The Anglican Itch

The Church of England and the Anglican “communion” have always fascinated me. I received my M.Div. from an Episcopal Seminary, and wrote my dissertation and first book (I am working on several seconds) on bishop John Jewel, the leading theological light of Elizabeth I’s first decade, and the chief defender of the 1559 Elizabethan Settlement. My brother William is a rector of the Faith Reformed Episcopal church in Baltimore. I have loved reading Anglicans, from Cranmer to Mascall, from Ridley to Dix, they are all grand and often edifying reads (especially the second of each pair). I have a picture of Edward B. Pusey on my office door, right next to a picture of the grand library at Pusey House, in Oxford. But I should note, and it was purposeful, that I did not include Bishop Jewel among those that I liked to read. You should also notice that neither Ridley nor Cranmer would have any truck for Mascall or Dix (nor the other way round). The reason for this is that both Mascall and Dix were Anglo-Catholics, men who saw the Reformation as a colossal monstrosity. They would not have disagreed that late medieval Catholicism needed reform, but they would have had a church more like Henry VIII’s than Edward VI’s or Elizabeth I’s. Mascall himself was ready to go to Rome had not death taken him first. As anyone who looks at Anglicanism knows, it is broad enough to take in anyone along the theological gamut from Cranmer to Mascall, and it seems wholly a broad church, liberal in the best sense. But Jewel ripped the mask off for me, for he, as well as Cranmer and Ridley would never have countenanced such as Mascall and Dix. In reading the Bishop of Salisbury I saw that what Jewel, Ridley, and Cranmer wanted, and what they got, were completely different things: Jewel wanted a church like Zurich’s, Reformed and well-ordered, and adhering to the standards of theology current there. Instead what he got was what he called a “leaden mediocrity.” Jewel nonetheless took up his pen in defense of this not-so-golden mean, and in so doing made an ecclesiastical wasteland which would eventually come to encompass anything: from believing that which was held by everyone, everywhere at every time, it has turned into that which can be believed by anyone, anywhere at any time. It was in the Church of England’s birth that this antinomy emerged, that is, in the 1559 Settlement. Though the term was unknown, raison d’etat governed what was birthed out of parliament. Elizabeth got exactly what she wanted (see Norm Jones wonderful text, Faith by Statute).This brings me to a rather curious post at The Conciliar Anglican. Here we have a modern Anglican, clearly not an Anglo-Catholic in the mold of Mascall or Dix, who wishes to keep his flock from bolting Anglicanism for Orthodoxy, and holds forth on why they should stay. After reading his essay, and correcting his mistakes and misreadings of what Orthodoxy teaches and says, it seems more an apology of why one should leave Anglicanism as quickly as possible.

First, his take on what Orthodoxy teaches about Scripture is special pleading and begged questions, especially the rather poisonous assertion that “. . . the decisions of the Church through the ages, the icons, the canon laws, the architecture, and even the music are in some sense inspired and must be weighed against the biblical witness when establishing doctrine.” From what Orthodox writer he took this I know not, for none would have said such a thing. Scripture taken with these earlier items (though I don’t know what he means by “music” unless it is to say hymnody) form the basis of our life. He seems completely to have missed the quote he took from Fr. Hopko: Tradition is the life of the Church. If I can flesh this out, or better put it, Incarnationalize it, we would say that Tradition is the continuous presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in His Body, the Church. Both Christ and His Church predate Holy Scripture, whether the Old or the New Testament. Let us confine ourselves here to the New Testament. I believe it was in dom Gregory Dix that I first every read that the Church came to see the expiatory nature of the crucifixion through the expiatory nature of the Eucharist. It was the rule of Faith as found in the Eucharistic Liturgy that informed the rule of faith about Christ’s death. But what came first, the Eucharist, or Holy Scripture? Obviously the Eucharist. Who gave us this first as an unwritten rule? It was Christ Himself who handed this over to us. Thus tradition (which literally means “that which is handed over”) exits first in Christ (who is handed over to us by the Father), and then in what He leaves as a deposit with the disciples, and then they to those who come after them: “O Timothy! Guard the deposit entrusted to you” I Timothy 6:20. The Fathers of the Church recognized that this deposit was more than Scripture, but certainly never “against the biblical witness.” You can find the term “rule of faith” meaning something other than Holy Writ in Sts. Irenaeus, Athanasius, Basil the Great, inter alios, and especially in Teretullian. How did the Church know what books to include in the ‘canon’? Because they already had a canon, the apostolic deposit. There is no conflict between the two unless you come at Scripture with assumptions wholly other than those found in the Apostolic Church, which sadly, is what so many in Protestantism do. They come about as a reaction to late Medieval Catholic abuses, take up what they believe is the raw data of Christianity, and then read into it their own assumptions, which brings me to my next point, but the articles fourth, namely justification by faith alone.

