Seminary call for ‘mutual forbearance’ rejected by both sides as ‘gay bashing’ and ‘adultery’


(Article corrected 5/19/14)

The faculty members of two Presbyterian Church (USA) seminaries have called upon the denomination for “mutual forbearance” on the issue of same-sex marriage.

Originating at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Ga., and now endorsed by the faculty of Austin Theological Seminary in Austin, Texas, the statement urges members of the PCUSA on all sides of the gay marriage issue to remain together at the proverbial table, regardless of the outcome of the General Assembly’s upcoming vote on redefining marriage.

The first outright rejection of the call for mutual forbearance has come from the left. Activist PCUSA pastor Jim Rigby’s excoriated the faculty of his alma mater (Austin), calling their statement “gay bashing:”

“The faculty of APTS has unanimously voted to urge ‘mutual forbearance’ from both sides, which sounds nice, but ‘mutual forbearance’ means something very different for the two sides. For those who have been denied equal rights, the concern is that they not press too quickly to be treated fairly. For those who would deny equal rights to GLBT persons, the primary concern is that they not leave the denomination. It isn’t hard to tell who really counts.

“I would understand such a statement if there really were two extremist groups battling one another, but one side is simply asking for the same rights the other already has. Can that really be classified as a lack of forbearance? What GLBT Presbyterian has ever tried to deny marriage to heterosexual Presbyterians? What GLBT Presbyterian has fought against heterosexual ordination? If only one side is attacking the other, and APTS pretends both sides are equally at fault, has it not in fact sided with the attacker?

“If the faculty of Austin Presbyterian Seminary believe those denied justice should wait patiently, then what are they to be waiting patiently for? Are they to be waiting patiently for all their oppressors to die before the Presbyterian Church will show them the dignity they deserve today? Are they to be waiting patiently for a time when it will be economically and culturally costless for the Presbyterian Church to do the right thing? Are they to be waiting patiently for future church leaders to emerge who will have the courage we lack?

“APTS is my alma mater, I owe them much, but this letter is a source of great shame. I wish instead of pretending to be evenhanded they would come out with a gay bashing statement, because that is what their letter really amounts to. To tell the oppressor and oppressed to show mutual forbearance, is to pretend the oppression isn’t even there.”

Several others have echoed, amplified and reinforced Rigby’s sentiments. One who hopes to be an “out ordained queer pastor in the PCUSA” in the future, Layton Williams reveals in her response that she has followed the Matthew 18 model, going directly to the faculty members for clarification. She then challenges them to declare publicly what they profess privately.

“On several occasions, I’ve had the opportunity to hear some of you clarify your intent and apologize for the other interpretations the letter has allowed. I have heard you say that your intent with this letter was precisely the opposite of how many of us have read it. That, in fact, you meant for your support of queer persons like myself to be assumed, and that you were urging others to be respectful of us and our need for justice. Some of you have admitted naivete and regret at the pain your words have caused. And hearing these things, I have wept again. I have taken great, gulping breaths of relief at the reassurance that you are not something other than I trusted you to be.

“But I want to speak boldly and say, ‘It is not enough.’ Intention is important. But I have learned in my writing and preaching that when words are spoken aloud, intention quickly becomes the shadow of interpretation. There are many who will read and interpret this letter for whom your support of equality, inclusion and justice is not a foregone conclusion. If this letter created doubt so quickly in hearts like mine who have directly encountered your support and love, imagine what it might stir up in less informed hearts. If it is true—as has been said—that there is no confusion among you about your support for queer people in the church—then I wonder if that too might be worthy of public declaration.”

The blogosphere is teeming with posts like those of Williams and Rigby. Which is curious because the goal of both the Columbia and Austin faculties was speak to those in the PCUSA who might be on what they perceive to be “the wrong side of history” and the “losing side” in the upcoming GA vote to redefine marriage. They were trying to cajole conservatives to stay in the PCUSA after their denomination blesses behavior that God does not bless.


Seminary faculty fail to rightly handle the Word of God

My issues with the Columbia Seminary faculty statement and the Austin seminary faculty endorsement of the same is the call to be patient as the “mind of Christ” (quoting Philippians) is sought. They want Presbyterians to wait for “more light” from God on the controversial issues facing the denomination’s General Assembly this summer and its constituent congregations now.

