.

Lawsuits could conceivably be forthcoming in Georgia, Nebraska, Northern California, Ohio, South Dakota, Southern Virginia and a few other dioceses, Beers said.

There have been several settlements, including one in Central New York, where the departing group promised not to invite a bishop from another Anglican jurisdiction until it had secured its own space.

Another settlement in the Diocese of Olympia is being revisited by the incoming bishop.

"What we do for the dioceses in these cases is to provide legal research and other materials such as expert statements, briefs, and advice on litigation strategy. Then we hold a conference with the bishop and other leaders of the diocese such as the chancellor and standing committee officers," said Beers. "We talk to them about what to do about the departing group, how to help those who remain with the Episcopal Church, what to do about the clergy involved, what to do if another Anglican bishop is involved, when it's best to settle, when to pursue litigation, and what works and what doesn't in litigation."

The costs are "heavy," said Beers, but national expenses generally have not exceeded those of some single dioceses in the church. By contrast, he said, it has been reported that the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) congregations in Virginia have spent at least $1 million to date on the pending litigation.

Beers predicted another year or so of lawsuits.

"The total number of parishes in active litigation is probably 20-25, at the outside," he said.

The second category of cases involves diocesan leadership negotiating with congregants who wish to leave with Episcopal Church property. Agreements have been made with congregations in Dallas, Kansas, Olympia, Quincy, Rhode Island, and Virginia.

Critical to these negotiations, in the Presiding Bishop's estimation, are the requirements that congregations not invite a primate or bishop from another province of the Anglican Communion to assume jurisdiction over the departing group and that the diocese be fairly compensated for the value of the real and personal property to be retained by the group of departing members.

And then there are the dioceses seeking to disaffiliate.

Beers stated that it is important for "the disciplinary process of the church to speak to the issues." Something like that has already been attempted with respect to Bishop John-David Schofield of San Joaquin, after a group of California bishops claimed canonical violations when the diocese voted to take the first step to change its constitution in 2006 to qualify its agreement to submit to the Episcopal Church's Constitution and Canons. Article V, Section 1, of the Constitution says that a diocese's constitution must contain an “unqualified accession" to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church.

If approved at its second reading slated for the upcoming December 7-8 convention, the diocesan constitution would read that the diocese accedes "to the extent that such terms and provisions, and any amendments thereto, adopted by the authority of the General Convention, are not inconsistent with the terms and provisions of the Constitution and Canons of the Diocese of San Joaquin..."

If the Title IV Review Committee, which serves as a kind of "grand jury" in such cases, had determined that Schofield had abandoned the Communion of the Church under the terms of Canon IV.9, its decision would have begun a process that could have resulted in Schofield being liable to deposition and removal from office. But the committee agreed that the actions of the bishop at that time "did not constitute abandonment of the communion, as it is defined in the canon."

Appointed to the 2007-2009 Title IV Review Committee are Bishop Suffragan Bavi E. Rivera of Olympia, Bishop Suffragan David C. Jones of Virginia, Bishop C. Wallis Ohl Jr. of Northwest Texas, the Rev. Carolyn Kuhr of Montana, the Very Rev. Scott Kirby of Eau Claire, J.P. Causey Jr. of Virginia and Deborah J. Stokes of Southern Ohio. Causey, Kirby, Kuhr and Stokes served on the 2003-2006 Review Committee.

A charge of abandonment of the communion of the Episcopal Church is determined by vote in the House of Bishops. There is no appeal and no right of formal trial outside of a hearing before the House of Bishops. A proposed revision of Title IV would have changed that, but those provisions were not passed by General Convention 2006.

Of those dioceses considering "realignment," Springfield appears not to have yet acted, and Quincy declined in its recent diocesan convention to pass a proposed canonical revision.

Fort Worth's convention, meeting November 14-15,is set to consider the first reading of a constitutional amendment that would remove accession to the Constitution and Canons of the church, as well several canonical amendments that eliminate mention of the name of the Episcopal Church. Jefferts Schori intends to send a letter to Bishop Jack Iker, who advocates these changes, before the convention notifying him that such a step would force her to take action to bring the diocese and its leadership into line with the mandates of the national Church.

