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Thread: Defining the Church

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    Defining the Church

    aletheo posted this reponse to my question regarding his thoughts about Protestants and inclusion in the Church.
    Historically, there is a physical reality to being "in the Church," and it has a very definite meaning. In a day of information, individualism, and global community this seems very harsh and unrealistic. Hence, the World Council of Churches and the Charismatic movement. Both seek to unite all "Christians," but under different banners, one by equality, the other by experience. I will have to write more when I get a chance.
    Let's first give him time to comment further about his position, and then let the discussion begin!
    "In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity." - St. Augustine of Hippo

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    Tidbit

    Historically, I say, and from the Scriptures, in Acts 2, 8, 10, and 19, we get the idea very early that being a believer is tied to the physical body of believers, under Apostolic leadership. Even Saul, after he had 'seen the Light,' was sent to one Ananias, and later Barnabas vouched him to the Apostles.

    Yours,

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    Well, I have no argument with that. So far so good. But what, at this point in history, constitutes being under apostolic authority? I have a feeling that you're going to say that churches have to at least agree with the traditions held by the Orthodox Church in order to fall under that category. What would the essentials be, then, aletheo?

    Grace and Peace,
    cm
    "In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity." - St. Augustine of Hippo

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    CM,

    Agreement! Ahhh, sweet relief!

    At this point in history - you mean right now? or after the time period in Acts I referred to?

    I'm afraid I have to get off here and do some homework (for business ethics class). I will also do some thinking and praying (God help me!) before I keep posting. I want to be careful.

    Apostolic authority is concrete - it means being in a church where the grace of ordination, stems from the Apostles, and the teaching is faithful to the 'deposit of faith.' The mysteries of Baptism, Chrismation, and Holy Communion are received under that authority - one is baptised into the Body of Christ, anointed with the oil of the Spirit, and partakes of the body and blood of our Lord. This was the teaching and practice well before Constantine.

    When Luther tried to reform Rome and was pushed out instead, it was only a matter of time that there should be new 'Confessions,' and new 'churches.' This would eventually be defined spiritually, of course, because the Reformers knew they were outside of the visible, historical church.

    There is a book called Augsburg to Constantinople which records the dialogue between the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Tubingen theologians. Basically, the Germans said they couldn't agree with Rome, they gave their interpretations of Scripture, the Patriarch said it was not the historic teaching of the Church, and the theologians said it was what they believed the Bible said.

    The faith was reinvented in the 1500's in Western Europe; a new Christianity was born based upon a denial of historic Christianity, and upon independent interpretations of Scripture. This is where the West departs from Apostolic authority, and invents all these solas we're talking about. In the Church it is not 'only' anything, it is all one organic whole.

    Anyway, I need to go.

    Yours,




    Yours,

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    ps

    Luther himself didn't oppose tradition or sacraments, he opposed the misuse of them by corrupt authority. But he was excommunicated, so what was he to do? He is almost a tragic figure in that sense.

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    Thanks for the reply, aletheo.

    And yes, it is nice to be able to agree on something every once in a while.

    I'm going to have to take some time to do my homework regarding the issues you've raised.

    Meanwhile, Grace and Peace to you,
    cm
    "In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity." - St. Augustine of Hippo

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    Re: ps

    Originally posted by aletheo
    Luther himself didn't oppose tradition or sacraments, he opposed the misuse of them by corrupt authority. But he was excommunicated, so what was he to do? He is almost a tragic figure in that sense.
    That raises a question: If the Church's excommunication of Luther was unrighteous, did that leave Luther and his entire legacy outside apostolic authority? That seems impossible to me!
    "In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity." - St. Augustine of Hippo

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    I don't believe Luther was ordained.
    Also, he himself did try to contact the Patriarch of Constantinople. I think the response came through after he had passed from the scene.

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    Well, I can't think and sleep at the same time, Lol!

    According to these two online sources, Martin Luther was indeed an ordained priest.
    http://www.geocities.com/Vienna/1667/luther.htm
    http://www.aolsvc.worldbook.aol.com/...st2=&op3=&st3=

    That being the case, how is it that Luther's excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church nullified his apostolic connection? (Even if he hadn't been ordained, he was a baptized and confirmed believer, therefore already a priest according to Scripture.)

    If the Church wrongly excommunicates someone, does God have to go along with it? Is that person (or group of people) then forbidden to bear fruit through the preaching of the gospel?