Translated for lay people that means: “Don’t leave the denomination — individually or corporately — even when your denomination redefines marriage at this summer’s General Assembly. Stick around and eventually, we’re confident, you’ll come around.”


 What does it mean to seek the mind of Christ?

God has revealed, reiterated and reinforced His ideal design for human sexual coupling: One man and one woman in committed monogamous marriage. From Genesis 1 to Matthew 19 and 22 to John 2 to First Corinthians 7 to Ephesians 5 to Revelation 19, the blessing of God upon the exclusive coupling of man and woman in monogamous marriage is clear.  If a person genuinely desires to know the mind of God on the matter of marriage, He has been gracious to reveal it in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. It is not a mystery. Any and all perversions are suppression of the Truth revealed in creation and throughout God’s authoritative Word.

The problem is not a lack of revelation about the mind of Christ in this matter. The problem is that some in the PCUSA are seeking new revelation because they do not like what “the the mind of Christ” thought, thinks and has clearly articulated in the only unchanging reference point we have: the Word of God.

The seminary faculty cites a preliminary principle of Presbyterian polity that states that “people of good will can agree to disagree on truths and forms that are not insufficiently addressed in the Scriptures, unclear in the Confessions of the Church and therefore areas of open dialogue.” This preliminary principle has historically been understood as a means of allowing for charity in the non-essentials of the faith. It is here being applied by our seminaries as a means of “guilting” conservatives into remaining in a denomination even as that denomination departs from the demonstrated will of God. Same-sex marriage is not a matter upon which we can “agree to disagree” because a godly understanding of marriage, although not a sacrament, is not a peripheral matter.

If God cannot be trusted to tell us the truth about marriage in the Bible then how can God be trusted to tell us the truth about anything else, including redemption?

One conservative pastor said in a letter about the matter, “The PCUSA is committing adultery against the Bible and the apostolic faith and that is grounds for denominational divorce.”

His letter to the congregation continues:

“If your heart breaks or you feel anger about the schism that is unraveling before our very eyes in the PCUSA don’t get mad at the churches who are departing in order to remain connected to a true church of Jesus Christ, get angry at those who told us 13 years ago that if we just allowed ‘scrupling’ (PUP) it would be enough. It wasn’t. Scrupling was passed and then they fought to change ordination standards, and now that is not enough. Now marriage must be redefined and that won’t be enough either. …

“Don’t be mad at those who are departing. This issue is before us because those who want to rewrite God’s intent for marriage have brought it before us. No church can avoid or ignore this issue any longer. It has to be faced one way or the other, (even if you face it by ignoring it) regardless of one’s position on the matter. As for Austin and CTS I can assure you that the vast majority of their faculty and student body is for the redefinition of marriage. This letter is a smokescreen. They aren’t interested in the mind of Christ. They are interested in redefining the faith …”

It would appear that time is up for those in the mushy middle who wanted to keep their heads safely buried in the sand. The opening salvos in a volley that will almost assuredly end in folly, has begun.



Comments 126

  • What is there that is not perfectly clear about Christ’s words regarding homosexuality and marriage?

    OT – “Homosexuality is an abomination to God”.
    NT – Christ said “I come not to abolish the law and the prophets”, meaning the
    Old Testament. He told us that “The greatest commandment of all is to love
    God”, even above loving each other. If you do not obey God’s laws, then you
    cannot be loving God. Jesus told us “There is no marriage in Heaven”. The
    prayer He taught says “Thy will be done ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN”.
    In other words, it is better that we not marry. Jesus also told us “If the salt
    loses it savor, then it is only good to be tread upon”. John the Baptist was
    “the Salt Of The Earth”, and he was beheaded for criticizing Herod’s
    marriage to his brother’s wife.. Finally, the Apostle Paul makes it most clear
    that “homosexuals, adulterers, and murderers will have no place in Heaven”.

    If you condone homosexuality are you really a Christian when you do not
    believe or abide by Christ’s teachings simply because it is too inconvenient
    for you? Have you not lost your savor as Christ implored you not too. As
    with John The Baptist, the way of Christ is in fact the road lest traveled,
    albeit the correct road.

