A couple of weeks ago I posted about my experience on a conservative Christian website. On that site I mainly discussed Luke’s Gay Apocalypse and the fact that we can no longer use the Torah to define sin. The post prompted the following reply from Christiaan (that’s his actual name).
Ronald, I feel that your explanation of the situation is biased. Not even close to the entire story is being told. Also, you quoted 2 comments above that are mine, #2 and #4.
Ronald, this “fundamentalist” website that you speak of is made up of many thousands of people throughout the world whose sole purpose is to glorify the Lord and bring revival.
In this situation, you brought up a dead thread. You gave your remarks. You tried to back them up Biblically, and you were rebuked biblically. After many, many pages of people using “Biblical” examples of why your thesis of “Jesus and the 6 homosexuals” and the two men in a bed was incorrect, you refused to move from your stance, even after biblical evidence was given.
So let me ask you Ronald, when someone joins a discussion to push an agenda (which is clearly forbidden by this site’s admins), which in your case was the homosexual agenda, and refuses to cease, what should be done? When someone who claims that they follow the Lord, but will not take biblical teachings and rebuke when they are proven wrong, what are people supposed to do by the Bibles standards?
I will say Ronald, that you were very polite in your discussion, and I give you credit for this. You seem like you have a loving heart towards people, which is a great thing. But as long as you keep your stance, which is completely opposite of what scripture teaches, you should expect people to challange you. And if those challanges produce no results to show you the error of your ways, then people will continue to warn the sheep… of a wolf amongst them.
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Christiaan, thanks for clarifying the situation with your additional detail.
You are right — everyone on the site responded biblically. All the responses I got were biblical, either direct quotations from scripture (and there were many), based on scripture, or consistent with biblical teachings. Some responses dealt directly with the issues of gays and lesbians and of the Law; some were directed to me as warnings to repent; others exhorted others to “mark and avoid,” etc. Paul warns us to avoid argumentative and divisive people. Many, many verses–frequently large chunks of scripture–were quoted as the weeks went by.
One problem connected with this idea of being biblical (and I do try to be biblical) is that most Christian groups consider themselves biblical. Just as you can “justify” your actions and beliefs biblically, I can “justify” my actions and beliefs biblically, too. (And this does relate to justification by faith.) So your actions are justified biblically, my actions are justified biblically, and where does that leave us? Let me quote a few passages I can use to “justify” myself.
Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves;
ensure justice for those being crushed.
Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless,
and see that they get justice.
Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated.
As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority.
Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
And there’s this one: “We told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said… “For whoever is not against us is for us.”
Christiaan, I am not against you or the other posters on the site. I value your present and future ministries. I know you are personally involved in people’s lives. Obviously I don’t agree with everything you teach or do. And I am gravely concerned about the suicidally negative effects some of you have on gay and lesbian believers. But I know your desire is to do what is right, to obey and glorify God. I know that a lot of edifying spiritual and biblical ministry occurs among you. I know that God works through you and touches lives.
Because of our differences, we each have a different work to do: From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Because of our differences, we probably can’t work together. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord.
In my congregation, there are people who have strong emotional reactions against homosexuality. One elderly woman stormed out of my home Bible study, enraged at my acceptance of my gay son. I don’t keep my views a secret at church, but I don’t make an issue out of it either. In a congregational setting, it is possible to work with people who sharply disagree with you.
Each one must be fully convinced in his own mind…. let us no longer criticize one another… we must pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another.
But, to state the obvious, a web forum is not a church. Despite the differences, I still tried to conduct myself like a Christian.
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth.
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I decided to contact Christiaan, telling him I would send him my reply. I asked him if he would like to reply in turn. I’m very happy to say that he said yes. Here is his response.
Thank you for your gracious reply. I do appreciate the chance to reply to your posting.
Ron, what exactly are you asking in your post to me? Are you asking that I leave and let be? Are you asking that if I see error being taught, that I not say anything about it? Ron, what you are asking me to do, is to turn a blind eye to teachings that lead people to the gates of Hell.
