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Jason Clark

Hi Jonny,

Thanks for taking the time to read the book and for the critique. Let me try and make response, that I hope isn't too ham-fisted.

The book took so long to come out, I think it might be called, 'church in the slightly past tense':-) The two chapters I wrote, were set up to complement each other. The first was 'a' theological run at assessing church and the issue of consumer culture, and it is just that 'one' offered amongst many. The second chapter was a perspective from inside a church community, a reflexive to to my first chapter. A story of how that diagnosis is informing life in my current church plant and context. Again one story, that is not an 'exemplar' but tries to show how we are trying to explore the ideas of the first chapter.

The main argument I was trying to make about consumer culture (and I'm sure I didn't do it adequately), was that on the one hand we can't use church practices to 'resist' culture and try to control it, and on the other we can't over accommodate to it, letting it set the agenda for the content of our identity and formation. The suggestion I tried to make was that we should deepen our engagement in the material world, whereas consumerism is persistently shallow. Church is about learning together to love and engage in the world deeply and fully, in ways that we cannot do on our own. So what I was trying to say was that I agree with you, 'let's have grammar that shapes people in christian identity but in a way that empowers them to live in the culture'.

So the issue for me is not that we can't use metaphors from our culture, but how we choose which ones we embrace. It's easy to look at pervious metaphors and see how they were unhelpful, but how do we avoid becoming captive to new metaphors that might turn out to be as unhelpful. So I think I explicitly did not argue against using metaphors like starfish and spiders, in fact there is a need to inculturate our lives in what I am suggesting, rather it's the method we use to select our metaphors. In that regard my first chapter was a theological mapping of understanding consumer culture, and how we might navigate the metaphors, and not which ones we can use.

I also tried to offer an augustinian/reformed and anglo catholic and thereby far more sacramental view of church. I'm working directly in response to the anabaptist leaning of many, that leads to the observation that you make about being 'against' culture. Within that I'm wanting my cake and to eat it, with a higher view of the local church, and a high view of the engagement with our cultures. And again, I'm a church planter in one church amongst many forms, and see the ecclesial response to consumer culture as requiring lots of different types of Church. I was not arguing for the local church as 'the be all and end all', but making an argument for how it might have a place, when so often ecclesial critiques are distinctly focused on post-local church suggestions.

And 'Deep Church' was not a suggestion of model of Church I think I tried to make that claim, but a theological conception, that ecclesiology needs it's roots in the church that came before it, it can't be cut off from the historic church, for lots of reasons I gave in the chapter. Then the risk of telling a story of what that looks like in my community is the risk of looking like setting up a new 'model', but that wasn't my intention or claim.

And I'm aware, or at least I hope I am, that I'm just as likely to be captive to the formational pressures of consumer culture that we are trying to respond to.

I fear that might muddy the waters more, but thanks for the chance to respond here, Jason

Becky Garrison

Over half of the "emerging" ministries I've encountered here in the United States are led by women with a good portion of them led by women of color, as well as those in the LGBT community. Just turned in a piece for the Guardian on trans Anglican priests in the US and UK church. I'm sorry but I am mystified as to why ANY one who writes on new forms of church and yet only solicited chapters from straight white males.


Jason thanks - I think what you are up to sounds great... I think you're onto something if you can manage the both/and you describe. It's very tricky thing this formation of identity coupled with missional engagement - more difficult than any of us imagined!

Jason Clark

Tnx Jonny, it certainly is. Your comments gave me food for thought as I was walking my dog just now, cheers.

The charge that 'I love' the church, and that this is a baptist ecclesiology seems strange though :-) It's not something I claimed in the book (but I do 'love the church' so guilty as charged there) but I don't think that's a baptist thing per se. To say you 'love' the church usually evokes a british fear of a naive sentimentalism, and an unwillingness to see the problems of Church, which I hope I am not doing. It does seem easier to be cynical about church, and I do argue in the book that we need to explore the 'wellness of church' to counter that. I'm deeply critical of church as well as deeply engaged in it, as I know you are.