As most Orthodox I know could tell you, the Bible does talk about justification by faith alone, and the phrase is actually used in the New Testament, once (never in the Old). I have asked my students where it is and get the same litany of answers every time: Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, John, Hebrews. And then finally they look and ask “Where?” In James. That we are not justified by the works of the law, that is by some covenant of “this do and live” is obvious, for works in that context bespeaks having some sort of claim or binding obligation against God. But as also any informed Orthodox will tell you, we cannot obligate God, for the problem is not a lack of merit or lack of doing good (though this is a problem and we do sin constantly in deed, word, and thought), but that we are cut off from Life. It wouldn’t matter if I never sin, I am still cut off from God and am in need of Life, meaning I need to be united to and with Christ, who is Life Himself. When St. Paul puts works in opposition to faith, it is not to say works have no value, nor that we cannot please God, but that we cannot obtain God’s mercy through them. Justification by faith (which is the same as saying “being made righteous by faith”) is not the same as justification by faith alone, for even St. Paul admits that faith is in need of love, faith is less than love, and that faith to move mountains is inadequate without love. On top of that, as he says in Galatians, love completes faith’s imperfections. Thus Fr. Jonathan’s assertion in the last part of his essay is correct, the Orthodox have no doctrine of forensic justification; but I would have to say “So? We are being condemned for not holding to something the Scriptures don’t teach?” For the Orthodox the doctrine of forensic justification, that justification is an act of God whereby I am declared righteous based on the merits of Christ, is a sixteenth-century interpolation on the Gospel, based upon an epistemology completely foreign to the ancient world. Who prior to the Reformers taught this? Granted, justification by faith alone was taught before this: it was taught by the heretic Marcion who denounced the place of the sacraments in salvation, but I hardly call that a catholic pedigree.

Fr. Jonathan also goes on about the filioque (the phrase added to the Creed that the Spirit proceeds “From the Father and the Son”), but I find this also a bit perplexing {N.B., he links to another article he wrote in the matter}. The only verse in the Bible that speaks of the Spirit’s procession (John 15:26) says only that he proceeds from the Father. There are any number of books on this matter, indeed legion, of Rome’s shifting on this, and its confrontations with the Orthodox Church. I will just note one thing. Since the Scripture speaks only passingly on this, but the Fathers of the Church sought to put this in the Creed as simply “proceeds from the Father” as the means thereby to establish that the Spirit draws His divinity as does the Son from the Father, why make the addition of the superfluous filioque to the Creed, when it is clear that this is not something “affirmed at all times, everywhere, and by everyone.” Fr. Jonathan then goes on to say that since the offending term lacks conciliar authority it should be dropped, and indeed Anglicanism worldwide has moved in this direction. So what exactly is he arguing in saying that the filioque is a reason to stay Anglican? But even more perplexing is that he wishes to pontificate on this and is wholly ignorant of the Orthodox position. First, when he explains his take on the filioque it is nothing but an explanation along economic and immanent lines: that Christ sends the Spirit from the Father with respect to the economy of salvation. Every Orthodox affirms this, and our point has to do not with the sending of the Spirit in the work of salvation, but the eternal origins of the divinity of the Spirit. His confusion seems heightened when he quotes William Sherlock on the matter that there should be a union of person as well as nature in the Trinity. Why? What he (Fr. Jonathan) fails to see is that the imposition of the filioque at the Council of Toledo in 589 (not 587) had a confusion of person and nature at its very root. To posit that generating divinity is a mark of divinity (what the council was doing), they first made the Spirit a lesser deity (what person of the godhead does the Spirit then generate so that He has authentic divinity bona fides?), but also they made generating a property of divinity and not the property of the Father> Fr. Jonathan fails to see that what is shared, what is common, is natural. Thus the Spirit, not sharing in this shared property, is naturally not God. What he doesn’t seem to get is that the Creed clearly is speaking about the procession from all eternity of the Sprit, that is, the source of His divinity is solely from the Father. Again, though, I am not always sure what he is arguing for in his post on the Creed he says “All churches in the west today, Catholic or Protestant, that continue to recognize the authority of the Nicene Creed also continue to recite it with the filioque clause included,” but by the end of the article he is asserting that Anglicans have agreed to delete it. I will pick this up at the end of the post.