Why do these teachings lead people to the gates of hell? Because what is being taught here is acceptance of sin, not repentance and moving away from sin, which the Bible teaches.
Ron, the scriptures that you posted are wonderful scriptures, but are being used WAY out of context. Let’s use your first example of scripture. You quoted, Matthew 5:10,
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The error in posting this in your situation, respectfully, is that you’re not walking in righteousness. You claim to be, but you truly are not. Scriptures state that those who preach a false gospel ARE TO BE SHUNNED. You are super-imposing your beliefs into this scripture, as if the Lord was speaking directly about the Homosexual agenda in it.
The Lord speaks about being righteous all throughout the scriptures. He teaches about turning away from sin. He teaches about abandoning sin… and yes, He teaches that being, living in an unrepeated homosexual lifestyle… is sin. So to say that you are being persecuted because of your beliefs is wrong. You have been shown the error of your teachings with scripture, and have yet refused to move from them. What do the scriptures teach about moving away from error? NO WHERE in scripture does it state that you will be allowed to sit at the right hand of the Father if you continue to live in sin. In fact, scripture states that your sin will lead to hell fire. Not a very good thought. In fact, this is the reason why I am passionate about this topic, because I do not want to see anyone go to hell, even those who would consider me an enemy.
This is only replying to one of your scripture references.
At the end of your post, you state, “Each one must be fully convinced in his own mind…. let us no longer criticize one another… we must pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another.” This is great and all, but you cannot enter into a conversation where you know that people disagree with you 100%, and expect that we would not challenge you to the core. Let me ask, what did you expect? Did you expect that people, including myself, would stay silent and not challenge the error of your teaching? Explain to me how letting someone who teaches unscriptural teachings continue unanswered is good for the body of Christ?
If you wish to be left alone to teach your teachings, then that is by all means your prerogative. But please do not expect to receive a warm welcome with these teachings when you enter a Bible based site. In fact, I pray that you are challenged from the first word spoken. Today’s church has fallen so far into apostasy, that if men of the Word do not stand up, I fear to see what the Word will look like when the apostate church finishes with it.
Blessings to you Ron. I do appreciate your time and willingness to converse with me. Be blessed.
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Christiaan, thanks again for participating in this conversation. I know there is a kind of personal risk involved.
I don’t know how God will use you in the future, but I am confident that you will be used and will be a blessing. Each of us is unique. There are somewhere between 4 and 12 (or more) personality types, and when we add variables like age, birth order, sex drive, cultural and regional differences, gender, and personal history, there are more versions of “human” than I can count.
What I am confident of is your desire to do and become whatever it is God wants. In my life I have believed and said things that I wouldn’t believe or say in quite the same way today. But believing it and saying it was important at the time. I learned the utility and applicability of those things by their use. It was part of my growth as a Christian, human being, and servant.
I know a guy who was pretty wild as a young man—sowed a lot of wild oats. He was charming, but he was busy flouting conventional morality, proving his manhood, used to having his way, and not caring how his actions affected other people (broken hearts). After he became a Christian he changed, but was basically the same: charming, flouting political correctness, proving his manhood, getting his way, and not caring how his pronouncements affected other people. His metanoia (repentance) was real; he really did change allegiance. But his metamorphosis (transformation according to Romans 12:1-2) was understandably slow in coming.
In terms of continuity, I’m very much like this. As a boy I had no friends or buddies. I was shy and unsociable, a loner taking refuge in the fact that I was always the smartest kid in the class. I spent lots of time helping my sister by listening to her talk about how she was being tormented at her school. As an adult, I have few friends, am a shy and frequently awkward loner who takes refuge in my Bible knowledge, and spends a lot of time trying to help people who are tormented in the their churches. My metamorphosis certainly seems slow in coming sometimes.
