Monthly Archives: July 2008

Mark Brewer says, “Remove this page. Immediately.”

Which page, you ask? Well five pages, actually, specified in an email he sent on July 21st whilst I was on holiday. I’ll probably tell you about the others later, if somebody else doesn’t beat me to it. But it’s his demand that I remove the fifth one on his list of supposedly offensive pages that really has me riled:

5. http://www.christianbookshops.org.uk/spckdonate.htm (Support SPCK’s Booksellers, and the Phil Groom administered “fund”)

And if I don’t remove it?

If you do not do so; i.e., remove your websites by noon GMT July 22, 2008, I will seek an injunction against you, your colleagues, associates and companies.  I also will take legal action against each of you for damages for libel.  In that event, I will also subpoena all records relating to the persons whom you have allowed to post defamatory material on your website in order to add them as defendants.

Mark Brewer

So it’s not just me he’s gonna get, dear people: it’s you, if you’ve posted “defamatory material” on my website. As well as my “colleagues, associates and companies”. That’s a lot of people he’s threatening. But since, to the best of my knowledge, no one has posted any “defamatory material” on my website — on any of my websites, for that matter — I wouldn’t get too stressed if I were you. And the deadline’s been and gone, of course…

A friend commented on a remarkable coincidence: the date of that deadline is the same day that Randy W Williams issued his motion to dismiss SSG’S file for liquidation. 

But I am now so very, very angry. How dare Mr Brewer target the very page that I set up to raise funds to support the people whose livelihoods have been destroyed by this fiasco??

It's fun to shop...

My only interest in this situation throughout has been to support these people, and (although hopes for this faded some time ago) to try and salvage something from the ruin that SSG has made of the former SPCK bookshops. Why? Because as Dave Walker kept reminding us, “It’s fun to shop at the SPCK”.

As you’ll see from my earlier correspondence with Mr Brewer — you’ll find it here — I’ve invited Mr Brewer to send me up to date details about the shops several times so that I can help to promote them and help people to find them.

And this outrageous demand to remove my Save the SPCK Booksellers page is his response!

Mr J Mark Brewer: I put it to you that this demand is malicious. I put it to you that the accusations you have made against me in your emails are libellous and defamatory and have no basis in fact.

I invite you, publicly, to retract this demand, to apologise and, as a gesture of good will, to make an immediate donation of £100,000 to the  Save the SPCK Booksellers fund, for redistribution to the booksellers whose livelihoods have been wrecked.

Only then will I be convinced that you have not deliberately set out to undermine these good people.

Thank you.

Elizaphanian’s “Cease & Desist” from Mark Brewer

Dave Walker isn’t the only one who’s been harassed by Mark Brewer. But I think we all knew that anyway…

After seeking legal advice, Sam Norton (Elizaphanian) has now posted the full text of his correspondence with Mr Brewer here: My correspondence with J Mark Brewer

Pipped to the post again. Sigh. Do go read it…

Update: Mark Brewer has responded to Sam with an emphatic denial that Dave’s situation is anything to do with him:

Mr. Walker is in no way a victim of anything done or not done, said or not said by me. I have no idea what you are on about in saying such a thing. I cannot fathom your judgmental presumptiveness in telling me to apologize to him.

(Mark Brewer’s emphasis)

Sam’s courage and forthrightness in going public has — not surprisingly! — attracted plenty of attention from readers here in the UK and in the USA: here’s his comments page; again, do go read it…

Update 31/07/2008: Sam Norton Solidarity Posts

Pensions and PAYE

Once again we are indebted to asingleblog, who raised this issue last night:

After looking at the court documents a number of questions were raised about pensions and PAYE. Someone I know, it wasn’t me, rang the CofE Pensions Board and was most frustrated. He was extensively questioned and was surprised that he was the first person to contact them. He is still not clear whether his employer contribution and his “own contribution” has been paid into the fund. If others are worried about their SPCK pensions please ring 020 7898 1800 and ask for Peter Dickinson.

My friend should not be the only one to ring the Pension Board.

This morning, Raymond replied:

Asingleblog, thanks for flagging this. Your friend is not the only person making enquiries. I spoke to HMRC on Monday and they were helpful. The advice re: tax and NI is for people to write in to the PAYE office shown on their tax coding letter with theit NI number and tax code, explain the situation (I reported the attempted “bankruptcy” and the link to MinistryofTruth’s excellent blog for the documents) and ask them to investigate. The lady I spoke to was apologetic- the process is not quick- but they will put an investigator on the case. Do the same with the Pensions Board- write in with your pension reference, explain the situation and ask them to investigate. You may not get personal info by phoning.
 