Lastly, Fr. Jonathan talks about “the need for Reformation.” So, does everything the Church has affirmed stand subject to the dictum (the Protestant canon of truth and doctrinal authority) semper reformanda? He says as much, that “in every era there will be heresy in the Church that will need to be corrected through reform, through returning to first principles, through returning to the Scriptures and the mind of the early Church.” But the whole section is fraught with, again, special pleading: “Some Orthodox . . .” He builds his case around what he thinks some Orthodox mean by schism, and then attacks his straw man, to assert what the Orthodox teach when he has no idea what it is the Orthodox do teach on this matter. First, the link he cites never asserts what he says it does. Secondly, there is a great deal of difference between schism and defection from the faith. There have been Patriarchs (e.g., Nestorius and Pyrrhus) who have defected from the faith, but these men are not the Church, nor do they represent the Church which condemned them and their teachings. This is an aside to the larger point: reformation. The Church is the pillar and ground of the truth, the living body of the living Christ, vivified by Him through the Spirit. If Christ’s promise that the Spirit will lead us into all truth and that He will remain with us forever are to mean anything than we need to know who and what the Church is. By his own admission, Anglicanism ain’t it. Its needed reformation, that is, it needed to be reconstituted by severing itself from the Church itself (the Elizabethan Settlement made it a point of oath that no bishop’s authority anywhere but in England could be recognized). Further, as Chesterton said, Tradition is not the dead faith of the living, but the living faith of the dead. Why? Because Tradition is rooted in the Life of Christ, and it is this continued life that exists in the Orthodox Church, the Faith delivered once and for all to the Saints.

Many Anglicans take such pains to keep themselves Anglicans. I know of one who now would rather keep the term Anglican than the term Catholic. But at bottom it comes down to whether you want to stand with the Church catholic, or with those who seek to define themselves in opposition to it: “Oh, we are just like the Orthodox, except we have freed ourselves from idolatry (i.e., we don’t worship icons).” Yet ultimately these are not rejecting idolatry, but the definition of idolatry that the Orthodox (and Catholic) Church has accepted down to this day that icons are not idols, i.e., they want to accept their own definition of idolatry so that they can justify their declension from the Orthodox faith (to be fair, Fr. Jonathan is not, as best I can tell, an iconoclast). This is nothing but catholicism and Orthodoxy on their own terms, which isn’t catholic or Orthodox at all. It’s kind of like the wife who says I will submit to my husband when he’s right. But the case of the Anglican church is indeed more dire than this. At the beginning of my essay I mentioned both Cranmer and Dix, who faithful Anglicans can look to both as teachers of the Anglican patrimony. But of course there are a great many others in Anglicanism who would see those who hold to them as nothing but reactionaries, conservatives who have been left behind by the Zeitgeist. If Anglicanism is anything, alas it is nothing, for what am I to believe about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharistic elements? If I am an Anglican I can believe anything I wish. What about apostolic succession? Anything I wish. What about baptismal regeneration? Again, anything. What about priestesses in the Church? Many faithful would denounce it, but the vast majority see nothing wrong with it. So what if it breaks catholic order? We can simply unilaterally decide, apart from the rest of the Church, that it’s OK. If Fr. Jonathan wants to say that this is not Anglicanism, well, based on what? Sadly, certainly not Anglicanism. For if the Eucharist and bishops and baptism are all optional with respect to their catholic meaning, how can holy orders not fall under that same rubric?

Again, I have a debt to Anglicans. I know that many are faithful who have suffered mentally and emotionally to try to keep their faith intact. My points here are not that good and faithful people are not to be found among the Anglicans, but that Anglicanism itself suffers from a lack of true catholicity. There are certainly catholic and orthodox people within it (I need only think of my brother), but is it where the Orthodox Catholic Church is to be found?