A similar canonical change is set to come before the Diocese of Pittsburgh's convention November 2-3, and Jefferts Schori has written to Pittsburgh's bishop in this regard (see link to letter cited above).

In December the Diocese of San Joaquin is scheduled to hear the second and final reading of its constitutional accession amendment, a proposed act that may prompt "more dramatic action" beforehand.

At some point, assuming that all these and other constitutional changes go forward, the Presiding Bishop could ask the Title IV Review Committee to consider whether the three diocesan bishops who have proposed and supported these changes have abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church.

Presentment charges were filed in 2005 against Connecticut Bishop Drew Smith, because he deposed a priest on the ground that he had abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church in rejecting the bishop's authority. The Title IV Review Committee upheld Smith's action, and Beers said the decision is "an important road map to where we are going."

If the Presiding Bishop were to present materials to the Review Committee regarding potential abandonment by the bishops in question, and if the Committee were to agree that abandonment had taken place, the bishops would have two months to recant their positions. If they failed to do so, the matter would go to the full House of Bishops.

If the House concurred, the Presiding Bishop would depose the bishops and declare the episcopates of those dioceses vacant. Those remaining in the Episcopal Church would be gathered to organize a new diocesan convention and elect a replacement Standing Committee, if necessary.

An assisting bishop would be appointed to provide episcopal ministry until a new diocesan bishop search process could be initiated and a new bishop elected and consecrated.

A lawsuit would be filed against the departed leadership and a representative sample of departing congregations if they attempted to retain Episcopal Church property.

"These are consequences, not punishments," Robertson said, "consequences that have long been clear, and are now being reiterated by the Presiding Bishop in the letters of warning. The goal is reconciliation, but also accountability."

Beers added, "The consequences can easily be avoided. But the Episcopal Church has the obligation to discipline its leaders under circumstances like this."
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Bishop Sandy Millar preaches at installation of new rector at Truro Church, Fairfax Virginia, part of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America

The apparent ‘simplicity’ that seeks to follow the ancient paths of holiness and loyalty to Jesus and his word against an increasing tide of the liberal agenda from within the Church that threatens to sweep us from our biblical roots and anchorage out into the sea of secularity and sin - where religion has taken the place of faith - where the Church is generally accepted and esteemed as a social agency for her work in favour of peace and social justice, but is not tolerated as soon as she starts to speak about Jesus and his gospel. Read more
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Bishop of Chelmsford continues to refuse ordination to Richard Wood

In a letter sent within the past few days, the Bishop of Chelmsford has once again told Richard Wood, an ordination candidate in the Diocese of Chelmsford, that he cannot be ordained whilst he continues to refuse, on grounds of conscience, to receive Communion with the Bishop.

The precise contents of the letter are confidential, but the Bishop has claimed on previous occasions that if a candidate is told by the diocesan bishop that he or she will be ordained by a particular person, then that is a 'lawful' instruction which must be followed in order for the candidate to comply with the oath of canonical obedience.

The diocesan authorities in Chelmsford had agreed to provide funding for Richard up to the end of October, and to allow him to live in a house in Dagenham parish owned by the Diocesan Board of Finance and provided for the residence of a curate.

Richard has met several times since the summer with the Bishop, the Archdeacon and the Canon Theologian of Chelmsford Cathedral, to discuss his situation and his objections.

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Presiding Bishop 'reaching out with open arms' to bishops she is threatening

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is making public a letter of warning that is being sent to a bishop who is actively seeking to withdraw his diocese from the Episcopal Church, and has stated that letters to other bishops will follow.

"In this way the Presiding Bishop is reaching out with open arms once more to those bishops contemplating realignments for their dioceses, while also warning them of the consequences should they choose to follow through with their proposed actions," said the Rev. Dr. Charles Robertson, Canon to the Presiding Bishop. Read more

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Christian Magistrate loses gay adoption appeal

A Christian magistrate who felt forced to resign because he opposes adoption by gay couples has lost his appeal but vows to fight on.