When I do say I love church, I mean that I find my primary identity within it, for all it's flaws. It doesn't replace my other spheres of life, but orders them, and prioritises them for me. Church saved my life literally, from a family of extreme alcohol and abuse, into a new identity and future. Despite the huge problems of Church, that at least makes me 'love it' and what it can be. It also drives mad most of the time too ;-)


i see your love of church as a good thing - it's not meant to be patronising or an accusation of sentimentalism... i think your passion for people not leaving and being isolated consumers is welcome and i enjoyed the emphasis on wellness - maybe i read too much of an assumption into that that therefore the local congregation was what you were talking about which to me is a baptist sort of thing. that's all i was thinking.

you know what blogs are like - generally written too quickly or they never get published! i also confess that conversation off the back of books the way i write is generally not a strict review of the material but more a chance to engage in conversation on the themes and riff off them. i found your chapters interested me and got me thinking the most hence they were the ones i picked up on. it's interesting reflecting again. we come from different start points so perhaps my misplaced fear is that in embracing a grammar of worship that looks anglican which you have discovered, i am more suspicious of it because of my own history even though i still like it. i see people who claim a particular formation takes place through liturgy and so on in denominational settings but people are leaving their churches and they can be as dry as a bone!!! so it needs some other things alongside particularly in relation to thinking about culture. so i was trying to push back a bit on that in general (and was not making a comment about your church in particular which i suspect is blending the two things well?). anyway i must go and cook as people are coming round any minute!


I liked the book too - though I really wasn't sure exactly what Scott was getting at in the last section. It struck me as rather marginal to be honest - but perhaps this reflects the rather different emphases in the UK and the US, with the US more concerned about doctrinal purity than we are?

steve taylor

I wonder if the best word is not "baptist" but "baptistic" or "free church" - in that Jason is focused on the local as the prime embodiment of church. To quote John Smith/Jesus - for where 2 or 3 are gathered, Christ is there - (For more on this, I'e found Volf's After the likeness most helpful) and thus one, holy, catholic and apostolic emerge from this local expression cf a more anglican or presbyterian model.

So it's not a denominational label - Baptist cf Vineyard cf Anglican, but a way of being church.

Serving in a mainline context the last few years has made me realise how different free church ecclesiologies are.


Becky Garrison

Kester - the whole Rob Bell debate in the US illuminates the importance placed on doctrinal purity in US evangelical circles with an emphasis on those in academia. If anyone can show me where Jesus got obsessed with this crapola, please let me know. If anything stories like the woman at the well illuminate the need for love to triumph over the law at all times.

Sorry Jonny for a slight anti-white male evangelical rant. My work is just taking me so far to the fringes of faith (including some places in the US Episcopal church that are definitely off the radar) and it's still very frustrating that here in the US 99.8% of books about new forms of church are penned by white straight males (with maybe the occasional essay penned by a chick) with stories about church plants run by white males. We have to change the paradigm here so it reflects the Kingdom of God.

Jason Clark

Becky: We've never met, but I've followed your writing and recommended it many times to others. The last time we spoke on email was about the Sophia Network resources (http://blog.sophianetwork.org.uk/2010/07/taking-flight-wikiklesia-volume-2.html), that I suggested others take advantage of.

You declare me to be one of four 'straight white males'. I wonder how you know my sexual orientation, and convictions, well enough to use that designation for me, in this context and my writing? ;-) I'd want to know you better before making claims about your writing based around your gender and sexual orientation.

More seriously for me (and all white men) you then said, 'books about new forms of church are penned by white straight males (with maybe the occasional essay penned by a chick) with stories about church plants run by white males. We have to change the paradigm here so it reflects the Kingdom of God.'

Are white males, like me excluded from church planting and the kingdom? Does my life not 'reflect the kingdom' if I am a white straight male? I ask that with all seriousness, and not to mitigate how appalling 'Church' has treated women. As someone passionate about Women in ministry, leadership not to mention how the church needs to deal with issues of sexuality that it has been ignoring, I feel a little marginalised by your comments. But then maybe that's how women feel most of the time, and it's good for me to experience that?

I'm aware this takes a discussion away from the topics I actually wrote about, and it would have been easy to ignore your comments. But given our previous interactions and how important this topic is, I hope you don't mind me asking some questions, given you seem to make some claims about me here.


i sometimes get the feeling that people think women should be included to make us feel better. Including us for that reason that just makes us feel worse... women need to be included because the more perspectives, backgrounds, experiences and ways of being in the world are represented, the better chance there is of being able to speak truths into a situation. This book has a chance of doing that because its authors are smart, but it's certainly making it hard for itself…


Jason, I'm wondering how someone who is passionate about women in ministry and leadership can cowrite a book that includes so few female voices - no female writers, no interviews with women, and only two women included in the index. Did you notice that when you wrote it? Did your editors not encourage you to be more diverse? Was it a deliberate choice in that you felt there were no women who could contribute? Or was it just blindness?

