Comments: Women Bishops - diocesan debates

Simon, could you clarify something for me / us on the other side of the pond? This was probably stated somewhere upstream, but I find the English process of batting things back and forth from General to Diocesan Synods a bit like watching tennis from the front row.

My question is on the fate of the "following motion" -- the call to amend the provisions. Can this now be brought before General Synod because some dioceses have asked for it, or does it require a majority of dioceses to act in favor for the matter to be, as I understand it, reconsidered?

Posted by Tobias Stanislas Haller at Saturday, 24 September 2011 at 11:07pm BST


After all the diocesan synods have had their debates any following motions that have been passed will be reported to General Synod, along with the voting figures on the main motion.

If a majority of diocesan synods have voted in favour of the legislation it will return to General Synod for final approval.

The House of Bishops is allowed to amend the legislation before the vote on final approval. They will undoubtedly look at any following motions but are under no obligation to take them into account. This is the only way in which the legislation can now be amended.

Similarly, when General Synod comes to vote on final approval of the legislation, individual members may, if they wish, take into account the following motions.

The Manchester motion is, I think, different from others because it is asking for a motion to be debated at General Synod. Such diocesan synod motions go into a queue to be debated. There is no requirement for more than one diocese to pass such a motion before it joins the queue.

Normally these motions are taken in order of receipt. The Business Committee can vary this order. But there are two related motions already in the queue, and the Business Committee has already decided that they "should not be debated whilst the current legislative process in relation to women in the episcopate continues". One imagines that they will make the same decision on the Manchester motion.

Posted by Peter Owen at Saturday, 24 September 2011 at 11:45pm BST

In Durham, there was one clergy abstention for the principal motion.

Posted by Meg Gilley at Sunday, 25 September 2011 at 7:45am BST

It was good to see that the Durham Synod voted for Women Bishops - without burdening the decision with a caveat to provide 'further' accommodation to the nay-sayers. Clarity on this issue cannot be at all a bad thing. Pity Manchester could not be as clear.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 25 September 2011 at 10:29am BST

What politicians would give for majorities like absolute landslide.

Posted by Robert ian wiulliams at Sunday, 25 September 2011 at 2:11pm BST

Thank you, Peter. It was the language of the Manchester motion that piqued my curiosity, as we have a similar possibility in the US -- an individual diocese can propose a resolution to the General Convention (on anything!) but it goes into the mix with the Legislative Committee to which it is assigned -- who then hold hearings and may urge the merger of similar resolutions or recommend dismissal of all but one of a similar nature, and then the Dispatch of Business Committee can place the recommended dismissals on a Consent Calendar that doesn't permit of significant debate (other than to remove from the Calendar!) and the "commended" resolution makes it to the floor for open debate and decision.

So my understanding is that if the "Following Motion" fails to obtain a majority of dioceses, its substance could still be taken into consideration by amendment on the part of General Synod members, or it could come up via Business as a new topic of debate. But if it fails to gain traction in GS, that is the end of it (in substance). No need to comment if I've got it right (in my mind) but please do correct me if I'm off base! As I say, in the US we don't send things to the dioceses for approval (since they are all seated in the General Convention) -- but our civil government has to do this for Constitutional Amendments -- and if they fail in the states they are dead. (Though of course nothing prevents someone starting the process over again by bringing a similar amendment to Congress once more!)

Festina lente!

Posted by Tobias Haller at Sunday, 25 September 2011 at 8:16pm BST

It is both good and heartening to see that both Manchester and Sheffield have each passed a following resolution, and with other dioceses yet to vote, there may be more. I would thus be surprised if the Archbishops' original amendment were not revisited in one form or another. Robert Ian Williams' comment on landslides is hardly applicable in a General Synod where over half of the membership voted in favour of that amendment, which fell only because of a few abstentions in the House of Clergy. And Father Smith's comment about "burdening the decision", as ever, and in his usual way, defines his most illiberal of positions.

Posted by Benedict at Sunday, 25 September 2011 at 8:33pm BST

I would be pleased if (a) the Archbishops' amendment went through at Synod and (b) if that were enough for traditionalists. And then we could all live happily ever after and get on with other things.