  • I am not surprised that the vitriolic response comes from the “Left” side of this issue. The Left defines forbearance only when their position is supported; the response to the Austin proposal is just the latest attempt by the Left to control over the discussion by defining terms as narrowly as possible and to force those whose conscience dictates a different view to simply submit. It looks like those candidates who remain in the PCUSA will become property managers over empty buildings. I hope they’ve taken some courses in plumbing, roofing and carpentry.

  • A request to Rev. McGarvey:

    Please help me understand how to reconcile God with Belial, light with darkness, truth with falsehood, good with evil. God reconciles fallen human beings to Himself when we surrender to His terms: acknowledging our sin, our helplessness to atone for our evils, Christ’s sacrifice in our place, and our unending allegiance to Him as our Savior and Lord, and our commitment to obey His commands.

    We are called to be reconciled with one another in and through Christ, and to serve as ambassadors of Jesus, urging people to become reconciled with God. When a person, however, declares that he/she will reconcile with God only when God accepts his/her terms of surrender (e.g., my lifestyle choices which don’t line up with Scripture are nonetheless good in my eyes, and I will not give them up), then he/she has aborted any possibility of reconciliation with God, whose terms do not change.

    When one wants to regularly engage in any kind of evil and reinterpret it as good, and yet claim fellowship with the God who has declared it evil, how is the church supposed to respond to such an individual?

    • All have sinned in the eyes of God.
      The requisite for being accepted as a Christian is to repent (give up) of what God considers to be sinful behavior.
      The Apostle Paul expelled adulterers (sinners) from the church.
      It is presumed that forgiveness should be afforded those who sin repetitiously as long as they repent. How many times should sin be forgiven? Christ said several. But of him who speaks against the Holy Ghost, it shall never be forgiven. Unfortunately, a large number of those who are homosexual do not believe in God, do not believe that they even have a soul and more than likely ridicule the Holy Ghost.

      • Your most important possession, Christ taught, is your soul.

      • You may not believe that God actually exist. But you can certainly believe in the CHARACTER OF GOD. That is the least you can do.

  • In addition to the well-known passage in Philippians, we have this important glimpse of the mind of Christ – John 2:23-25 “Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

    Alongside the parable of the sower in Matthew 13 is the parable of the wheat and tares, a sower of bad seed alongside the sower of good seed. The fields tended by PCUSA institutions are overgrown with weeds, and the dominant sowers appear determined to sow more of the same. The justice they seek will be to have this sentence pronounced on them – Matthew 7:21-23
    “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

  • Rev. McGarvey practices a religion known as regulatory denominationalism. Where goodness, badness, virtue, non-virtue, is defined in terms of adherence to structure, polity, and whatever proof texting chosen to lift from the constitution. The typical litany of gay marriage, palestine, Israel demonization, same sex solemnization ceremonies are cited as examples of evangelical noncompliance to the liberal orthodoxy. Hence religious conservatives are bad people, not because their belief and value structure differers from the progressive majority, but because they fail (seemingly) to uphold the statutes of the denomination or its given constitution. Or just shut up and go with the flow of the culture, whatever that happens to be.

    And in Regulatory denominationalism, the Confession of ’67 is the touch-stone, the tablets from heaven by which all else which transpires after that is judged as worthy or unworthy. Same of arguments, same old
    discussions, same old PCUSA, move along people. Nothing to see here.

    Perfect example, “if we fail to follow—socially responsible investing polices we breaking our ordination vows”. and have rejected Christ” Oh really? Pure arrogance and self-righteousness. In his regulatory denominationalism that may be true, but that is a false and apostate church. One should not worry in his employment opportunities, there are plenty of positions in Louisville with his name written all over it.

