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Why do corporations often underperform in the ethics arena?

Issue #1

The WA government has made a less than magnanimous offer to its Indigenous people.

Between 1905 and 1972, the WA government withheld up to three-quarters of the wages earned by workers on state-run Native Welfare Settlements. The monies were put into government trust accounts with the promise that they would later be rightfully dispersed.  Link

The money was never paid.

An indigenous stockmen

An indigenous stockmen –  from ABC news

With records ‘lost’ The WA government has offered $2 000 to each worker as compensation for unpaid wages.

Why is it that WA bureaucrats, in this era of clear thinking around racism, would attempt to minimise decades of racism? Why is it deemed acceptable that decades of lost wages are to be cancelled with a single payment of $2 000?

Issue #2

Grunenthal, the maker of Thalidomide, has apologised to mothers who took the drug during the 1950s and 1960s and to their children who suffered congenital birth defects as a result.

Why is it that a company waits 50+ years to apologise?  Even now it denies legal responsibility. Was it not the company’s responsibility before this? Was it no-one’s ethical issue?  What is happening when a company turns away from taking responsibility?  Aren’t companies run by ordinary citizens, who are upright members of school councils, churches and sports clubs?  What is happening with the culture of a company when presumably ethical individuals are subsumed by the less than ethical nature of their company?   Few people would say that money is more important than people, but that’s what their corporations say all the time.   Link
Issue #3
The LCA has debated women’s ordination for decades, with the Church’s commission on theology determining that there are no theological problems with its inception. General Convention has twice voted with a majority for women’s ordination. The will of the Church is clear, but the lack of action ensures deepening division.  All this while the LCA suffers from a lack of clergy to fill parishes (it’s the same in the Catholic Church – Irish Catholic situation).
How is it that corporate LCA continues to block women’s ordination when general Church consensus and theology has no problem with it? The LCA hierarchy seems to have a notion that the LCA body isn’t ready for women’s ordination.  It gives voice to conservatives and mutes the voice of reason behind women’s ordination. “Let there be no debate.  Let the voice of protest be silenced.”  Like a ‘stern father’ the hierarchy holds that it knows best and there is no budging.  Like the stern father with adolescent children it is unable to adjust restrictions and fails to enter into respectful conversations with family members who are unhappy with current circumstances.
The WA government stands accused of being self-interested and callous. Its response is at best inadequate and, more realistically, out of touch with standards of compassion and ethics. Grunenthal, after years of denying responsibility, stands accused of a disingenuous apology. It is not surprising that the apology has been rejected by suffering families.  LCA hierarchy stands accused of being disingenuous in the way it has sidelined the CTICR after its years of study on women’s ordination.  LCA hierarchy stands accused of idolising Church unity at the cost of women and deepening Church division.  While we understand that District Presidents are mostly supportive of women’s ordination, why is it that we don’t hear their voice? While individuals may be upright moral Church members, they have remained silent to the LCA’s less than ethical response to women, to the voice of the General Convention, to the deliberations of CTICR.  Presumably it’s because they fear that their voice will not be heard.  It is time to speak up!  The silence of the well-intended is given little respect in history.
By resisting change the LCA no longer reflects the reformers’ drive to be true to the Gospel.  By resisting change the LCA is now in a position contrary to the radical Gospel through which Jesus introduced grace for all – slaves, rulers, robbers, lepers and even women.  Without women’s ordination the LCA is also unable to witness to issues of justice, but there’s nothing new there.  Did you notice that the LCA was not amongst the churches mentioned in the news this last week calling for a more humane approach to asylum seekers?  There are times it feels shameful to be a member of the LCA.
Perhaps, an epitaph on certain tombstones might one day read,
I, alone, held the Church together by not ordaining women. Strangely, I rent the Church in two.
One day, under wiser and more tolerant leadership there will be an apology from the LCA for the way it has treated women.
 

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Pastor John Kleinig’s letter to America – Toowoomba Synod 2006

Pr John Kleinig – emeriti Luther Seminary (ALC), North Adelaide

This letter from Pastor John Kleinig (emeriti – Luther Seminary, North Adelaide) was originally posted by cyberbrethren.  It was taken down when it distressed members of the LCA. To our knowledge it hasn’t been readily available on the web for some time.  We post it here to relate how the ‘men-only’ pastors work in the LCA.