Posted by John at Sunday, 25 September 2011 at 9:52pm BST

That's not quite right Tobias. At this stage individual members of General Synod cannot propose further amendments. As I indicated above the House of Bishops can make amendments (eg by making the changes proposed by the Archbishops). Once the bishops have decided on the final form of the legislation all synod as a whole can do is vote for or against.

Most of the following motions are simply expressing the opinions of a diocesan synod in the hope that the bishops will take notice. What the Manchester motion is trying to do is to get the business committee to arrange a debate at General Synod in an attempt to pressurise the bishops into amending the legislation in a particular way.

Posted by Peter Owen at Sunday, 25 September 2011 at 10:00pm BST

Ah, thanks, Peter. By George, I think I've got it. "In Hartford, Hereford and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly happen." Manchester is entirely another matter... ;-)

This must be what Archbishop Rowan meant when he asked the bishops of TEC to take more leadership. This side of the pond our Bishops get first "whack" at all legislation concerning ministry and liturgy, but the Deputies can overrule, reject, or amend anything the Bishops approve. If Deputies amend, the Bishops can then live with the amendment, or reject it -- or amend again, in which case it still has to go to the Deputies. Both Houses must concur for anything to become final. (This too can be like watching tennis from row 1.)

Thanks again.

Posted by Tobias Stanislas Haller at Sunday, 25 September 2011 at 10:38pm BST

I'm amazed, Tobias, that TEC could be as obfuscating and the dear old C.of E. in its deliberations that require legislation. Sounds more like bi-cameral government in the U.K. Parliament, where the House of Commons and the House of Lords fight for supremacy.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 26 September 2011 at 9:25am BST

If the Bishops amend the legislation it will have to be returned to the dioceses again for a further round of discussion.

On Manchester - that diocese has, in recent years, given the Flying Bishop more scope in the diocese and allowed parishes to distance themselves from the diocesan. I wonder if that is reflected in the following motion votes?

Posted by FrozenChristian at Monday, 26 September 2011 at 10:27am BST

That's not quite right Fr Ron. The House of Commons and the House of Lords don't fight for supremacy. The House of Lords is a revising house, and provides a system of checks and balances. Of course, when the reformers have their way and the House becomes mostly elected, then the fight for supremacy will begin...

Posted by Fr James at Monday, 26 September 2011 at 10:55am BST

Results can interpreted in a number of ways, but it is very striking, as one steps back from the hot-house of General Synod, how well the defeat of the Abps' amendment in July 2010 actually reflects the view of Anglicans at the grass-roots, at least based on diocesan synod results so far.

Posted by Judith Maltby at Monday, 26 September 2011 at 3:45pm BST

Frozen Christian's comments on Manchester are right to the extent that the Bishop, Nigel McCullough, much respected by Anglo-Catholics, understands the traditionalist position, and though he himself does not hold to it, he is prepared to see that some equitable provision ought to be made, hence his support of the Archbishops' amendment and the following motion. However, it cannot be argued that just because he is so supportive, that need necessarily be true of the Diocese as a whole. What we saw in the votes in both Sheffield and Manchester is that, thankfully, there are some inclusive liberals out there who do not wish to see the disappearance of Anglo-Catholics and conservative evangelicals, whose integrity is still valued in some quarters of the Church. Nigel McCullough was also hugely popular in the Diocese of Wakefield. It represents integrity on his part that, even though his wife is ordained (he ordained her), he is still prepared to compromise with others with whom he disagrees. Coordinate Jurisdiction is a compromise many Anglo-Catholics might well be prepared to live with, but sadly members of WATCH, Inclusive Church and their ilk, will not be happy until all vestiges and traces of the traditionalist position are removed completely, hence their inability to make the sort of compromise that is required.

Posted by Benedict at Monday, 26 September 2011 at 4:08pm BST

The passing of the following mortion by the Manchester Diocese shows again an unwillingness to recognise that women bishops will be truly bishops and should have the right to delegate within their own diocese. It would also create a special line of ' ecclesistiastically pure Cruft's Bishops' whose pedigree has never been tainted by their hands touching a woman's head. In this way it also rejects lawfully ordained male bishops.