About Gary Cyril Jenkins

Professor of History
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18 Responses to The Anglican Itch

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  3. marcusjosephus says:

    Excellent post!! I often use the “justified by faith question” myself. I am still surprised at the number of Protestants and Catholics who are very surprised by the answer. I also believe the the definition of “Faith” in the phrase “justified by faith” has been altered. It has lately come to mean, “an assent of the mind”, and perhaps as a singular, passing event.

    I would love to read more on the Filioque and the Eastern view of its effects upon the West. Any types of posts on this forthcoming??? Supposedly the Eastern Father’s were aware of the translation to the Latin Creed quite early on and had no deep or essntial problem with it and the western understanding AT THAT TIME. This was long before Charlamange or other “discussions” and “understandings” about the Filioque.

    Like Bl. Pope John Paul II and St. Bruno (the Carthusian), I frequently say the Creed and omit the Filioque. Both of the aforementioned learned and holy men did so publicly and I would even hazard didactically and prayerfully for restoration. One close to 1054 and hopefully the latter as a movement toward Restoration. Inded, St. Bruno’s final words upon his death bed to his sons was saying the Litrugical Creed in Latin

  4. Fr. Jonathan says:

    Professor Jenkins,

    I appreciate your attempt to engage my post and your desire to robustly defend Orthodoxy as you understand it. I won’t try to argue individual points of doctrine with you as I imagine that, given the background you cite, you’re well aware of where we would differ. But for the sake of clarity, I would like to offer a few correctives.

    Firstly, I apologize if it seemed to you that I was trying to suggest that the Orthodox do not value Scripture or hold it as authoritative, nor did I mean to suggest that Scripture is considered by Orthodox to be equally as authoritative as icons and hymnody. My point was merely that the Orthodox tend to view Scripture as part of a much larger body of revelation, all of which is inspired by God and in some sense binding on the conscience. While the Orthodox would insist that Scripture does not contradict these other things, classical Anglicanism asserts that Scripture is the norm by which we judge all else. This, it seems to me (and seemed to the Reformers), is also how the Fathers saw it. We can debate the accuracy of that assertion until the cows come home, of course, but that is where the disagreement lies, is it not?

    Pertaining to the filioque, my point in the original post on the matter was that the filioque is biblically and theologically sound but that it lacks the kind of conciliar basis that it really ought to have in order to be authorized for the whole Church. In Orthodox-Anglican dialogues over the last forty years, Anglicans have repeatedly agreed that if it would allow for greater communion we would be willing to drop the filioque, at least until the matter could be taken up by a council. Nonetheless, the theology behind the filioque, and its interpretation, is a matter which continues to divide us. I offered this point not as an argument for staying Anglican, as you seem to think, but rather, as with all the other issues I brought up, as a marker of where division exists between our traditions. You will notice that I begin the piece by praising various things that Orthodoxy and Anglicanism have in common. My goal in writing this was not to attack Orthodoxy but to challenge Anglicans to know and understand their faith, as per the question I received. If someone comes to the conclusion that the Orthodox Church is the one true Church and that there alone Christ is to be found, I cannot fault them, but I believe that many Anglicans turn to Orthodoxy as a kind of balm for their wounds without actually understanding what it is they are giving up by making the trek across the Bosphorous.

    Finally, your assertion that Anglicans can believe whatever they wish about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, apostolic succession, and baptismal regeneration is simply false. While there are a great many people who would call themselves Anglican and believe all sorts of things, Anglicanism itself is not created by a popular vote. It is the religion found in the pages of Holy Scripture, as understood and taught and confessed by the Fathers of the early Church, made available to us today by way of the sixteenth century Anglican formularies. The formularies are quite clear on each of the issues you mentioned.