More on Australian Lutheran Vote on Women’s Ordination

Here is more detail on the action of the recent convention of the Lutheran church of Australia.  It is even more remarkable that this not only did not pass, but was actually pushed back even more firmly this time than last time it came up for a vote.  There is much instruction in this account for all of us who are, in our respective churches, resisting those who would wish to undermine and change the historic Biblical and Confessional position of our church bodies.  Their tactics are always the same. They attempt to deflect attention from their true agenda, and to keep it hidden.  They will be heard to protest that in fact “they take no position” on issues like this.  There is no Biblical rationale for ordaining women to the pastoral office.  It is a false doctrine.  The one thing you can say about those in favor of the practice in Australia: at least they have the integrity to stand up for their position boldly and openly and not try to hide it or cover it up.

We can also learn quite a lot from how the faithful there have handled this matter: with courtesy, tact, manners, integrity, etc.  There are earnest and sincere brethren in our Synod who do have a tendency to behave in a boorish manner. Enough of that!

Dear Brothers

Apologies for not getting to you sooner on the results from the vote on the ordination of women at our convention!  I know how anxious you all have been on this and how much we have been in your thoughts and prayers.  But I was computerless up there in the deep north.  And I was too tired yesterday to do anything coherent.

The Pastors’ Conference ran from Tuesday to Friday last week.  One of our younger pastors, Fraser Pearce, put the case against WO most winsomely, with a deep appeal to conscience that did much to commend the case to waverers in the middle.  The actual vote was 50.91 for WO and 49.09 against.  This was a slight swing in favour of WO since 2000 but that is rather deceptive for two reasons.  First, in our polity, all pastors who are present have a vote at Pastors Conference, even if they are not pastor delegates at the convention.

The conference was held at Toowoomba in south east Queensland where most pastors are in favour of WO, whereas in Adelaide in 2000 we had the votes of many retired pastors.  So confident was one of the leaders in Qld that he publically trumpeted his judgement that the vote would be at least 80% in favour.  Second, there was some stacking of the deck, so that the much maligned local confessional pastors, most of whom work far from this corner of the state, were underrepresented. But some of them countered this by attending in any case at their own expense.  Thank God for these fine men, unsung heroes, many of whom have suffered much for their convictions! The tone of the debate was good.  It was calm and reasoned.  Unlike 2000, there was not a single case of personal ad hominem attack apart from the occasional imputation of fear.

Our president Mike Semmler helped in this by insisting that the debate had to be scriptural.  On the whole those who advocated WO appealed either to reason or to emotion, while we made an effort to appeal to the conscience.

The vote to ordain women was taken on Tuesday 2 October at 12:30.  It was as follows:

Yes 194  50.39%
No 169  43.9%
Abstentions  20  5.19%
Informal  1
Non-voting  1

The last three categories count as voters against. So practically it was 111 for and 107 against.  What a miracle!  The yes vote percentage was slightly less than that at the 2000 Conventions (1.13%).  This too is deceptive not just from the location of the synod but also because there was some stacking with delegates in favour of WO who represented parishes to which they did not belong.

The issue was introduced in a briefing session on Monday night by two speakers:  Andrew Pfeiffer (for the church’s teaching); and Peter Lockwood (against the church’s teaching).  They were backed up by a small panel.  Andrew was supported by Greg Lockwood and me.  The debate at the convention was outstanding in that people stuck to the issues without resorting to any ad hominem rhetoric. The tone was good as people made an effort to reach to each other across the great divide.  I was impressed by the presence  and conduct of our younger pastors.  They spoke winsomely and well,  scripturally and theologically.  In fact, our side of the argument was put so well by the laity and the other pastors that Andrew Pfeiffer, Greg Lockwood and I did not need to speak at all.  As you may imagine, that required some effort from me.  We made a determined effort not to play the political game on CTICR where we, quite deliberately, did not press our advantage by taking a vote on the issue when we had a narrow majority, at Pastors’ Conference where we could have quite legitimately tried to prevent the issue from going to the Convention since it did not have the support of the 2/3 of the pastors, and at the Convention by not playing that card.  That helped, in part, to get us across the line.  But the most significant thing was the prayers of the whole church and many faithful little people.  Thank you too for yours!