Posted by Jean Mary Mayland at Monday, 26 September 2011 at 4:13pm BST

My understanding is that Rule 34(1)(h) refers to the questions referred under Article 8, and not to additional matters which Diocesan Synods might raise of their own volition, as indeed is confirmed by GSMisc 964 para 9.

Posted by Mark Bennet at Monday, 26 September 2011 at 9:59pm BST

I'm sorry if I sound parsimonious to you, Benedict - on the subject of provision for those who cannot (will not?) accept the while idea of women's ordination - whether as priest or bishop. However, I can assure you that I do so - not as an enemy of the catholic cause within the Church, but rather as an advocate of the complementarity of our humanity - as both male and female - in the Image and Likeness of our Creator God.

If a 'mere' woman, Mary, was chosen to bring into being in her own body the perfect Image and Likeness of God - in Christ; then why would it not be possible for a woman to bring into being - through her identification with the womanhood of Mary, the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist. After all, Paul did say: "In Christ, there is neither male nor female". In its essence, is that not a clear reference to the fact that - 'en Christo' (and at the altar) there really is 'no difference'?

Given this reality, and Paul's insistence, do you not see that the Church has a duty to accept the ministry of a woman at the altar, with the very same respect as that of a man? If we deny this, are we denying that, in Christ, we are equals?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 27 September 2011 at 12:02am BST

Father Smith, on the subject of provision,and your theological reasoning against it, you seem to be confusing the theology of the Incarnation with Eucharistic theology and orders, combining the two in a way that denies the particular gift of each. The theology of priesthood derives from the Eucharistic sacrifice and not the Incarnation. Also,in your point about complementarity, you are absolutely right to refer to the complementary of our humanity, but that comes about because of the distinctive natures of the two sexes. They are not the same, but complement each other. No superiority of either, but just different lines of development.

Posted by Benedict at Tuesday, 27 September 2011 at 9:37am BST

@ Benedict:

Since +Manchester abstained, how can you say he supported the following motion? His own Revision Committee rejected the Archbishops' amendment in GS and was then ticked off by ++York for doing so!

And please stop saying that those in favour are trying to drive those opposed from the CofE - We'd like you all to stay but we also want women to be real bishops not pretend ones.

Posted by FrozenChristian at Tuesday, 27 September 2011 at 5:56pm BST

Since when was the notion of bishops' 'jurisdiction' Holy Writ? That rather sounds (forgive the crudity) like Popery to me. It's also completely unhistorical - if the first century is taken as normative, as, for Reformed Catholics, it should be. It's also, for 'liberals', intensely hypocritical, for in many other contexts we disobey our bishops - rightly, in my opinion - because many of them are ignorant, stupid, uncharitable, and bullying. It would be grossly sexist to suppose that women bishops would be significantly different from the present male lot.

There is plenty of difficult but benevolent 'co-existence' between pro- and anti-WO in the C of E. Another item (I like concrete examples rather than unyielding principles): next Sunday in our church there will be a baptism - of mature Chinese girl who became persuaded of Christianity when she lodged with our FiF couple. So they do some good. So she's coming back from China - to be baptised in our difficult little church. Servers will include our most prominent FiF member (without whom our church would 'crash') and me (off-the-radar 'liberal'). Celebrant will be a rather well-known 'liberal' theologian (whose name would be known to many of you). He's pro-WO and pro-women bishops. He's also a personal friend of the FiF server; he's also in favour of 'provision' for anti-WO Anglicans. I know this, because I asked him (that's what I do). And, to test him further, I said: 'there are plenty of bigots among FiF'. To which he replied, 'There are plenty of bigots on our side too'. Which is every day apparent.

Of course, to defend the rights (and they are rights) of anti-WO C of E people, one has to resort to 'Protestant' arguments. Oh, irony. But, actually, many such anti-WO C of E people accept, tacitly or with various degrees of explicitness, that such arguments have force. In which, as in many other respects, they are 'like us'.