One of the things that resulted from my two months on the conservative website was the realization that the depression and discouragement I experienced was only a small taste of what gay and lesbian believers experience when they are driven from their home churches by the elders, deacons, pastors, and other adults they grew up with. I had the choice of whether to post or not, whether to stay or leave. Gay and lesbian believers don’t have that luxury. Before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I suffered suicidal depression. I have met many high school students who struggle with suicidal depression, and I know a young man who took his own life last year.
What did I expect would happen on the conservative Christian website? Did I expect everyone to suddenly “see the light”? Of course not. Over the years I have spent long periods on several Bible-centered forums, mainly because I am a student of the Bible and I enjoy serious discussions centered on scripture. I frequently find myself at odds with people who, it seem to me, are more interested in defending the internal consistency of their theological systems than with allowing the Spirit to speak to their lives and ministries and energize them, whether through the scriptures, other believers, or directly.
Popular opinion on the site concurred that I was a false teacher, and based on that label everyone had pretty much the same, more or less scriptural, response, which was just one possible scriptural response.
The rejection and conspiracies directed at Jesus and Paul were all Bible based. The scribes, Pharisees, and priests agreed that Jesus was a false teacher and conspired to kill him. This was a scriptural response based on Jesus’ violation of specific scriptures. A group of Jewish men in Jerusalem made a death pact to kill Paul (Acts 23:12, 13, 21). This was a scriptural response (from Deuteronomy) based on Paul’s violation of specific scriptures.
If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and . . . says, “Let us follow other gods . . . and let us worship them,” you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. . . . That prophet or dreamer must be put to death for inciting rebellion against the LORD your God . . . . You must purge the evil from among you.
If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” . . . . do not yield to them or listen to them. Show them no pity. Do not spare them or shield them. You must certainly put them to death. Your hand must be the first in putting them to death, and then the hands of all the people. Stone them to death . . . . Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and no one among you will do such an evil thing again. (Deuteronomy 13)
As you can see, heeding the scripture is no guarantee that we’re doing the right thing. Actually, there is no such guarantee, which is why the just shall live by faith. The people who conspired to kill Jesus and Paul would actually have had to violate their consciences to not act as they did. They would have had to violate the clear commands of scripture to heed the voice of the Spirit speaking through Jesus and Paul.
Christiaan, I am not privy to the timing or the content of your metanoia or your metamorphosis. The timing and the content of your repentance and transformation are between you and God. But I can say on good authority that your metanoia and metamorphosis can only be enhanced by heeding the following encouragements:
- Walk in the Spirit according to the law of life in the Spirit.
- Do not violate your conscience and thereby shipwreck your faith.
- Be transformed by the renewing of your mind from within.
- Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.
[Edited for Length]
Hey brother, your responses are always full of mercy and seasoned with grace. You are a true “Peace Maker”. That is your calling. You desire mercy and advocate reconciliation, a true reflection of Jesus Christ.
I think some of the hostility, wall building, etc. are partly a reflection of what others perceive as a continual chinking away at the walls of Historical Christianity. In our hearts we scream “Enough is enough” and “What is this new teaching- if it’s new it can’t be trusted.” and yes, there is some legitimacy to that feeling, as we look around and look at “what we believed” were the moral foundations of our country breaking away. And leaving in it’s wake a moral and human wasteland, where the religion of the day is me, myself and I. If I were to encourage you, it would be in extending your boundaries and scope of the work you have already laid the ground work for. You expend great energies in educating the LBGT community in what you believe is the proper biblical interpretation of a wide variety of scriptures that “include people” verses “exclude people”. You are welcoming them. And they need to be welcomed. But “welcoming” is not “inviting”- Someone may say “You’re welcome to come to my party” is far different than saying “I really want you to come to my party.” You get my drift.