Another observation!  We had a simple clear story to tell, an agreed rationale that focused on the fact that the prohibition was the Lord’s command.

Initially their tactic was one of attack on the traditional case, as if the case would be won, by default, merely by calling the traditional case into question with the exercise of an hermeneutic of suspicion.  The assumption was that anything and everything that was not forbidden was permitted.  The result of that was that they helped us to sharpen and strengthen our case, while they kept theirs in reserve, since it was difficult for them to agree on why women should be ordained even though they are agreed they should.  They therefore had no single story to tell, no agreed scriptural rationale. Instead they came up with a grab bag of arguments, which was most evident  in their presentation to the convention in a briefing session on Monday night.

To the very end their case was a work in process.  In looking back on the 15 years that I have been part of this debate, it strikes me that as soon as we knocked down on argument they came up with a new one and so on.  We were always dealing with a moving target.  They still do not have an agreed scriptural theological rationale.  I wonder whether it is possible to mount one.

Just before the close of the convention the General Church Council put forward a resolution that the matter could only be put back on the agenda by synod itself.  This means that we would have respite at least until 2012.  This brought on a desperate rear guard attack from the opposition.  They were simply unwilling to submit to the decision of convention.  They talked of hurt (as if they had a monopoly on that!) and openness to the Spiriti’s leading in the future (as if we had not invoked his guidance repeatedly at the convention), but it was evident to many that they were playing church politics.  It won them little sympathy and disgusted some of their much more moderate and churchly supporters.  Thankfully a referral motion was passed for the GCC to have another look at its resolution!

We thank God for your prayers.  The result was beyond our expectations (we all thought that it would be much closer). Has anything like this ever happened before in our Lutheran churches?  Surely God was merciful to us.  Nevertheless we, sadly, are still a house divided.  It seems to me that God has given us this narrow margin to keep us from becoming triumphalist, political and complacent, for the issue of the ordination of women masks far deeper and much more important issues, such as our acceptance of the scriptural authority, the doctrine of ministry, the doctrine of the relationship of the Son to the Father, the doctrine of creation, the third use of the law, and sanctification, all of which is a symptom of the rampant gnosticism that we have inherited from the Enlightenment. Yet, I think, we are in much better shape synodically.  Theology is back on the agenda.  We, and especially a whole generation of young confessional pastors, have learned to speak the truth in love, without rancour and apparent self-righteousness.  Nothing has been resolved, but we have been given some breathing space.  The battle goes on!

The old gospel reductionists, who interpret all talk about mandate and commandment as loveless legalism, are utterly bewildered by the change of climate. New alliances have been forged.  Best of all, for the first time in my ministry, most pastors and lay people have openly acknowledged and accepted importance of a good conscience under the word of God, the reality of spiritual warfare, and the power of prayer.  I now feel that I have done my bit in these and many other issues.  It’s now up to the young fogies to carry on the cause, which they can do much more disarmingly than I have been able to do so.

Four other reasons to rejoice!  Mike Semmler was re-elected by a clear majority.  The Church Council is much the same as it was; the two main vacancies were filled by a fine confessional pastor in Stephen Schulz and a sound lay woman, Jillian Heintze.  In the CTICR Peter Kriewaldt, an unsung hero in the battle, was replaced by Dr Adam Cooper, a fine young confessional scholar.  Best of all, we have been driven away from politicking and argument to repentance and prayer.

I am, as you may well imagine, exhausted and yet deeply relieved.

Please share this with whoever else may be interested.

Thank you, most of all, for your intercessions for us in the battle.

 

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Time to Soar

It has come to our attention that St Stephen’s Lutheran Church, Adelaide are planning a conference on women’s ordination, July Fri 13 – Sat 14th this year.  It is certainly time that there was change in the LCA.  This could be the catalyst to bring it about.  Would you please consider being part of this event to ensure that women’s ordination happens soon in the LCA?