Posted by John at Tuesday, 27 September 2011 at 7:38pm BST

"No superiority of either, but just different lines of development." - Posted by Benedict

Except for the superiority of one to DICTATE the "different lines of development" of the other!

Give me a break.

Posted by JCF at Tuesday, 27 September 2011 at 8:32pm BST

Here is the situation as I see it. Rowan’s orders are acceptable to consecrate two new PEVs, although he ordains women (and if the report on the meeting at Lambeth is correct, is an enthusiast for women in the episcopate), in order so that they can minister and provide ‘sacramental assurance’ to people who won’t accept the sacramental ministry of, in the case of my diocese, the bishop of Oxford, who also, like Rowan, ordains women and wants to see women in the episcopate. Does this make any sense whatsoever?

Posted by Judith Maltby at Tuesday, 27 September 2011 at 9:17pm BST

Benedict, with all due respect to your argument here; might I suggest that all basic Christian theology comes from the undeniable fact of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. The theology of the Eucharist is not separate from that basic premise, but rather deriving from it. After all, in catholic theology, we speak of the esse of the eucharistic Elements as being the Body and Blood of Christ - is that not, in its own degree, incarnational?

Also, Mary's body was a crucial element in the incarnate Body of Christ - therefore participant.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 27 September 2011 at 10:48pm BST

All this talk about motions makes me think the Church is trying to overcome constipation. We all know the cure.


'However, I can assure you that I do so - not as an enemy of the catholic cause within the Church, but rather as an advocate of the complementarity of our humanity - as both male and female - in the Image and Likeness of our Creator God.'

Complementarity? I wonder how that gnat of a word crept in without censure. Although I'm sure you both meant it in the 'liberal' sense and not with the precision that we've debated elsewhere.

I'd refer you both to 'the disambiguation page on "complementarity" at Wikipedia'. ;-)

Posted by David Shepherd at Wednesday, 28 September 2011 at 8:36am BST

@ Judith -- No.

Posted by Prior Aelred at Wednesday, 28 September 2011 at 9:44am BST

Judith, the provision of the PEVs deals with the impairment of communion that arises when a male bishop ordains women priests (Eames Commission refers).It is not a question of sacramental assurance.Sacramental assurance will only become an issue post-women bishops because some would argue that the sacramental actions of the woman bishop and those of the men whom she ordains are doubtful during the period of reception.

Posted by Geonokes at Wednesday, 28 September 2011 at 10:50am BST

There is no separate "nature" to women that is not common to men. There is one human nature with various accidents of sex, size, hair color, and so on, all due to genetic and environmental variability. The human nature is complete in Mary, because it is solely from Mary that Christ obtained his humanity. This has been Orthodox doctrine from the beginning. The question of who can be ordained is not a matter of doctrine, but of discipline. This is why it is capable of change.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Wednesday, 28 September 2011 at 3:32pm BST

The interesting thing about the Manchester following motion is that it asks for a General Synod debate to mandate the House of Bishops to produce an amendment to legislation. This requires General Synod time followed by House of Bishops time, followed by re-referral to Diocesan Synods. Is anybody in these debates conscious of the realistic timescales involved?

Posted by Mark Bennet at Wednesday, 28 September 2011 at 7:42pm BST

Geonokes: So the new PEVs are in 'impaired communion' with the ABC, because he ordains women and yet they have received their orders from him. My original question remains: if Rowan is okay why not other bishops who ordain women?

Posted by Judith Maltby at Wednesday, 28 September 2011 at 8:49pm BST

Good point, Judith! As Tobias reminds us, the question of whether women and men are both allowed to be ordained cannot be a matter of doctrine, but rather of 'discipline'. So in this case, where the ABC is given immunity from discipline on account of his ordaining women, what on earth should stop other bishops from being immune to the same dissipline for exercising the very same function? Logic does seem to be missing from the 'anti' argument.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 28 September 2011 at 11:26pm BST

Judith Maltby. I think you have a point here. However, it might well be that there were other so-called 'orthodox' bishops present at the ordination of the 2 trad bishops, and in sufficient numbers (is it 3?) to ensure a degree of apostolic succession. Can it be that maybe they think the presence of the ABC despite his 'heterodoxy' would not invalidate their orders?