  5. Cyril Jenkins says:

    Fr. Jonathan, I won’t quibble with anything except your last paragraph. No, in no real terms was the Church of England created by a popular vote, but it was created by a statute of parliament. And while the sixteenth-century divines were certainly clear about sola fide, they were not at all “clear” about those other things. Some of them certainly held clear views, and I am not trying to impose upon the others a Tract 90 reading, but I need only to take to Edmund Guest (bishop of Rochester and then upon Jewel’s death, of Salisbury) on this matter. I don’t hold with others that Guest held to consubstantiation. If I did it would make my point all the easier. Instead it was his posturing with respect to Bishop Cheney and Guest’s assertion that Cheney, a holdover from the Marian Church, could hold to his Lutheran, if not papist views of the Eucharist and still be a bishop in good standing with the C. of E. Further, clear references against both ubiquitarianism and manducatio impiorum were stricken from the proposed 39 articles in 1571, thus making what they taught far from clear, even though clearly Parker and others opposed both these matters. As regards baptism, since baptismal regeneration appears so prominently among the Lutherans, but is barely blushed at by any in the C of E under Elizabeth (and is nowhere on the radar when compared with ubiquitariansim) that it is only condemned, and that so vigorously by the Puritans leaves me befuddled that what exactly the C of E taught on this. Apostolic succession was condemned by Jewel, inter alios, but Archbishop Parker certainly seem taken with it, counting himself the 70th Ab of Kentburg. Is this some full-blown doctrine of A.S.? No, but it doesn’t have to be for my point, which is that while I don’t think the C of E under Elizabeth was a mirror of Newman’s Tract xc, it certainly contained (to allude to Newman’s Essay on the Development of Doctrine) the embryonic seed of it.

    Thank you for your gracious reply.

  6. Fr. Jonathan says:

    Dr. Jenkins, it appears that you are not far from me. I am rector of a parish that is about twenty minutes from Eastern University. If you would ever like to get together over lunch or a cup of coffee and discuss some of this further, I would be happy to buy. Feel free to email me.

  7. Cyril says:

    Fr. Jonathan, I am away at the moment, thus why Iam not logged in, but that sounds like a plan.


  8. Pingback: Justification By Cherry-Picking | The Conciliar Anglican

  9. Joshua says:

    I honestly do not know how we can study the scriptures and get anything other than sola fide out of it. I do not know why we would want too. I have never been in an Anglican Parish that was not Anglo-catholic and we definetly believe in sola Fide. I also pray the rosary and go to benediction and adoration. If an Anglican rejects Sola Fide he is not an Anglican. Just sayin.

  10. Cyril Jenkins says:

    Well, Joshua, in all candor, I honestly don’t know how you honestly don’t know. Thousands of Anglicans don’t hold to sola fide. Why are they all so keen on communion with Rome, even if not wanting to become Roman Catholics, were it otherwise? Yes, there are AC who would hold to sola fideism, but that is not the same as saying that the Bible unequivocally teaches it. You also have to come to grips with Richard Hooker’s admission that this is no necessary part of being a Christian (see his Learned Discourse on Justification). I realize it’s quite bracing to find people taking principled stands, based on scripture, against your principled stand, which you also see as based on scripture. The question is only resolved not by throwing salvos of scriptures at each other, but by investigating our prior understandings of what it is we understand both human nature and the human predicament to be.

  11. Joshua says:

    I would argue that those Anglicans who became Roman Catholics devolved. However, you are correct in quoting Hooker. People who do not understand Sola Fide are not damned. Ironically the belief in Sola Fide actually affirms their salvation because Jesus died for that sin too. Every time I hear an Orthodox discourse on Justification, I get more confused than anything else. I listened to the faith of our Fathers in the Lutheran section like five times and i still do not understand what they were trying to say. The Orthodox understanding of justification does not make sense to me. I do not see Justification as a process that involves my actions. granted we need an inward spiritual change but does this not happen in sanctification?