What is the party we want our friends to attend? We need specificity. Is it a costume party that they need to dress for, or a BYOB party where they need to bring a six pack or a bris where they need to bring smelling salts? They hear that there is a party, they are interested in coming, and by now they even know that they are welcomed, but they still aren’t sure about what to expect when they get there. So what party are they going to Ron? That’s where I’m encouraging you to push beyond where you have journeyed thus far. The LBGT people are the same as straight people in “ALL THINGS” spiritual. Without beating around the bush- “People need to meet Jesus.” “People need forgiveness.” “People need to meet their creator on a personal level.” “To love God and to be loved by God.” “They need to repent from sin-(to turn from)” “They need hope of eternity.”
I think that it’s possible that you have for good reason danced around, pointed near, discussed in theory the biblical, to educate (a worthy cause) without spending as much time inviting them to the party. You’ve been “mothering” them “protecting them”, etc. but have a fear of sending them out into the big wide world of a personal relationship with God. The God we believe in, who has all knowledge, all grace, all wisdom and all patience to do what you cannot. It’s time to press them in a loving way- “Friend, you need Jesus”. “Friend, God loves you, He want’s a one on one with you. He won’t deny you, He won’t drop you.” “He will walk with you to the finish line.”
The LBGT community doesn’t need scriptural band-aids. Like the rest of us, they need life saving surgery. I would encourage you to use the tools God has blessed you with to turn a new corner in your ministry. It’s time for evangelism not “clobber passages”. You can fill a backpack full of defensive weapons when what’s really needed is to stand back and get out of the way and let God fight the good fight-do His job- not our job. He is in the transforming business and He may not go about it in the way that you or I would expect or (god forbid-even appreciate), but there are myriads of people going to hell everyday and all what was really needed was an invitation to the party. There is only one Christianity. Fallen man restored to an all loving God. Yes, that means challenging people, speaking the truth in Love and helping other to identify what the narrow road is verses the wide one. Your blogs, posts, articles, etc. are overbrimming with the goodness of God. All I see sometimes missing is the encouragement to take the next step, the hardest step of all- Faith. Yes you will lose some and yes some will be won, some may wonder off, but of course, this is the Spirits responsibility.
Noel, God has not called me to be an evangelist. I will leave evangelism to people given to the church as evangelists.
One of my main concerns is the 3% to 4% of believers who are told by their home churches, the churches they grew up in, that the phrase “Christian homosexual” is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms, a deceptive lie.
Another of my concerns includes Bible-believing Christians who, as I said to Christiaan, seem to me more concerned with preserving their theological systems intact than with walking in the Spirit, listening to that still small voice, loving their neighbor as themselves, cultivating sensitivity to their conscience, and allowing God to metamorphose them, as we are exhorted in scripture.
Inform or Evangelize. Who says you can’t do both? It would be unnatural to nurture, teach, admonish etc. etc without evangelism. Like our lives, sometimes ministry becomes a bubble so much so that we fail to see what’s lacking. You, me, us- we are all called to be evangelists. I know that evangelism comes in many forms and that of course you naturally evangelize or draw others to Christ by exemplifying/mirroring Christ’s love. That said, we don’t want to be accused of being Pharisee’s who were so focused in defending “their” interpretations that they missed the bigger picture. There are lots of churched people people going to hell- I think it’s been hinted at more than a few times and that’s my point.
Just as you point a finger at the big mean nasty LBGT hating church that can often be accused of making straight people feel warm and cuddly in their theology, we do the same when we give people a reason to feel warm and cuddly, and completely miss the point that people need salvation. As an unsaved fourteen year old boy I generally went to church every week” hearing but rarely seeing”- so what was I? I was a pig in a pew with a clip on tie. So now as a Christian adult , I am an outsider looking in as far as the LBGT community is concerned. Sometimes I don’t see what others see. But as a Christian I would use my God given gifts to tell this “ostracized” group “why they need Christ”, not why they need a cleaned up church. There never has been a squeaky clean church and there never will be. I’m not saying that what you’re doing is not important “but” sometimes the things we leave out in a conversation, are the things that are spoken the loudest.