Posted by Neil at Wednesday, 28 September 2011 at 11:39pm BST

The ABC has only ordained women priests, he has not ordained women bishops. When he ordains the PEV as bishop there is no problem with impairment of communion.

Posted by Geonokes at Thursday, 29 September 2011 at 10:00am BST

And just how many angels can one find dancing on the head of a pin? Happy Michaelmass!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 29 September 2011 at 11:11am BST

I on the contrary do not think the 'point' discussed above is a good point. When things are fraught and people are under pressure, the very last thing they need to hear is Oxford-style (I myself am Oxford-style) nit-picking about 'inconsistencies' in their position. Of course there are inconsistencies in their position, but they're fighting to preserve their broad position and are prepared to perpetrate, or tolerate, lesser inconsistencies to do so. We all do this. It might seem to be intrinsic to the Church of England - or indeed any form of Christianity or any form of religious system. More common sense and more compassion are in order here. I write this perfectly well aware of the intolerable sufferings and humiliations of many women priests at the hands of ignorant bigots (I've witnessed some of it). But Benedict, Fr James, Father Jones, Bishop Martyn et al. are NOT ignorant bigots.

Posted by john at Thursday, 29 September 2011 at 11:26am BST

At the consecration of one of the previous PEV's didnt the newly consecrated bishop not receive communion from +George Carey, or is that a folk tale?

Posted by Perry Butler at Thursday, 29 September 2011 at 11:34am BST

I do think that Judith Maltby's point is an excellent one, because it highlights that this whole hermetic sealing off of a part of the church (and I would still like someone to talk about the theology of creating a church within a church and what kind of "innovation" that is) is nothing other than a postponing of the final conversation.

Eventually, there will be enough female bishops and one of them might even be in line as Archbishop of Canterbury. What then?

Is it really credible that we are now trying to cobble together a solution that isn't even a solution?
We're now struggling with the effects of unclear compromises made some 15 years ago - no other church that has accepted women priests has done that.
And all we're doing is trying to prevent a clear solution in favour of letting others in the future battle it out yet again.

I'm not sure that I find that very convincing.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 29 September 2011 at 2:31pm BST

I'm glad to know that ordaining women as priests does not impair communion. I have to admit that for years I understood that to be precisely one of the key arguments underpinning the PEV provision. So, I ask again, what's wrong with the diocesan bishops who do so as well and why can't they ordain all their ordination candidates? Why do some candidates need to be ordained in separate services at which there are no women ordinands if this act does not impair communion?

Posted by Judith Maltby at Thursday, 29 September 2011 at 2:43pm BST

I can no longer take this stuff seriously - there is a real world out there with real issues and genuine need and suffering.

If this is really religion, it is poor show.

Very poor show

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Thursday, 29 September 2011 at 3:14pm BST

On the Oxford ‘nit-picking’ point, I refer to this statement, which has long been an important influence in my thinking on these matters, made by Rowan Williams in 1984 in a book edited by the late Monica Furlong: ‘The theology of Christian ministry is an area in which we are too readily tempted to avoid discussion of first principles. It is too complicated, too generally unsettling and too distracting when we are hard pressed by practical urgencies …. “Pastoral” means more than “consolatory”, “prophetic” more than “unsettling”’.

I think the ABC may have been at Cambridge, not Oxford, when he made that point. So, this is why I think seeking some theological coherence in the area of ordination and ministry is not 'nit-picking'.

Posted by Judith Maltby at Thursday, 29 September 2011 at 3:32pm BST

The impairment of communion is presently within the presbyteral college of which the diocesan bishop is head. Hence the provision by the CofE of the PEV ministry and ordinations.

Impairment of communion in the episcopal college, of which the ABC is head, will only occur once women are ordained as bishop. Presumably, once that happens the ABC will arrange for a traditionalist bishop to preside over the ordination of traditionlist candidates for the episcopate. Let's all hope that that characteristic generosity of the CofE will continue to prevail when the new circumstances arise.