    ===========
    from one of your previous posts in this thread:
    Apostolic authority is concrete - it means being in a church where the grace of ordination, stems from the Apostles, and the teaching is faithful to the 'deposit of faith.' The mysteries of Baptism, Chrismation, and Holy Communion are received under that authority - one is baptised into the Body of Christ, anointed with the oil of the Spirit, and partakes of the body and blood of our Lord.
    Do you realize that this is no different than the teaching of classical Protestantism? Under this definition, Anglicans, Lutherans, United Methodists, Episcopalians, etc. have apostolic authority, because our first clergymen were ordained by Roman Catholic bishops (or priests who could trace their ordination lineage to such) whose ordination lineage is traceable to the apostles. (I believe, however, the RC Church recognizes apostolic succession only through bishops, which would leave out the UMC.) United Methodists, among others, disagree about how Christ is present for us in the Eucharist, since we don't accept the doctrine of transubstantiation, but we consider Holy Communion to be a sacrament nonetheless. (I realize that word is offensive to many Protestants).

    Of course, we also disagree about how the "deposit of faith" is defined.

    Here is a link to an article written by and Orthodox minister and teacher:
    http://www.goarch.org/access/orthodo...teachings.html

    What he wrote about Scripture and tradition is recognizable to me as that which you and other Orthodox members of this board have previously said.

    The problem with this doctrine is that it denies closure to the canon of Scripture and elevates Orthodox Tradition to equal status regarding inspiration. Yet the apostles seemed to recognize the sufficiency of the Scriptures:

    NAS Romans 16:25-27
    25. Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past,
    26. but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, {leading} to obedience of faith;
    27. to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.

    NAS Acts 17:10-11
    10. The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews.
    11. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily {to see} whether these things were so.
    A New Testament search of the word "Scripture" turned up 49 very interesting references, and then one could also search the terms "Law," and "Prophets," and look for all the instances of "this happened to fulfill... ."

    But this handed-down "Tradition" the Orthodox Church speaks of seems very nebulous. It's supposed to interpret the written word infallibly. Presumably it's been passed orally from one generation of clergy to the next and carefully gaurded from the general public or perhaps even the Orthodox laity. That's what seems to be the implication of the claims for this tradition, unless I completely misunderstand.

    Of course, that keeps anyone from examining the tradition by comparing it to a closed canon of inspired Scripture.

    Can you see why I'd have a problem with this?

    Respectfully,
    cm
    "In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity." - St. Augustine of Hippo

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    cm,

    You are correct, Apostolic succession does follow the line of the Bishops; the priests are ordained to minister in the Bishop's stead in the local parishes and are not considered successors, but helpers.

    An important part of the story I left out is the fact that the Roman Bishop had, approximately 500 years earlier, separated from the other Bishops, chiefly, Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria. Rome is in schism and this prevents her succession, for you see, Apostolic succession is not a 'legal' proceeding. It is based not only upon ordination, but upon one's adherence to the Church in teaching and in practice. Communion and personal faith and sanctity are essential. One is not a successor simply because he has a piece of paper saying so. If a Bishop departs from the Church, he is under a ban until he repents and returns.

    On the sacraments, the word 'sacrament' is transliterated from Latin, and means the same as the word 'mystery,' which is transliterated from the Greek. The 'mysteries' are physical actions in which spiritual realities are truly present.

    Baptism is a physical/spiritual event, by water and the Spirit unto regeneration and remission of sins. Chrismation is a physical/spiritual event, by holy oil and the Spirit - the 'seal of the gift of the holy Spirit.' Communion is also a physical/spiritual event where we partake of bread and wine which is 'truly Thy most pure Body, and truly Thine own precious blood.'

    When the Creed states "I believe in one baptism for the remission of sins," this is what it is talking about. When it says "I believe in One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church," it is by this Baptism that one becomes a part of this Body. It is in partaking of this 'cup' that we are 'united unto Thy holy Body and Thy precious Blood.'

    The Church is a physical/spiritual reality. Luther knew this, that's why he did not seek to be separated from what he considered 'the Church,' why he grieved over his plight, and why he tried to contact the eastern Bishops. It is of necessity that those who could not agree with Rome would teach that there was an invisible 'church' made up of those who believed in Christ, because they considered themselves believers but were outside the 'church.'

    That is what is meant when it is said that Protestants are not in the Church. It is not to say they do not believe in Christ or the Bible or will not be saved. It is to say that there is a Body called the Church in which is the laver of regeneration and the Bread of Life. The Church ministers the 'mysteries' for the faithful unto salvation. When you hear "there is no salvation outside the Church," understand it to say 'the means of salvation are in the Church.' Those outside are left up to God's mercy and grace which He pours out to all men, and the Church evangelizes to bring men to the means of our salvation - to Baptism into Christ, to Communion of the Lord's Body and Blood.