    • The confession of 1967 was simply another move along the path taken by the sowers who chose to follow the zeitgeist rather than the holy spirit. In 2027 if the PCUSA is still around by then, it can celebrate the centenary of the death of the one who warned it against the sowers of bad seed, noted with some back-handed admiration by H L Mencken, who is perhaps enjoying from his perch in hades the vindication of his view of those who engineered the rejection of “Dr Fundamentalis”

      “What caused him to quit the Princeton Theological Seminary and found a seminary of his own was his complete inability, as a theologian, to square the disingenuous evasions of Modernism with the fundamentals of Christian doctrine. He saw clearly that the only effects that could follow diluting and polluting Christianity in the Modernist manner would be its complete abandonment and ruin. Either it was true or it was not true. If, as he believed, it was true, then there could be no compromise with persons who sought to whittle away its essential postulates, however respectable their motives.”

      “Thus he fell out with the reformers who have been trying, in late years, to convert the Presbyterian Church into a kind of literary and social club, devoted vaguely to good works. Most of the other Protestant churches have gone the same way, but Dr. Machen’s attention, as a Presbyterian, was naturally concentrated upon his own connection. His one and only purpose was to hold it [the Church] resolutely to what he conceived to be the true faith. When that enterprise met with opposition he fought vigorously, and though he lost in the end and was forced out of Princeton it must be manifest that he marched off to Philadelphia with all the honors of war.”

  • I appreciate this call to civility and mutual forbearance – something each of us has vowed to hold dear as we became ruling or teaching elders. But aren’t we also called to much more? The Confession of 1967 reminds us that the work of the Gospel is the work of reconciliation – both inside and outside of the church.

    We have reached another time of crisis in the church where some are being turned away from the church for something other than their profession of faith – their gender expression or sexual orientation. Some of these baptized members of the church are not offered all of the pastoral care their ministers have to offer when they bring their children for baptism or wish to have the same pre marital counseling offered to others or to have their marriages solemnized in their own church. In fact, the church has reinterpreted the language of our constitution in an attempt to punish those teaching elders who choose to follow their ordination vows in serving all members of their church. In those situations when LGBTQ people aren’t even allowed to join their local church – a breach of our constitution occurs:

    G-1.0302 Welcome and Openness
    A congregation shall welcome all persons who trust in God’s grace in Jesus Christ and desire to become part of the fellowship and ministry of his Church (F-1.0403). No person shall be denied membership for any reason not related to profession of faith. The Gospel leads members to extend the fellowship of Christ to all persons. Failure to do so constitutes a rejection of Christ himself and causes a scandal to the Gospel.

    Carmen, you have continued to pretend that the Bible is univocal on marriage as a monogamous, heterosexual rite (not sacrament) when every seminary trained teaching elder has been shown time and again that patriarchal polygyny (many wives) was the norm even in the time of Jesus. At least you didn’t cite 1 Timothy, which is clearly written by the third generation of the school of Paul and contradicts his message of inclusion of all and the leadership of women in the multiple uncontestedly authentic epistles of Paul.

    There are also multiple crises going on outside the church. For years we have heard the pleas for solidarity from Palestinian Christians whose land has been stolen from them, who have a lack of freedom of movement to practice their faith by attending services in Jerusalem and Israeli settlements have increased exponentially since the Oslo Accords – effectively disenfranchising all of those who live in the West Bank, Gaza or the Golan Heights. It’s been ten years of study and corporate engagement. These siblings in Christ are not a political problem – their pleas to us Christians is not to profit from the occupation. C67 is still a part of our Constitution:

    9.25 The members of the church are emissaries of peace and seek the good of all64 in cooperation with powers and authorities in politics, culture, and economics. But they have to fight against pretensions and injustices when these same powers endanger human welfare. Their strength is in their confidence that God’s purpose rather than human65 schemes will finally prevail.

    9.44 a. God has created the peoples of the earth to be one universal family. In his reconciling love, God96 overcomes the barriers between sisters and brothers97 and breaks down every form of discrimination based on racial or ethnic difference, real or imaginary. The church is called to bring all people98 to receive and uphold one another as persons in all relationships of life: in employment, housing, education, leisure, marriage, family, church, and the exercise of political rights. Therefore, the church labors for the abolition of all racial discrimination and ministers to those injured by it. Congregations, individuals, or groups of Christians who exclude, dominate, or patronize others,99 however subtly, resist the Spirit of God and bring contempt on the faith which they profess.