Anyway, I'm going to take Laurence's advice and leave this conversation for now to get back to those real issues that people in the parishes actually worry about.

Posted by Geonokes at Thursday, 29 September 2011 at 6:59pm BST

Judith Maltby:

Correct me if I am wrong, but this would be the same Rowan Williams who is now doing everything he possibly can to provide 'provision' for opponents of WO within the C of E?

Laurence Roberts: I entirely agree with you (though perhaps you do not agree with me) - which is precisely why I strenuously argue for 'parking' these theological issues, given that - and it is an important 'given' - the case for women bishops is won and what is at issue is only provision for those who in good conscience cannot accept that case.

Erika: only if you elevate 'doctrine' above all else. Seems absurd to me and grossly disproportionate. Seems to me also to misdescribe the reality of the C of E or of any church or of any religion.

Posted by John at Thursday, 29 September 2011 at 10:37pm BST

we're asked to make watertight anti-contamination provisions for people who even today get ordained into a church that clearly has women priests, and you're saying that *I* elevate doctrine over everything else?

I'm even on your side, I do think there's a case for provisions. But we all have to accept that this simply postpones the solution. And we also have to accept that it creates a very un-Anglican and un-British church within a church. It is that aspect that troubles me most.

Any provisions we come up with now are only a pacifyer until the whole issue rears its head again and can't be compromised out of the way any longer.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 30 September 2011 at 10:17am BST

As so many debate endlessly the viability of women holding high-visibility positions within the clerical hierarchies (oh, sorry, I meant 'the embrace of true servanthood'), we should pause to remember the woes of Christ against the Pharisees, the experts of religious self-promotion: 'Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’' (Matt. 23:5 - 7)

'“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.' (Matt. 23:27, 28)

Matthew Henry commented on this scripture as he challenged his 18th century contemporaries (and us): 'For him that is taught in the word to give respect to him that teaches, is commendable; but for him that teaches, to demand it, to be puffed up with it, is sinful. How much is all this against the spirit of Christianity! The consistent disciple of Christ is pained by being put into chief places. But who that looks around on the visible church, would think this was the spirit required? It is plain that some measure of this antichristian spirit prevails in every religious society, and in every one of our hearts.'

St. Paul's disarming graciousness towards religious opposition and non-stipendiary example are also lost as the ambitious rise towards the higher echelons of church leadership today: 'To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, we work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it;' (1 Cor. 4:11, 12) Who's up for that sort of servanthood?

Posted by David Shepherd at Saturday, 1 October 2011 at 12:23pm BST

"When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it;' (1 Cor. 4:11, 12) Who's up for that sort of servanthood?"

I happen to know a number of priests I would put into that category - male and female ones.
Our public squabbling obscures it and they are rarely the kind of people to get involved in church political debates. So they tend to get lost in the fray.

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 1 October 2011 at 8:23pm BST

Of course - there is an outlet for those in the catholic tradition who do not esteem women worthy of the charism of priesthood (or episcopacy) - at least for the time-being - and that is to become Roman Catholics. Although, how long the Roman bias against women in ministry will last is anyone's guess.

Those who have already escaped for the archaic and questionable 'certainty' of avoidance of this issue - to the Ordinariate - may have cause later on (after some rigorous theological reflection on the part of Rome) to repent of their decision.

The world outside has already understood the natural, incarnational, affinity between male and female. One wonders how long it will take the Church Catholic to catch up - on the understanding of our commonality, en Christo, in ministry (via Jesus and Paul)?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 3 October 2011 at 12:07am BST


Perhaps, as you say, there is such a quiet minority who avoid these debates.

Give me a gracious self-supporting lay person like you, any day, over the whited sepulchres who tout their 'converse accident' exceptions to their converts and beyond like 'clanging brass'.

Posted by David Shepherd at Monday, 3 October 2011 at 11:51pm BST

David shepherd; are you by any chance a student or a practitioner of the art of campanology?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 4 October 2011 at 10:55am BST
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