    Protestantism is defined in opposition to the historic faith. When one rejects the historical evidence and then interprets the Bible in a certain way and says it is what the Church believed and practiced, how is that acceptable?

    Would the same person reject the historical record of Greece, then interpret the Iliad and the Oddessey to tell us what Greece was really like? Can we just manufacture history out of our interpretations that ignore, even reject out of hand, the historical evidence?

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    cm,

    The concept of the handing down, or passing on, of the Faith from one generation to the next is clearly found in Scripture, Old Testament and New. What do you mean by nebulous?

    No one, as far as I know teaches the Canon is not closed. There have not been, to my knowledge, attempts to add to it.

    The Church is inspired, as it is filled, led, and taught by the Spirit. Scripture is part of the living Church, it is God-breathed, but given to us through the Church. The only historical reason to juxtapose Scripture against the life of the Church, or Tradition, is the rejection of Papal authority and the rise of individualism, humanism, and reason in the West, leading to deconstructionism, reductionism, and reconstructionism.

    Tradition has never been hidden from the laity, rather the laity are guardians of the Tradition. The teaching of the Church is found in the hymns and prayers of the Church. The article mentioned 'a portion of Scripture' is read at each service. More than this, the services are saturated with Psalms or selections from them.

    If a priest were to teach error or opinion, or wrong practice, the laity call the Bishop. If the Bishop is in error, the laity call several of the Bishops. The Bishops taken together lead the Church in the Spirit as in Acts 15 at the Council - it seemed good to us and to the Spirit - based upon testimony and Scripture brought forth.

    Truth is not about what I or you find in the Scriptures, that is subjective. 'The deposit of faith' I referred to from the book of Timothy does not refer to the Bible, but to the common faith. 'Guard the deposit.' If you want Scripture on the 'tradition,' or, 'handing down,' I will need some time to compile a list.

    Yours,

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    Hello, aletheo:

    You said:
    The concept of the handing down, or passing on, of the Faith from one generation to the next is clearly found in Scripture, Old Testament and New. What do you mean by nebulous?


    I am having difficulty reconciling the "the passing on of the Faith" with the Eastern Orthodox "tradition." I see no reason to suppose that the traditions entrusted to the Church by the apostles were not also being recorded in what we now know as the books of the New Testament.

    Regarding closure of the canon, we can (and should) say that the canon is closed, but it is then contradictory to make a body of tradition that exists outside the canon to be coequal in authority and inspiration. When we examine the writings of the post-apostolic fathers, we can draw some conclusions about how the Church interpreted certain Scriptures and what our forebears believed, and we should hold those things in high regard. I have much more reading to do, but it is also becoming clear to me that the theologians, bishops, and presbyters that followed on the heels of the apostles didn't agree about everything, and that many doctrines later took forms that would have been unrecognizable to them.

    Here's where I do agree with you, however. The Church needs to be unified in certain essentials of doctrine, and interpretation cannot be a matter of rampant individualism. But you don't seem to recognize that classical Protestantism holds to the doctrines put forth in the Nicene creed. Yes, there is room for opinion among us, just as you have said is the case with members of the Orthodox community. I would have to do some further research regarding some denominations, but many of us recognize each other's baptism, ordination, and communion. Any baptized trinitarian can participate in the Lord's Supper in United Methodist churches, Moravian churches, many Southern Baptist churches (believe it or not!), etc. My church's communion table is open to you, but yours is not open to me. Why? Where do we differ? In doctrines such as transubstantiation, Mariology, the nature of icons, etc. When did these become essentials, and why should they be forced upon Protestant congregations?

    Respectfully,
    cm
    "In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity." - St. Augustine of Hippo

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    cm, briefly, since I have homework:

    1. Where does the Bible say all the teachings and the practices of the church are recorded in the New Testament?
    2. Tradition was not created to accompany the Bible - the Bible is a part of tradition and rises up from tradition.
    3. What issues are you speaking of in which the Fathers are in disagreement? I see this charge constantly, with no examples to consider.
    4. You are saying we should simply hold the teachings of the post-apostolic generations of Christians in high regard but that we should not believe them? Again, what this means practically is that we disregard the transmission of Christianity and make up our own beliefs based upon our own interpretations. Why listen to what anyone else has to say at all, past or present?
    5. Protestantism claims to hold to the Creed but interprets it according to its own presuppositions. For example, what does the phrase "Virgin Mary" mean in the Creed? or "communion of saints"? or "One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church"? or "one baptism"?
    6. Do you believe you must be baptized and eat the Lord's Body and Blood for salvation? I don't believe you do.
    7. The terms you use - transubstantiation and Mariology - these are Roman Catholic concepts and terms, not Orthodox. There is no Mariology or cult of Mary, and we do not attempt to dissect and define what happens at the epiclesis in the Liturgy.
    8. The issue is not about forcing anything on Protestants. The issue is not to be Protestant at all, but to return to the Church.