    9.45 b. God’s reconciliation in Jesus Christ is the ground of the peace, justice, and freedom among nations which all powers of government are called to serve and defend. The church, in its own life, is called to practice the forgiveness of enemies and to commend to the nations as practical politics the search for cooperation and peace. This search requires that the nations pursue fresh and responsible relations across every line of conflict, even at risk to national security, to reduce areas of strife and to broaden international understanding. Reconciliation among nations becomes peculiarly urgent as countries develop nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, diverting human power100 and resources from constructive uses and risking the annihilation of humankind.101 Although nations may serve God’s purposes in history, the church which identifies the sovereignty of any one nation or any one way of life with the cause of God denies the Lordship of Christ and betrays its calling.

    9.46 c. The reconciliation of humankind102 through Jesus Christ makes it plain that enslaving poverty in a world of abundance is an intolerable violation of God’s good creation. Because Jesus identified himself with the needy and exploited, the cause of the world’s poor is the cause of his disciples. The church cannot condone poverty, whether it is the product of unjust social structures, exploitation of the defenseless, lack of national resources, absence of technological understanding, or rapid expansion of populations. The church calls all people to use their103 abilities, their104 possessions, and the fruits of technology as gifts entrusted to them105 by God for the maintenance of their families106 and the advancement of the common welfare. It encourages those forces in human society that raise107 hopes for better conditions and provide people108 with opportunity for a decent living. A church that is indifferent to poverty, or evades responsibility in economic affairs, or is open to one social class only, or expects gratitude for its beneficence makes a mockery of reconciliation and offers no acceptable worship to God.

    If we don’t have the courage to follow our own constitution or socially responsible investing policies, we are breaking our ordination vows and have rejected the reconciliation of Christ.

    Likewise, we have a calling to preserve the earth – which is at great risk to rapid change, including droughts, flooding, sea rise and mass emigration of peoples looking for habitable regions with food security and enough fresh water for human life.

    9.53 God’s redeeming work in Jesus Christ embraces the whole of human133 life: social and cultural, economic and political, scientific and technological, individual and corporate. It includes the134 natural environment as exploited and despoiled by sin. It is the will of God that the divine135 purpose for human life shall be fulfilled under the rule of Christ and all evil be banished from creation.136

    9.55 With an urgency born of this hope, the church applies itself to present tasks and strives for a better world. It does not identify limited progress with the kingdom of God on earth, nor does it despair in the face of disappointment and defeat. In steadfast hope, the church looks beyond all partial achievement to the final triumph of God.

    If we ignore these issues now – in the name of unity, forbearance or any other portion lifted out of the Book of Order as if that is the main issue before this General Assembly, we risk continuing a scandal to the good news of Jesus Christ, and his call to reconcile the world.

  • When apostasy rears its ugly head in a denomination, then all sorts of allegations are thrown all over. The bottom line is that all this anti-biblical discussion about same sex marriage is just wrong! It is heresy at its worst.

  • How tiring to constantly be told that we hate, are intolerant, phobic, etc…when you disagree; none of it is true. Those who embrace deviant and unnatural behaviors can launch verbal assaults on anyone who stands up and disagrees while cowards duck for cover afraid of offending and being accused of lack of enlightenment. There is a very great difference between embracing different lifestyle choices and having it signed, sealed and delivered by the church as normal. No one doubts that gay people exist, no one says that God and congregations don’t care for them; no one says God didn’t create them just as they did me. Just because their political agenda isn’t blindly accepted, those of us who stand on Scripture, the foundation of our faith, are made to feel abused and marginalized. Radical minorities shouldn’t make the rules……..but it appears they do. Sometimes the answer is NO, but only when courageous leaders step up. We have so few. The tolerance for the tiresome attempts to rewrite our faith is the reason congregations are dwindling in the PCUSA and other faiths that follow politically correct theology. Everyone should be accepted and loved in the sight of God and each other. I don’t have to have a female or married/divorced, young, old, black, white Pastor to feel welcome or understood. This is just another example of why I and many others have walked away. Looks like many more may be joining us soon. Get back to preaching the Gospel and not the New York Times. You may find you reach more souls , if that’s really the intent.