The following letter is from Dr Neville Highett –Chairperson St Stephen’s Lutheran Church.

Further information can found here.

Read the rest of this entry »

 

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LCA walking close to LCMS

It is of concern that current LCA leadership underscores links with LCMS.  The emphasis on doctrinal rigidity at the cost of pastoral care and inclusion is a corrosive and anti-evangelical feature of our churches.

While the LCMS may seem monolithic in its closed-mindedness and views on ‘sinful unionism’, that is not the complete truth.  As the quote below, from The Daystar Journal, shows, the LCMS has other approaches to theology and pastoral care.

Sometimes the LCMS itself has seemed a rather dark place. Too often compassion and decency have been absent in the synod, where chauvinism has frequently been confused for synodical loyalty and meanness of spirit has been mistaken for contending for the faith. The Daystar Journal – essays, editorials, and book reviews by teachers, laity, pastors, professors, missionaries, deaconesses, directors of Christian education, chaplains, seminary professors, seminarians, and others.

The Daystar Journal is a significant gathering of LCMS theologians.  The Daystar Journal …

…began in 1999 as a small online network of individuals in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) who were concerned about theological issues and problems in and beyond their church body. Organized by Professor Robert Schmidt and the author (Dr. Matthew L. Becker – an associate professor of theology at Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Indiana.), along with the help of two other LCMS members, the network grew to include a wide assortment of people: a past synodical president, current and former district presidents, synodical officials, seminary professors, university professors, teachers, directors of Christian education, deaconesses, missionaries, licensed deacons, seminary students, military chaplains, leaders in the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League (LWML) and the Lutheran Laymen’s League (LLL), and other lay leaders. All have shared an abiding concern about the direction of the synod, which over the past forty years has been oriented partly toward the enforcement of “Old Missouri” doctrinal rigidity, … and partly toward a form of American Evangelicalism that takes many of its cues from Protestant Fundamentalism. Ref.

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2011 in sociology, theology

 

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Is an LCA schism inevitable?

While Pastor Semmler (President of the LCA) insists that he has never made his views known on women’s ordination, he continues to impede its progress.  His reasons may be theological but, more likely, they may be a result of fear that women’s ordination will cause a schism in the LCA.  Ironically, while he impedes women’s ordination, he may be officiating over the split of the LCA as congregations lose hope in what is seen to be a facade of consensus-making.

Those who lobby the President have told him that women’s ordination will alienate clergy, laity and congregations around Australia. They have told him that women’s ordination will initiate the break-up of the LCA, and he has paid attention.  He has paid attention to their fear and now acts as if their conservative voices are the only ones in the LCA.

We can assume that Pastor Semmler was profoundly influenced by the difficult journey to union of the ELCA and UELCA.  Older members will remember the years of inter-Synod negotiations.  For some, this period was so difficult that they couldn’t consider going down that path again.  Perhaps this is the key reason for his lack of readiness to chair a Synod that is moving towards women’s ordination.  It is understandable if deep in his heart Pastor Semmler is concerned about women’s ordination.  Concerns are okay and he is allowed to express them.  As the Chair of General Synod, however, he has an obligation to judiciously listen to and represent all sides of the debate to ensure that the integrity of the democratic process and of the democratic institution itself is maintained.  Sadly, Pastor Semmler’s leadership has not reflected these values. .

Pastor Semmler has not paid attention to those who support women’s ordination. He has not paid attention to:

  • the Commission on Theology and Inter-Church Relationships (CTICR), which decided by a 2/3 majority, in 2000 and again in 2006, that there were no impediments to women’s ordination.
  • Synods in 2000 and 2006 where a simple majority of delegates voted in favour of women’s ordination.
  • Synod resolutions in 2006 and 2009, which directed General Church Council to establish a committee to work towards consensus.  If he had treated these motions seriously the committees would have been established promptly.  Currently it is more than two years since the 2009 Synod and his proposed committee of five young clergy has still not been appointed
  • those who have left the LCA
  • those women who experience the call to ordained ministry
  • those women who suffer daily marginalisation within the LCA
  • those women and men who long for female pastoral leadership in a patriarchal Church