Becky Garrison

I am NOT questioning your gender identity but I have yet to see anyone who is openly gay pen an emergent branded book. In fact, so far all the branded emergent (or the new moniker Christian hipster)coming out in 2011 are penned by dudes. (Jay Bakker [he now targets this market in the US], McLaren, Rollins, Bell [I include him here as his publisher is marketing him as such and he's included in Tickle's latest book on emergence], and this book).(Phyllis Tickle's book is out in 2012.)

I have NEVER EVER said that white males are excluded but I am stressing that other voices need to be added to the mix. YES, I agree that many practioners do not write books as their focus is on their work. But as Jenny noted, why didn't y'all think to tell their stories?

I have concluded that this is a byproduct of a historical evangelicalism that still remains male led when it comes to who ultimately controls the funding streams that determine who gets highlighted the author/speaker circuit. When I report on US emerging Anglicanism a far different picture emerges ... for example, In Starting from Zero with 0$, I was out to capture some of the ministries I saw working on the fringes. I didn't realize until I was editing the book that over half the ministries were spearheaded by women with half of these women of color. Also, a handful of those would self-identify as being part of the LGBT community. The book I'm doing which is a collection of interviews of those who are in the communities is even more diverse - it's the first Xn book I know of to include a trans person's faith journey.

In early March, I had the wonderful fortune of working with Karen on an Episcopal Village event in Boston. Ian Mobsby rocked as the keynote speaker - yes, he's a dude but he's also not one of the US religious rock stars that everyone has heard a few too many times. My task was to interview some missioners and co-led a panel - again Karen just happened to choose who was doing cutting edge work and it was over half female including women of color.

NOTE, I am NOT excluding guys at all - in fact, in Jesus Died for This? I used Jonny Baker and Andrew Jones as my two "expert" voices when talking about new forms of church. I did that to shake up the paradigm a bit and get away from those who market themselves in the US as "emergent church" experts. But women, people of color and those from the LGBT community are there and doing some amazing ministries. The church loses out if we don't tell their stories.

Jason Clark

Jenny: So now I'm 'blind', it's again hard not to take that as a very personal judgement and criticism, and it would be easy to not respond, but I'll try to reply here.

I've no doubt that I am blind to many things, I'm sure we all are, and it's helpful when people show me areas of blindness that are the most damaging. So please help me to see (no pun intended) where I have been blind? I was asked to write two chapters for a book, that were to be based on my Phd research, and I decided to have the first chapter focused on my research, the effects of consumerism on ecclesiology, then the second to be a story of what the looks like in my church community. Was my 'blindness' in agreeing to writing for the book? Should I have said no unless I knew women had been invited to write too? Or was the fact that I didn't write about women in leadership my blindness? Should I never write for any publication from my research if invited to, within that rubric and assessment?

And in writing about my own community, was it 'blindness' by me that meant I didn't highlight how our church is egalitarian, in belief and practice? I'm not trying to be petty, I really wonder where I have incurred what feels like your 'ire' here, when all I did was say yes to writing from my experience and research. I don't think I could have spoken to anything else.

If evangelicalism developed a reputation of an ad hominem exclusionary, perjorartive, judgementalism, the comments above seem to be rather similar and a direct suggestion that if I am a white straight male, from a baptist vineyard background, then I am part of the problem of how women have been treated and I shouldn't be writing in books about Church? Is that I have the wrong pedigree, or is that it's easier to assume I don't have the right background to write about Church?

Again I'm not wanting to combative, it would have been easy to walk away from the comments, here and I am sure I am being overly sensitive, for which I apologise. But rather than respond to what I wrote about, the effects of consumerism on ecclesiology, my sexual orientation, and church background seem to have used here, and have been conflated to suggest that I've done something that undermines women in Church and the Kingdom. I find that bemusing and a to be honest a little insulting.