Look brother, you didn’t teach me about the problems of the church, where the church had misinformed and mistreated, and lied to me. It was your preaching in a loving way that I needed salvation is what led me to Christ- “THAT” is what made “ALL” the difference in transforming a pig in a clip-on tie. And trust me there are plenty of LBGT people wearing that same tie in the same unloving church that need to hear what you preached to me in the middle of the night. Remember how I cried. That I was saved and that I felt that a thousand pounds were lifted from my shoulders? I am a new person. That’s what people are crying out for. You say you weren’t called to be an evangelist? You are, and I’m living proof that you are.
My gay son was active in our Episcopal Church from the day he was born – quite literally, since he attended choir practice with his dad and me until they were able to hire a childcare person. He went to parochial school, he grew up with the sons and daughters of our priest and vestry people, he served as an acolyte at baptisms, marriages, funerals, and almost every Sunday during services. He was meticulous in his attention to detail and form during services, he was the first to offer aid to anyone who needed it – an arm to help someone to a seat, bringing coffee to older members during coffee hour, changing a tire or helping to start a balky car. He was, in short, doing unto others, unto the least of these, showing honor and respect in all ways.
When our long-time priest retired and the ultra-conservative folks in the church brought in an ultra-conservative priest, and when that priest preached that gays, Jews, and other “undesirables” were going to hell, we left that parish church. Why? Because only we and one other person questioned that sermon. The people among whom my son grew up, the people he had helped in their spiritual and personal lives, the people who requested that he serve as acolyte during their most important life events, not one of those people stood up and protested a sermon that was as far removed from love as anything I’ve ever heard preached.
When my son told me that he’s gay, I’ll admit, it was a shock. I wanted to “cure” him, wanted him to be “normal.” It didn’t take long for God’s Spirit to speak to me. What did the Spirit say? “This is your son. He is the same person today that he was yesterday, the day before, and for his whole life. Nothing about him has changed. You have just acquired new knowledge of him. Love him and bless him, for he is a child of God, just as you are.”
I’ve never looked back.
Thanks for sharing your story, Cheryle. My wife and I left a United Methodist congregation under similar circumstances. Without knowing more, it sounds like the new priest’s sermon could have been calculated to provoke just such a response. But that’s speculation.
Diane responded similarly to you–she went through every stage of the grief process. But it never entered her head to force Jonathan out of the house. He’d been out for about six months when she said, “Since it’s a choice, why can’t you date girls and fall in love with one?” He said, “Mom, it’s not a choice. It is so hard being gay. No one would choose to be gay.”
That did it for Diane. She knew about Jonathan’s suicide attempts, about his depression, about his desperate prayers asking God to take away these desires. Diane realized, “No, Jonathan didn’t choose to be gay.”
I have come to realize that when I am at my least spiritual and least trusting of God, I am at my most “controlling” and judgmental. It is not easy for me to allow God to be God. I seem to think that I will become one of his favorites when I go about tell others how to live. I Seem to think that I am somehow holy when I determine that others are not. Of course, when I read Christ’s words, I realize that such behavior is (for me) the antithesis of love and personal holiness.
I cannot speak for others. I do not know how God works in their lives. If he is revelatory of a theology of exclusion in their lives, I guess then that I was created to make them feel special. They will always be welcome in my world, even though I can feel their palpable disdain for my very existence.
I hold to the scriptures that tell us Christ loves us enough to give himself for the salvation of all. His own words tell us what we must do to show our love to him and secure our place in heaven, feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, clothe and give shelter the poor and needy, tend to the ill, visit those in prison. But then again, I don’t know a lot about theology and figure that I should master the basic words of Christ before I start working out who is saved and who isn’t and what translation is really the word of God.
Thanks for being loving to your correspondent. It’s a good witness to the rest of us.
Yea and Amen to that.