Andrew McClintock, a Christian magistrate who felt compelled to resign over his views on gay adoption
Mr McClintock was 'deeply disappointed' with the decision

Andrew McClintock told an employment appeal tribunal earlier this month that he had suffered discrimination because the courts refused to allow him to opt out of cases involving such adoptions.

He also argued that placing children with gay parents was an "experiment in social science" that was not necessarily in their best interests.

But the Department for Constitutional Affairs, which is responsible for magistrates courts, said that judges could not pick and choose which cases they heard. Read more
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Jefferts Schori begins process to depose Bishop of Pittsburgh

(Ed: I like the 'Dear Bob' at the beginning. Almost as good as the 'your servant in Christ' at the end.)

Letter from the Presiding Bishop to Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan

The Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan
Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, PA

Dear Bob,

There have been numerous public references in recent weeks regarding resolutions to be introduced at your forthcoming diocesan convention. Those resolutions, if adopted, would amend several of your diocesan canons and begin the process of amending one or more provisions of your diocesan Constitution. I have reviewed a number of these proposed resolutions, and it is evident to me that they would violate the Constitutional requirement that the Diocese conform to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church. It is apparent from your pre-convention report that you endorse these proposed changes. I am also aware of other of your statements and actions in recent months that demonstrate an intention to lead your diocese into a position that would purportedly permit it to depart from The Episcopal Church. All these efforts, in my view, display a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between The Episcopal Church and its dioceses. Our Constitution explicitly provides that a diocese must accede to the Constitution and Canons of the Church.

I call upon you to recede from this direction and to lead your diocese on a new course that recognizes the interdependent and hierarchical relationship between the national Church and its dioceses and parishes. That relationship is at the heart of our mission, as expressed in our polity. Specifically, I sincerely hope that you will change your position and urge your diocese at its forthcoming convention not to adopt the resolutions that you have until now supported.

If your course does not change, I shall regrettably be compelled to see that appropriate canonical steps are promptly taken to consider whether you have abandoned the Communion of this Church — by actions and substantive statements, however they may be phrased — and whether you have committed canonical offences that warrant disciplinary action.

It grieves me that any bishop of this Church would seek to lead any of its members out of it. I would remind you of my open offer of an Episcopal Visitor if you wish to receive pastoral care from another bishop. I continue to pray for reconciliation of this situation, and I remain

Your servant in Christ,

Katharine Jefferts Schori

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Wednesday, 31 October 2007

LGCM leader wants all bishops to face criminal charges

(Ed: Well, that is reportedly what he said, anyway.)
A GAY deacon in London's East End has hit out at the Church of England as "homophobic" during his thank-you speech after receiving a top police accolade.

The Rev Richard Kirker was handed the Matthew Windibank Memorial award for his contribution to gay rights at the Gay Police Association dinner.

Richard, who works in Bethnal Green, told the Advertiser: "I'd be happy to see the whole leadership of the Church arraigned for inciting harassment, as it has now acquired the least enviable of all reputations. Read more

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Monday, 29 October 2007

Resolution calling on bishops to uphold and apply Lambeth 1.10 to be discussed at Chelmsford Diocesan Synod

Almost two-and-a-half years after Braintree Deanery passed the 'Brentwood Resolution', it has finally reached the agenda of the Chelmsford Diocesan Synod and will be discussed on the 10th November. The resolution, as it will be discussed by Synod, is as below. Following the gathering at Brentwood in early 2005 that gave the resolution its name, at least twenty eight PCCs in the diocese passed the resolution and wrote to the bishops accordingly.

The Brentwood/Braintree Resolution

“This Diocesan Synod

1. welcomes the affirmation in the Ordinal that bishops are to study the Scriptures and to pray for a true understanding of them, so that they may be able to teach and exhort the Church with wholesome doctrine and to withstand and convince those who hold otherwise.