If I've read that all wrong, again please help me to see where? Jase


Jason, I hope you can try and understand that these comments:

'I feel a little marginalised by your comments. But then maybe that's how women feel most of the time, and it's good for me to experience that?'

show a profound lack of empathy and understanding in the ordinary experience of the truly marginalised in church. One woman has critiqued a book you have contributed to in a comment on a blog - that is not marginalisation.

Rodger McEachern

Jonny - Reading Clark one is struck with the almost common sense connection that he makes between consumerist culture, its religious narrative and its negative effect upon Christians and churches. The other connection, less obvious, is the agency of liturgy in both to shape belief and practice. This is founded upon embedded meaning within a practice that is repeated [Charles Taylor refers to this process as 'the long march' in changing 'social imaginaries']. So you're right to ask whether this grammar of using liturgical practice [not just in gathered worship but as the Christian community meets and does mission] is deep enough to form followers of Christ who can read and serve the culture. And I agree, coming from a liturgical church as you, that liturgical practice may shape us in ways that is antithetical to the kingdom; this means that any practice of the church ought not to be seen as 'the shining white knight' that will save the church from whatever dragon is holding it captive. But I think Clark makes a vital link with the very real danger of Christians - emerging/traditional - being caught in 'social imaginary' of the dominant culture [whether this is consumerist ethos or an ethos that is gender/sexually based] at the same time critiquing it. There is a shaping and forming of meaning and value in the things we do...changing original belief into something entirely different. The meaning embedded within liturgy, even liturgy within churches, can be as varied as the people and communities who practice it; it may be Christ filled and aligned with orthodox theology or it may as easily be filled with a theology that speaks of a god foreign to Christian orthodox doctrine. Thus, as Clark says the liturgical practices that will be effective against consumerism [or any other ethos, for example the captivity of many denominational churches that is inward and not centred in mission]will be Christ centred and canonical. One other factor is required: the presence of the Holy Spirit that infuses the liturgy and the Christian community that is practicing the liturgy. Otherwise, the liturgy runs the risk of being dead to the life of Christ, and its embedded meaning, and subsequent shaping will be other than intended.
I enjoyed reading your review and response to Jason's work.


Rodger thanks! I wish I had been so eloquent as your comment - I think you have summarised the main thruist of what I was trying to say wonderfully.


Jason - I wasn't angry at all. I was genuinely wondering. Clearly comments on a blog post is the wrong place to have this kind of conversation and I'm sorry that you feel insulted.

Jason Clark

Jenny: sorry if I misconstrued your comments, that wasn't my intention.


As the one who conceived the book, edited the book and chose the authors of the book, the responsibility for the utter lack of female voices falls squarely at my feet. To offer an explanation risks the appearance of making excuses. So let me say up front: I'm sorry there are no female voices among the authors or interviewees. It's a shame. Period. I own it and will do what I can in the future to make it right. I can only ask that you forgive me.

That having been said, here is an explanation. The explanation does not remove the shame or guilt or responsibility. It's an explanation. Period. The idea from the very beginning was that each of the authors have a Ph.D. The reason is that I believed it was necessary for there to be some scholarly voices weigh in on the conversation, voices that while friendly were also critical. Rightly or wrongly, forgivably or unforgivably, I did not know of any females who were Ph.D.'s and involved in the emerging conversation, a conversation in which I was and continue to be a newbie. Don't misunderstand me. I could think of female voices. And I floated several past my contacts at Baker. But none were a Ph.D. and that was a qualification we wanted authors to have. Is my ignorance of female Ph.D's culpable? I don't know. If it is, I'll own that too.

Now, why no females among those interviewed? Mainly because I'm from the states and my knowledge of those involved in the UK is limited. I met Jonny in 2005 or 2006. Then I met Pete. Then Kester. Then Jason. I have known the archbishop for some time. These were just my contacts in the UK and so were the ones we interviewed. Brian happened to be in GR and we happened to hook up and he agreed to sit for an interview while he was here. So that's how that came about.

The lack of female voices in my book is lamentable. And, as I've said, I'm sorry. I will do my best to do better moving forward.