    CM, you are the most gracious on this site - thank you. But I think you are having a hard time stepping aside from your viewpoint to see what I am talking about. You seem to accept the current state of 'Christianity' and don't see that it has not always been this way and it is not okay.

    Talk to you later.


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    aletheo,

    You are very gracious also. I truly mean that. I'm responding to this post after responding to your post on the cultology forum.

    You and I have a different set of presuppositions, and I doubt that we are likely to arrive at the same conclusions any time soon, given that fact.

    The current state of Christianity is what it is, and what we all have to do is pray and dialogue until we can come to an understanding. I agree that the current state isn't ok, and that it needs to move toward unity until we get there. That may very well take more than one or two more generations!

    And I know it hasnt always been this way. My congregation is a product of the Protestant reformation. You know the history of that, and I believe you understand why protest was justified. I cannot possibly believe that God abandoned us just because the western Church did! I do wish to point out, however, that accurate church history reveals that there have previously been periods of disagreement. Take the Arian controversy, for example. It took decades.

    Yes, this has already taken several hundred years, but we are more cooperative than we used to be. As I said to Victor Joseph, my parents were reared to be suspicious of all other denominations, even Protestant ones. That's no longer the case with their church.

    You'd like for us to all just "move back home" this Sunday? I don't really think you fully understand what that would be like! (I do realize that the process of becoming an Orthodox member isn't that quick, and nobody gets to just move in without agreeing to a great many things.)

    Think about this, though, aletheo. Here we are, a few hundred years after the reformation, with both the RCC and the OC trying to win us over. Both claiming that their version of the Apostolic tradition is the right one!

    We have one standard by which to judge what we should do, and that is the Holy Scripture.

    That is the state of things, since history cannot simply be undone.

    Grace and Peace to you,
    cm
    "In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity." - St. Augustine of Hippo

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    cm,

    though differing communions, RC and Orthodox are one voice in calling for a return to the primal christianity of our Fathers. protestantism is like running a recovery disc on a computer - its never the same after that. (ok, so i do tech support )

    maybe we can just at least be "one in the bond of love" as the cheesy song goes. I am at least thankful for the Protestant upbringing I had, though I have removed myself far from it. I have many fond memories.



    "I waited patiently for the Lord; and He turned towards me and heard my supplication. He brought me up also out of a horrible pit, out of the mire of destruction, and set my feet upon a rock and established my goings. And He has put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God, that many shall see it and rejoice and trust in the Lord." - Psalm 40:1-3

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    lol, it is a cheesy song.

    aletheo, here's my 2 cents:

    If all the churches could agree on a set of essentials, and we could all agree to "myob" about non-essentials, we could indeed achieve the unity many of us so deeply desire. I've been reading Ignatius and Irenaeus today, and I found a couple of interesting passages indicating that such indeed was the case among many congregations historically.

    I'm grateful that our discussions have prompted me to read these and other early Church documents; I love church history, and these men wrote many things that are lovely and true. I value them even though I do not give their writings equal status with Scripture. (Can't pass this up; did you know that Irenaeus believed the apostolic tradition had been recorded in Scripture? And that it was not hard to understand? Found it in Against Heresies 2).

    If you'd like to begin a thread about the early church fathers, I'd enjoy discussing them with you.

    ====

    I do find it curious that you say that the RCC and Orthodox Church speak with one voice to recall Protestants, when the two traditions do not agree regarding Peter's supremacy, as well as a few other things, it seems. Perhaps you could clarify that for us.

    Grace and Peace,
    cm
    "In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity." - St. Augustine of Hippo

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    one voice

    cm,

    Of course, in the area of Papal authority there is a huge difference, but that is not part of original christianity. It only really began to be practiced and put forth after the Western Church was separated from the Eastern Church. The Pope was trying to hold together Western civilization against the 'barbarians' and a clear, strong authority was needed, as there was none at the time - nationally or politically.

    And, of course, the doctrines of 'ex cathedra,' the immaculate conception of Mary, and purgatory, came well after the division between east and west.