2. notes that:

a. at the 1998 Lambeth Conference, the bishops of the Anglican Communion overwhelmingly endorsed Resolution 1.10 on human sexuality.

b. Resolution 1.10 advocates lifelong faithfulness within marriage and abstinence for those who are not called to marriage as being in accordance with what Scripture teaches about human sexuality (1.10.2).

c. Resolution 1.10 opposes homosexual practice, the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions and the ordaining of those involved in same gender unions as being incompatible with what Scripture teaches about human sexuality (1.10.4, 5).

d. Resolution 1.10 commits the Church to listen to the experience of homosexual persons (1.10.3), and to offer pastoral care, moral direction and God’s transforming power for their lives and relationships, whilst assuring them that they are loved by God and that all baptised and believing persons are full members of the Body of Christ (1.10.3).

e. At their meeting at Dromantine in March 2005, the Primates of the Anglican Communion pledged themselves afresh to Resolution 1.10 in its entirety (Dromantine Communiqué paragraph 17).

3. recognizes that the transforming power of God to wash, sanctify and justify all people can only be offered when the moral direction of the Church warns people against being deceived about their situation (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

4. therefore:

calls upon all the bishops in the Diocese of Chelmsford to teach as true and wholesome doctrine what is identified in Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference as being in accordance with Scripture.

calls upon them to refute and correct, both privately and publicly, those who advocate what is identified in Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference as being incompatible with Scripture.

urges the said bishops to set before all those who hold or seek a licensed ministry in this diocese, but who feel unable to uphold what is affirmed in Resolution 1.10, the need to consider carefully whether they are truly called according to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ to such an office in this Church at the present time.

5. mandates the Secretary of this Diocesan Synod to write forthwith to Honorary Assistant Bishop John Ball (not being a member of this Synod), advising him of the passage of this motion and of the votes recorded.”

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California authorises same-sex blessings

THE DIOCESE of California has authorised the use of trial rites for the blessing of same-sex unions. Meeting at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral on Oct 20, the synod asked Bishop Marc Andrus to authorise for trial use three rites developed by a diocesan liturgical commission.

The San Francisco vote will add to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams’ difficulties in convincing the Primates and the wider Communion the American Church had abided by the primates’ request to ban gay bishops and blessings. Dr Williams’ claims that America had substantially complied with the primates Dar es Salaam made earlier this month to the House of Bishops were not well received as some bishops disputed the Archbishop’s assertions of compliance as factually inaccurate.

In addition to its gay blessings resolution, California also adopted a resolution denouncing the ban of gay bishops promised last month by the US House of Bishops and refused ‘to discriminate against partnered gay and lesbian bishops-elect’ while deploring ‘the lack of access to adequate pastoral and ritual care for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender’ Episcopalians across the Church. Read more
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What the new atheists don't see

[...] Lying not far beneath the surface of all the neo-atheist books is the kind of historiography that many of us adopted in our hormone-disturbed adolescence, furious at the discovery that our parents sometimes told lies and violated their own precepts and rules. It can be summed up in Christopher Hitchens’s drumbeat in God Is Not Great: “Religion spoils everything.”

What? The Saint Matthew Passion? The Cathedral of Chartres? The emblematic religious person in these books seems to be a Glasgow Airport bomber—a type unrepresentative of Muslims, let alone communicants of the poor old Church of England. It is surely not news, except to someone so ignorant that he probably wouldn’t be interested in these books in the first place, that religious conflict has often been murderous and that religious people have committed hideous atrocities. But so have secularists and atheists, and though they have had less time to prove their mettle in this area, they have proved it amply. If religious belief is not synonymous with good behavior, neither is absence of belief, to put it mildly.

In fact, one can write the history of anything as a chronicle of crime and folly. Science and technology spoil everything: without trains and IG Farben, no Auschwitz; without transistor radios and mass-produced machetes, no Rwandan genocide. First you decide what you hate, and then you gather evidence for its hatefulness. Since man is a fallen creature (I use the term metaphorically rather than in its religious sense), there is always much to find. Read more
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