Becky Garrison

Kevin - I wonder how much of this problem is where you're drawing from your pool of people. Do the math and it's clear that the US tea party has more women on the national stage than do progressive evangelicals/emergents. For all this talk of inclusivity, the leadership in even the most progressive of these circles still remains almost exclusively white, male and straight. Yes, a few speakers and workshop leaders at some conferences may be female or a person of color and some church plants do attract hipster queers but do the math and it's clear the men own the chessboard - they control the game in terms of who gets published and put on center stage. By the end of 2008, I couldn't find a single editor anymore who wants a piece on US emergent church (the interest I got for Rob Bell was due to the Reformed v evangelical blog battles) but the interest in exploring faith on the fringes in a postsecular society is huge - that's why I started playing with Killing the Buddha and the Revealer for example.

One has to step outside of this US evangelical emergent paradigm to find women and LGBT folks who are doing some amazing and transformative work - some of them identify with a faith tradition and others are spiritual but not religious (the term "spiritual atheist" keeps coming up in my travels). For example, I play in the Anglican emerging stream where I find women to be the dominant voice (and that includes women with PhDs). My hunch is Diana Butler Bass is too busy on her own work to say yes to a chapter but was she asked? Dr. Julie Lytle at Episcopal Divinity School (http://www.eds.edu/sec.asp?pageID=211) teaches and writes on this topic and is well connected to other academics in this field. A review of the other mainline seminaries will reveal other voices as well if one goes outside of the evangelical/emergent world to check out the work being put out by say The Alban Institute or Church Publishing (there's a synergy starting with UK and US Anglican resource sharing that has major potential).

As far as women to interview, Rising from the Ashes came out in 2007 and about half of my interviewees were female. The percentage of female voices in Starting from Zero with 0$ was even greater than what I reported Ashes. I hoped when Ashes came out that it would open up the dialog but the US author/speaker world continues to be dominated by the same voices (almost all male) that we've heard so often that they're repeating themselves. Even Shane whom I love tends to deliver the same speech over and over and over and I am sensing a real ennui with this whole Christian conference circuit that Andrew Jones aptly noted is more or less over save for The Rob Bell Show and a few other religious rock star shows (but note how even that buzz has died down).

I've made prior offers to help connect emergent leaders with these voices and I am happy to do what I can to connect you.

Patrick O

I just got the book the other day, and hope to read it soon, so my thoughts aren't as much fully informed as skimmed impressions.

This echoes my first impression: "there's a small subset who read the likes of derrida and zizek and heidegger but a huge number who probably don't." Ah, I said, it's a book focusing more on how an emerging ecclesiology fits into continental postmodernism, which is something I'm also not interested in. I was a little disappointed, at first, because this emphasis doesn't match what my interests are, nor what I see as core approaches to emerging/missional approaches.

But I was reminded of something I learned a while back while in ministry. My calling is not everyone else's calling. Indeed, my calling is my calling because I am called to voice that perspective. My calling is not, as I saw many pastors doing, to insist everyone follow what I see as my calling. For me, the issue of the Holy Spirit became central, and I really wrote some relatively harsh reviews about books early in the emerging/missional movement because they almost entirely left out mentioning the Holy Spirit. In talking about the church, it seems essential to include a substantive pneumatology. Over the years, though, I've seen this as something that I'm supposed to emphasize (and I've enjoyed Jason's comments on his blog on this as well over the years). If I read every book through the lens of my own calling I miss out one what the book itself is trying to say, as well as, in effect, almost entirely dismissing the voices of the authors as themselves bearers of God's calling. In doing this I miss the positive I can and should learn from different approaches to the same goal, and I also distort my own calling into becoming a constant "heresy" hunt, always ready to call down fire upon those who ignore what I see as the core bits. We each choose our orthodoxy that others must fit into, it seems.

What I see in this book, with only my skimming as reference, is four authors with advanced educations who are trying to establish the emerging church within the context of academic discussions, and in doing this keep the conversation deeper indeed beyond just a church growth or progressive ecclesial strategy. This is not unlike what Pentecostals have been doing the last few decades. Those who are called into this movement have a voice, I think, and the voices here represent very particular approaches to a very wide movement that is distinguished, if anything, by being willing to value and include all voices. To dismiss voices, even as we do so to encourage other voices, puts us back into forms of fundamentalism in which only approved voices could have a chance to speak.