Pastor Semmler has blocked due process in many ways, as evidenced by:

  • the lack of a genuine, prompt consensus process
  • the banning of letters to the editor of The Lutheran on women’s ordination after the 2000 Synod. ref
  • the appointment of a three man conservative committee (2011) to advise the President on what Lutheran consensus means with the report being distributed to most Synod delegates
  • the intention to appoint a committee of five young clergy to find consensus amongst themselves.  How will five young clergy achieve Church consensus?   What women or Church groups are represented?
  • a desire expressed by Pastor Semmler that the 2013 Gen Synod be held in Adelaide (S.A.) rather than Alice Springs (N.T.) possibly in order that Pastors’ Conference may import retired clergy from retirement homes for any vote on women’s ordination. His scare tactics of the 2009 Synod surely would not work again.
  • the creation of a hermeneutics conference (for Oct 2011) on women’s ordination when CTICR has twice found no problems with women’s ordination.
  • the disempowerment of the CTICR by removing women’s ordination from its brief

Is it a wonder that some congregations feel disempowered when vested interests are the main concerns rather than that of the LCA?  What options do supporters of women’s ordination have?  Should they continue to forego their beliefs for the sake of national Church unity or do they follow what they believe is God’s calling?  Eventually congregations will do what they deem necessary, just as ignored or marginalised people eventually take matters into their own hands. .

While this may sound like an argument for the inevitable schism in the LCA, this is not the case.  The road to LCA strength is one where energy is invested in embracing diversity and finding ways that we can live together, including a genuine process towards consensus, not unanimity.   While the LCA persists in upholding an artificial notion of unity in thought and practice, only then is schism inevitable.

Reading on Consensus Building
A Short Guide to Consensus Building – and explains why Robert’s Rules are no longer appropriate
Process Guide: Building Consensus – a very brief summary of the process

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2011 in theology

 

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Scripture: subjection or liberation

Does God call and empower us in ministry, yet not provide avenues for the use of gifts?  Where are the Scriptural precedents for God lifting up individuals yet not providing the means of ministry?

Such questions don’t seem to sit well within Christianity.  In God’s realm, ministries do not remain unused or theoretical. Ministry is about people.  It’s about responding to call.  It’s about an overwhelming urgent response in love to the conversion brought about in our own lives.  It seems to us, that while life is unpredictable, God calls to every one of us, reminding us that the harvest is great and the labourers are few.

We don’t hear God surmising that perhaps there’ll be work to do, that possibly your gifts will be used.  The conversation with God is not about waiting in line until the time is right, until we all agree that you too can be a labourer in the field. Rather, we read of a sense of urgency, where all people are called for the harvest.

In the LCA, the CTICR (Commission on Theology and Inter-Church Relationships) has twice found that there are no theological blocks to the ordination of women, however, we find that some people still attempt to use Scripture to justify the exclusion of women from ministry.  Where there might have been pastoral leadership towards inclusivity,  we find invitations to continue the conversation on whether Scripture empowers women to pastoral leadership.

Blogger Marg Mowczko, from her blog, “New Life,” makes the connection with racism:

I find it difficult to believe that discrimination on the basis of race has been declared immoral and illegal in Australia (and other western-style nations) only in my lifetime. Moreover, it is shocking to me that previous generations often used Scripture to condone ignorant and hateful attitudes of racial prejudice and racial superiority. …

I also find it difficult to believe that in contemporary Church life, women are still discriminated against on the basis of gender. Women are excluded from many ministries that involve public speaking, teaching or leadership. … It bothers me that some Christians use Scripture to condone and support discrimination and prejudice against women in ministry.

via Race and Gender Discrimination in the Church.

In summary, two points.