    I was referring to the common tradition before the later developments, although some of which came before the Schism - such as celibate clergy, and unleavened bread for communion.

    That's why I say one has to start with the Apostles and move forward. I am not saying simply go join the Orthodox Church. I am saying draw back the curtain of the Reformation and see what is there. See it on its own terms, not through 20 century Western Protestant American doctrines and presuppositions. Stop demonizing Constantine (not directed at you personally) and using him as a scapegoat to ignore the truth of what was already happening since the days of the earliest church. Set aside the presuppositions, misinformation, and doctrinal prejudices.

    People don't seem to realize the reason the Bible was began to be claimed to be the ultimate authority was because the actual physical, spiritual authority of God was rejected. If you can't trust the Pope or the RCC who can you trust? Must be the Bible then. So the Bible is lifted up and made to bear a burden it was never meant to bear. Why do you think the German rationalists and higher critics and their successors have torn the Bible up one side and down the other and led many people away from the Scripture, Christ, the Faith, and all the fundamental doctrines? Now there is rampant liberalism and syncretism. That is the result of lifting up the Church's book out of its context and setting it up on its own as if it were God's medium on the earth.

    Well, I digress. I don't know that I have the time for another big thread. Too much homework closing in on me. I try to get on from time to time. I'm glad you love reading the early Fathers. There is so much there. Would you believe - I do read the Bible too, occassionally, lol

    good day!

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    Originally posted by countrymouse
    If you'd like to begin a thread about the early church fathers, I'd enjoy discussing them with you.
    I have been following this thread, and find it to be the most captivating of all. (And not just because Aletheo is my older brother). I too have been reading the fathers such as Ignatius, Polycarp, Ireneaus, and Clement. It is awesome stuff! I don't have an over-abundance of time, but I would love to be able to talk about them with somebody. I am currently a protestant in a protestant world so most of my brethren do not know who these guys are, and those that do (or those whom I tell about them), are not interested. One response was, "If it was important it would have been canonized."

    Anyway, CM, I also find you among the most gracious on the site, and appreciate the Godly character reflected in your posts.

    Endure


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    Irenaeus

    In the book 'Demonstration of Apostolic Preaching' Irenaeus composes a handbook of the Apostolic preaching as received and preached in his day. He lived in the second century and was second generation from the Apostles. The book is a compendium of Old Testament prophetic Scriptures with their fulfillment in Christ, the New Covenant, and the Church.

    In this book at the very beginning he teaches that our baptism into Christ is for regeneration and remission of sins. That is the teaching of the earliest Church, way before Constantine, taught from Scripture, as received in the corpus of teaching from the Apostles called the 'Gospel.' Obviously Irenaeus must find that in Scripture if he believes the tradition is in the Scriptures.

    By the way, I never said the Tradition of the Church was not contained in the Scriptures - that charge comes from others on this site who find their interpretations in the Bible and reject out of hand the Tradition of the Church.

    Sorry to be sounding repetitive!

    Yours,

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    Hi, aletheo!

    You and ETL are brothers, huh? I hope exams went/are going well for you, btw.

    Most Protestants don't view water baptism as optional, even though many aren't willing to make it a condition of salvation. (The thief on the cross didn't get baptized into the church.) I believe on another thread I referred to it as our public initiation into the church. Moving from outside the church into the church would certainly be a type of regeneration. During the apostolic period, water baptism initiated primarily adult confessors and their families into the church. Confession follows faith, which results from effectively hearing the gospel, which I believe is a sovereign work of God through the Holy Spirit, the new birth in John 3. Since we are utterly unable, apart from grace, to understand and respond to the gospel, its seed must be effectively planted by the Holy Spirit so that it bears the fruit of faith. Otherwise, one can be baptized in water any number of times to no avail.

    I value the non-canonical literature, as I've said before. Church history is extremely important; if we read it and preserve it we can avoid repeating mistakes, and it is helpful in matters of interpretation. But only the canon of Scripture is infallible; the post-apostolic writers were capable of error. I find Justin Martyr's model of the relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit interesting. It doesn't deny Christ's divinity, but it doesn't line up with the later developments reflected by the Nicene Creed, either.

    Oh, I would appreciate it if you could provide a link to Irenaeus' "Demonstration of Apostolic Preaching." Or tell me where I could find it. And, aletheo, would you humor me and give Scripture a little more of your reading time? You really have nothing to lose by it!

    Grace and Peace to you,
    (And to you, ETL)
    cm
    "In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity." - St. Augustine of Hippo

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