Speaking of Pentecostalism, I like what Amos Yong proposed as part of his political theology, as "many tongues, many practices" approach. I think this fits here. An academic discussion is important because there are people with academic approaches. In the past, someone with an academic bent would have to wander afield to traditions which embraced their intellectualism, depriving their own movement a key voice of formation. I like that emerging/missional movements have such voices as those represented in the book. I look forward to reading their thoughts and learning from what they have learned as they have intersected their learning with their emerging/missional values. Precisely because they don't fit in with my own experiences, I have something to learn from them rather than judging them solely on whether they agree with what I'm emphasizing or experiencing.

I look forward to this even though they tend to be Atlantic oriented and come out of elitist schooling. Where are the Pacific region scholars from Australia, West Coast USA, or Asia who attended second or third rate schools?!

Maybe the answer is such people also have a voice, and the great thing about emerging is that in having a voice they can offer works, teachings, etc. so that many voices, many approaches can be an expression of what it means to be emerging as well. Space is there for them, and this is especially true in emerging circles which does not define itself by what is published or conferences that are held. Indeed, I think, if anything, that is at the core of the emerging theology.

steve taylor

Kevin, at the risk of inflaming a tense conversation, your apology and explanation raises some points for clarification

First, Jason doesn't have a PHD. Getting one sure, but not yet.

Second, what about a Maggi Dawn or a MaryKate Morse or a Heidi Campbell - all women, all with PhDs, all friendly toward the conversation, all got loads to offer? All pretty well known in the conversation.

As I write, I'm aware that there are human people on the end of all these comments.



I love Jason Clark. I am looking forward to reading the book. Thanks for a good review, Jonny.
Maggi Dawn (MA, PhD., Cantab., CCTM, APS, in case anyone wants to know for future reference).

Rodger McEachern

Jonny - thank you for your kind words. Regarding the conversation that has arose from your review and critique of Church in the Present Tense, and in particular Jason Clark's work. The perspective of needing 'other voices' is valid, yet it is missing the point. The critique ought to be on Jason's work or the work of the other authors, not their gender or sexual orientation...unless the critique is about how one's gender or sexual orientation [or citizenship or political affliation or ecclesial tradition etc] has placed bias into the work skewing the conclusions.


Rogder, I think that is the point. With a subtitle like 'A Candid look at what's emerging' we do need a more representative sample. Otherwise it obviously skews the results.

I think that this conversation shows the deep prejudices we have within us. I wouldn't have initially noticed the lack of women. I would have probably wondered whether all the contributors were anglo saxon folk. But that shows my own male Indian based prejudice.

As much as we say that we are inclusive, at the most all we have done is take away the obvious barriers. There are hidden, deep barriers that prevent more women, LGBT folk and non anglo saxons into the public face of these conversations.

The first step would be to accept that we all have prejudices. Or at least take a step at examining them. Defensiveness is clumsy and a conversation stopper.

The second step would be to avoid the temptation to swat away these deep systemic rifts within our humanity by trying to get to the 'real' point.

As much as I am tempted to despair at this continuing state of exclusion there is hope that more voices can be heard. I need to remind myself that though we are long way from arriving at that place, things are actually better today than a 100 years ago.


In my comment above I said, "Rightly or wrongly, forgivably or unforgivably, I did not know of any females who were Ph.D.'s and involved in the emerging conversation, a conversation in which I was and continue to be a newbie." So while I appreciate all the names of female Ph.D's that I could have asked to contribute a chapter but didn't, I think I have said already why it is I didn't. Not sure what I else I can say. I have said I'm sorry. I have said I will do what I can in the future to make things right. I am open to the argument that perhaps I didn't do enough to discover people like Maggi Dawn, MaryKate Morse, Heidi Campbel or Diana Butler Bass when putting the book together. If my ignorance was culpable, then, again, I apologize. I will do what I can to make things right in the future.



thanks everyone for all the comments and honest conversation! i thought conversation on blogs had moved to facebook and twitter and the like but clearly not always...

Katharine Moody

Kevin, I have a PhD (from Lancaster University, 2010) on radical theology and notions of "truth" in emerging Christian discourse (interview transcripts, published literature, and online media). Please consider me as a contributor to any future projects! ;)

David Derbyshire

Thanks Jonny. This is fascinating. I've blogged my little summary of this review here: http://davidderbyshire.blogspot.com/2011/04/church-in-present-tense-review-of.html

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