  • Layton, good luck to you as you work to serve God and follow your call to serve God and the church in a denomination where some will sometimes lets their discomfort with who you are, and their own very comfortable prejudices they were raised with, overshadow their ability to appreciate that you have dedicated your life to God, the work of the Church, and service to others (regardless of where they lay on the spectrum of opinions of this dispute) as a Pastor.

  • Carmen, thank you for a ministry well done. I’m a Pastor on medical leave who is about a year shy of retirement. Since I’m not serving in the PCUSA in any capacity and have no desire to ever go back to work in a denomination that have rejected most of the fundamentals of the Christian faith, I decided to wait until I retire and get involve with another evangelical Presbyterian body. My grown up kids have all left the PCUSA and serving faithfully in evangelical congregations. One of them graduated from Seminary but is having a difficult time finding a position outside of the mainline denominations.

    My wife and I were discussing how the secular culture and liberal Christian groups are speaking with identical voices. Evangelical Christians are persecuted at work and society, but unfortunately we don’t have a national voice that can speak for the evangelicals. The liberals have cried out for justice and acceptance to their views, yet they do not offer the same courtesy to those that have different views. It seems to me that the constitution and freedom of speech doesn’t apply to Evangelical Christians in the USA.

    Do you know of any resources that address this issue? Perhaps a movement can begin across the United States where evangelical Christians can unite, in a way that we can speak with one voice and be able to exercise our faith (in a free Country) without the fear of loosing your job and be label all kinds of terrible names.

    The Laymen is doing a great Job, but the impact is making is probably around church members. I may be wrong). We need the Laymen’s message to go out to the general population. Thanks again.

  • Is the church to be of this world? Which sin, according to the Bible, next? Will we embrace unrepentant thieves? Adulterers? Blasphemers? Murderers?

    The problem is we are trying to redraw a line that God has already drawn. We may not like the line, but it is there.

    This doesn’t mean that we hate sinners, because we are ALL sinners. As for me, I accept the sinner while saying that the sin is bad. I say this to myself. I know my own proclivities to sin, and I try to do better. Even David, a man after God’s own heart, sinned in the eyes of God! But, David confessed his sin, and God blessed him greatly.

  • Justice? Justice is what we all deserve. Justice is what we all will face. Justice is what Jesus died to satisfy as the ultimate expression of God’s mercy. Justice is accomplished for all who will repent and call upon His name. Failure to repent will render us exempt from forgiveness and leave us subject to a debt we cannot repay…that will be justice, and it will be devastating for all who remain unforgiven. That’s the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no justice and no mercy in telling people that sin is not sin. Carmen’s article accurately articulates the biblical witness regarding God’s normative intention for sexual behavior. For those who believe the Bible is true and authoritative, love demands confrontation regarding any sexual activity outside the bonds of biblical marriage as defined in scripture. To spare confrontation for the sake of “civil liberties” is to elevate conflict avoidance over genuine love and concern for the souls of men and women.

  • Another example of liberal intolerance for any other points of view other than its’s own. Just how many commencement speakers this season have been shouted down by academia, students and their supporters. Or how many faithful, Christian Seminary professors persecuted in the PCUSA, by the pagans than run the organizations? The beat goes on.

  • Thank you, Carmen. You could not have stated this more clearly. We have the Mind of Christ when we follow His Word.
    I just read this from William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army.
    “The chief danger that confronts the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance,
    salvation without regeneration, politics without God, heaven without hell.”

  • Hi, I just want to clarify two factual errors. First, I am a woman, not a man. And second, my letter refers to the future point in which I may be an out ordained queer pastor and the weight that I will carry then. As of right now, I am certified ready and I have taken a called, but I am not yet ordained. Not sure if this is the best place to make corrections, but I wasn’t sure how else to get in touch. Thanks!

  • Seems that Scotland is only slightly behind the PCUSA. The Moderator Designate is using the same arguments about the priority of peace and unity while the denomination removes the properties and assetts of those who leave in order to experience true unity with other biblical churches. See my latest blog at

    • Bible-affirming, God-honoring Christians remain in the PCUSA because…are there any good reasons? Anyone who remains is no different than the schismatics.

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