  12. Cyril Jenkins says:

    Joshua, I completely sympathize with your confusion, and was once even in empathy with you. It all goes back to what I said about prior understandings. If the imago Dei is what makes humans human, that we are created to see (theoria) and know (communio/apotheosis) God; and that our reason is not merely some faculty that aligns with being (A cannot equal none-A, or “a predicate cannot belong and not to belong simultaneously to the same thing and in the same respect”) but instead is that which makes us with the angels able to speak with and about God (otherwise what does distinguish us from the brutes), then I cannot see how I can hold the predicates of sola fideismn namely forensic justification and all its necessary accouterments. Pelagius was and is condemned by the Orthodox, and no one in Orthodoxy is talking about obligating God (which is exactly what Luther and the Prots were reacting to in the theology of such people as Peter Aureole and Gabriel Biel). The question is far more complex than what I had thought it was when first looking at it some twenty years ago, simply because I failed to see how complicated it had been made by what I shall call post-Thomistic thought. Granted, I am not a Thomist, and even if I hold de Lubac correct in his assessment of St. Augustine’s thought and how St. Thomas wrote about it, even St. Thomas, following Abelard, had already divorced the ability of the intellect (as a faculty of the soul) to be united formally with the known. If the intellect cannot thus be formally united with the known (think about this in respect to the Beatific vision), can there be anything at all approximating the Patristic doctrine of union with God and union with Christ. Reading St. Paul in a post-Abelardian world removes him from his world and one of the consequences is to read him in terms of alienation that is quite different than what the ancient Church meant by alienation. As that is the case, I can hardly affirm the Protestant doctrine of sola fide. I will post in the next week on what the Orthodox mean by justification, and what justification by faith is.

  13. Joshua says:

    I look forward to reading your post. I have to admit that i understand about half of what you have written here, What especially confuses me about the Orthodox understanding of justification is the deep philosophical terms they use when trying to clarify it. from the outside looking in, it appears that the Orthodox talk around the question jumping from pivot point to pivot point without actually answering the question. I am just a simple layperson with a slightly above average interest in theology. When I read Fr. Jonathan’s post on justification by cherry picking it seems to really be in line with what the scriptures are teaching. It seems as though the scriptures as they are written are defending him without the need for deep philosophy. With that being said i see nothing in orthodoxy as I understand it that I cannot confess other than their rejection of justification by faith alone. If it were to come out that Anglicans are not viewing it correctly I would convert to orthodoxy. I would not simply try and say (as a minority of Anglo-Catholics have done) that this is not an essential Anglican doctrine. An argument that has been proven false time and time again.

  14. Joshua says:

    I am reading what you saying a little more in detail. It appears that you implying that the Bible verses that seem to teach Sola Fide do not actually do it, if we take into consideration what these verses meant at the time they were written.? This would make what Luther did similar to what liberals do with the constitution. I am understanding you correctly? If so this resonates with the new perspective on Paul.

  15. Joel says:


    I am also very interested to read your upcoming post on the Orthodox perspective on Justification by faith. It is something that I have never been able to grasp either, in part due to the fact that I’ve heard differing articulations from the Orthodox. Some (Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, Tommy Hamilton, etc) simply speak about it in the sense that “faith” is more than simply ‘belief’ but means ‘loyalty, love, obedience, etc’. That is, ‘works’ in the sense of obedience and love are absolutely essential to our being justified, because without them will no man be justified. Justified by “faith working through love”, etc.

    BUT, I have also heard people like Dr. Valerie Karras (in an article available on the internet) argue that justification by faith has more to do with the ‘general redemption’ in which all human nature was revived and redeemed by Christ uniting our human nature to His Divine Person and taking it through death and resurrection. Justification is nothing less than the renewal of the imago dei. Thus *all* are justified because justification has to do with nature, not person – contrary to a Lutheran/Reformed Protestant perspective wherein it has entirely to do with persons (predestined ones!). Her perspective blew my brains out because I had never heard it articulated in *any* such sense, but it seemed like a very plausible Orthodox interpretation because of the robust Christological grounding of her argument (and because it would explain why it seems like none of the Greek Fathers speak of this prized Protestant doctrine).

    All of this to say, please do us a favour [sic] and write that post on Justification!!!!

  16. Joel says:

    Let me rephrase: Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon simply speaks of it as “making righteous” instead of “declaring righteous,” using Greek morphology, LXX usage of dikaioo, etc. I guess this could fit within either of the above two contexts that I’ve outlined briefly above, although it would make much more sense in the first, because the idea that God makes *all* *righteous* by taking on their human nature would seem a little far fetched. It would seem that righteous has more to do with persons than natures….But perhaps I am about to have my christological brains blown out again…

  17. Cyril Jenkins says:

    Joel and Joshua, I am getting to it, and several other items as well. Since it will be longer, it will probably be at least two more weeks in coming. A few short items will be posted in the interim.

  18. Joel says:

    No rush! We appreciate your willingnessto address issues like this on the blog! It is a great help to people like me.

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