Just a word about the possibility that God is “revelatory of a theology of exclusion in their lives.” I am increasingly persuaded that this can actually happen, if only because it happens in reverse. An MCC church will welcome anyone, but a Fred Phelps clone would eventually be shown the door. Or imagine an NA meeting: “Hi, my name is Brian, and if you need a hookup for some of the good stuff, I’m your man.”
I must emphasize, however, that this is not a loop hole through which to drive a bus or an excuse for bigotry. It may just be my impulse to be overly reasonable. What is it they say? — “It’s complicated.”
In the Hebrew Bible, there is no precise definition of “sin” and, in fact, there is no precise word for sin. The most common notion in biblical-era Aramaic/Hebrew is “to err,” “to trespass,” or “to transgress.” There is a significant difference which, unfortunately, has not filtered into the Christian translation and understanding of the Hebrew Bible.
There’s a similar thing going on with the Greek word hamartia, usually translated as “sin.” In a blog discussion a conservative pastor wrote that sin was always rebellion, pure rebellion. But the word hamartia simply means “missing the mark.” It has a broad spectrum of meanings that includes ignorant, mistaken, or accidental wrongdoing, as well as deliberate inequity, error, or sin.
People who emphasize sin and punishment seem to have a habit of exaggerating related Biblical words. A prime example of that is the word “abomination,” to’ebah. We thunder the words, “Homosexuality is an abomination to God!” But it would sound just a little silly to bellow out, “Eating shrimp or rabbit is an abomination to God!” Or “If you have sex with your wife during her period, we must cut you off from the church!” And by the way: having sex with your wife during her period is a sexual sin.
Endlessly trawling through Scripture to find eternal life puts one in ominous company. John 5: 39 has Jesus saying to the Pharisees: “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”
Sitting on Moses’ seat (Matthew 23: 2), i.e. being expert in the Law, doesn’t enable one to keep people out of hell, only out of heaven (Matthew 23: 13) and less likely to recognize the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy and faith (Matthew 23: 23). A trail of others’ exclusion, hurt, depression and suicide in the wake of a crusade for ‘righteousness’ is unpromising fruit (Matthew 7: 15 – 19). The trouble with the Pharisees is that they were so right they were dead wrong. The other trouble with the Pharisees is that there are so many around today. Let’s call a spade a spade.
It’s hard to see yourself among the scribes and Pharisees, but I’m pretty sure I would have been in their company if I’d lived in Jerusalem back then. I would have been lobbying the Roman Occupational Government to execute this upstart nobody who was more popular than he deserved, and was continually making us look bad.
This is exactly why I disavow Christianity completely altogether. I will not tolerate the bickering over whether I am good and just or not. I reject this religion entirely, which was set up to keep everyone at odds. Forbid anyone should get together to try and agree on religion!
“We have ringers in place to keep that from ever happening, or we’re screwed.” — A Deviant Mind, 09/22/11
Many people have disavowed Christianity completely. I’ve been learning for decades that I need to think carefully about sticking around where I’m not wanted or valued. I don’t have a hard-and-fast rule about that. It’s important to be able to learn what our gifts are, what we’re good at, and have the opportunity to do that.
There are divisions and subgroups within every large human grouping. Islam has Shiites, Sunnis, the Nation of Islam, Sufis, etc. Democrats are divided into labor, feminists, the Congressional Black Caucus, Democratic Hispanic Caucus, Blue Dog Democrats, etc. This is just a fact among human beings. It’s a really individual matter how we handle the inevitable friction and rhetoric that result from human diversity.
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Through it all, Jesus is our final Judge. He has defined ALL sin as lack of love. Matthew 22:36-40 should qualify homosexuality as a sin but it does not. His Gospel writers and the Prophets never condemned homosexuality. Why? Because there are no unloved or hurt people due to homosexual “sin”. Sins have victims, either self or others. Any New Testament reference to “homosexuality” are false since the word wasn’t coined until about 1865.