  1. Jesus was radically inclusive.  Women were in his inner circle.  They were right there in the middle of his story.  He called them to serve. They were instrumental in bringing his good news to the rest of us. In ministry and faith there were no men or women, there were only followers of Jesus.  In Christ there was no east nor west, slave nor free … .  Today, in Christ there is no east nor west, slave nor free …
  2. Scripture has been used to justify putting others in their place, for keeping slaves under subjection and still today for keeping women out of the pulpit.  In contrast, the New Testament makes a big deal of unity, diversity and inclusion. Non-Jews were included as the children of God, including the despised Samaritans; prostitutes and tax-collectors were among the most intimate with Jesus, and Jesus directed his disciples to carry the good news to ‘all nations’.

How might you support women in your congregation?  What network can you build so that the issue gains a higher prominence in your congregation?  What action can you take in your community?

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Posted by on September 25, 2011 in history, theology

 

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The President wishes women’s ordination delayed

The President of the LCA, Pr Mike Semmler, claims that he has never made his views on women’s ordination public, however, his actions speak loudly.

This came from the President’s Page on 23rd June, 2010:

UPDATE ON SYNOD RESOLUTION ON THE CONSENSUS ON THE ORDINATION OF WOMEN
At the General Convention of Synod in 2009 the General Church Council was asked to establish a dialogue group to work toward consensus both within the group and across the group and across the Church on the question of the ordination of both men and women with reference to the published findings of CTICR and a focus on biblical interpretation.  At the recent General Church Council meeting draft terms of reference for this dialogue group were presented.  Council determined that some fine tuning of the terms needed to be done by the College of Presidents with a view to approving the terms of reference and beginning to appoint members to the group by the end of 2010.
The president has also commissioned a study on what ‘consensus’ means for the LCA, on the basis of its confession as a Lutheran Church, and a synod which is the result of two former churches coming together.
(all text in bold has been highlighted by the author of this blog)

It is apparent that the President:

  • doesn’t wish women’s ordination to happen on his watch, and
  • wishes it to be delayed, possibly indefinitely

The 2006 General Synod of the LCA approved that a committee should be established to consider how a split in the Church could be avoided over the issue.  At the 2009 General Synod, effectively the same motion was passed again.

It now looks like we might start to get a committee by the end of 2010 (read 2011) and as the next General Synod is 2012 the committee can hardly be expected to achieve anything of substance.  Oops, sorry about that!  Ah, well!  We’ll have just have to aim towards 2015.

Taking such a long time to establish a committee, in response to a General Synod directive, is hardly acting in good faith or showing good process.  Creating extra time delays (approving the terms of reference, commissioning a study on what ‘consensus’ means), when 2/3 of LWF churches already ordain women, will lead to further frustration and eventually an outpouring of emotion, which may impact the Church in unexpected ways.  The President should be aware that he is creating the split that he says he wishes to avoid.  It has long been happening with individuals quietly leaving the Church (as per declining statistics nation-wide), but in addition there will come a time when congregations finally lose faith in the national process and decide to take action of their own.

Note that the wording of the motion from General Synod implicitly indicates that women’s ordination will eventually be approved, however, Pr Semmler’s actions give the impression that women’s ordination is a radical matter. This is not the case.  CTICR has ruled that there are no theological roadblocks to women’s ordination. If the LCA is as faithful as it hopes to be, it is imperative that the LCA acts promptly to fulfil God’s reign of love in this place, in this time.  Of course it will be unsettling for some, but no congregation is ever going to be forced to call a female.  As it stands many are forced to call males.

It’s worth noting the revisionist clause inclused in the motion,  “…and a focus on biblical interpretation”.  Strange!  CTICR spent many years on that one, but now we’re pretending that the report never happened.   Still, the President says that he’s never made his views public on women’s ordination.

The following comment, which came across my desk, is a pertinent observation on how strange the process is.

It’s going to take the next three years to set up Lance’s task group and agree on its terms of reference.  Just to make sure of it we’re going to be sidelined by discussing what “consensus” might mean in the LCA.  My hunch is that someone will state that it’s not a confessional term and should never be used because it doesn’t faithfully represented the meaning in the original Latin and German.  Then we’ll spend a synodical term trying to find the right word.  By which time English will have changed so much that the “right word” will have become redundant too.  I sense that Josef Heller is writing this entire script.

Feedback and suggestions are welcome.

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Posted by on September 11, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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