Comments from Cardiff

Congratulations to Tom Arthur, Ruth Dickinson and Terry Cox on getting the new Churches Together Bookshop in Cardiff up and running. In the midst of all the chaos and bad vibes caused by Mark Brewer’s ‘Cease and Desist’ notices, it’s great to be able to report some good news. Somewhat ironically, the day the shop opened, July 22nd, was the same day Dave Walker had to pull the plug on his ‘Save the SPCK’ pages — the day the blogosphere exploded in Mark Brewer’s face. Little did you realise how much support there was out there for you, Dave: here’s to the day you get those posts back online!

Tom Arthur relates how things in Cardiff all fell apart then were pulled back together here:

[Editor’s note: I’ve taken the liberty of adding some links, correcting a couple of typos and inserting some extra paragraph breaks… hope you’ll forgive me for that, Tom. Original posted here, July 23rd.]

Picking up on Phil Groom’s query, we have Ruth Dickinson as manager at the Cardiff shop full time with Terry Cox assisting. Both had been working for SSG when SSG closed the Cardiff shop. We opened yesterday, 22 July. It has been quite a journey.

About fifteen years ago we took in SPCK when they were no longer able to afford city centre rents, so there has been a book shop at City United Reformed Church for quite a while. When SSG took over we began hearing customers’ concerns at the same time as we were following the background drama on the Cartoon Blog and listening to Ruth and Terry’s experience of Brewer bullying.

At one point Mark Brewer sent me an email asking us to take over the shop as a franchise (with a contract almost ridiculously slanted in his favour) and he wanted it signed and returned by that Friday. If it wasn’t so sad this Brewer episode in the life of the British book trade would be laughable. The short story is that when they closed the shop here at the end of March the elders appointed me and our church secretary, Patrick Hickey, to explore a way forward, which we did, and I am now chair of a board of directors of which Patrick is secretary.

The Brewers wanted £5,000 for the fittings and fixtures. We locked them out and said nothing was moving until the last quarter of rent was paid. So we got the fittings and fixtures and the safe and etc and so on. With backing from the national ecumenical organisation for Wales we named the new shop Churches Together Bookshop, and we got financial backing from City Church, the URC’s National Synod of Wales and the Church in Wales (Anglican).

SPCK’s Simon Kingston has been particularly helpful as we were putting together a business plan, as has been Margaret Leaming of Edinburgh’s Cornerstone Bookshop (which went independent of SPCK about a dozen years ago). I find this whole thing rather scarey. As a scholar and a cleric I am singularly unprepared to launch a new career in business. But this is something that simply had to be done for the sake of Welsh churches. There was no other mainstream-to-liberal Christian bookshop in the whole principality.

We are planning a Grand Opening the first week in September and want to invite everyone who is anyone to celebrate this adventure. I’m hoping this can be a gathering at which some of the major concerns can be addressed that have been floating around on the blogs over the last several months. The issues are not just for the book trade, for for the health of a battered church.

Terry and Ruth posted this brief note here on July 23rd:

Just to let you know Phil that we are up and running, as from Tuesday 22nd July, and that business is going well.

Thanks to everyone for your prayers and best wishes

Terry Cox & Ruth Dickinson

Later that evening, Ruth wrote:

On behalf of Churches Together Bookshop, Cardiff, thank you for your good wishes, prayers and support over the last few months. We opened our doors on the 22nd and have been delighted to see so many people, visiting and buying! A grander re-opening/blessing is planned for early September.

Judith, we look forward to catching up with you. If you go to the website http://www.ctbooks.org.uk and click on “opening hours ” you’ll hopefully see the inside of the shop, with some prominently displayed books by Dave.

Hope anyone visiting Cardiff will take time to pop in and see us.

Electronic Bankruptcy Notice for St Stephen the Great LLC, Case No. 08-33689-H1-7

asingleblog posted the following summary of this document as a comment back on July 22nd:

Most creditors will have received this but I’m posting a summary on this site just in case.

Basically there has been a Chapter 7 Trustee’s motion to dismiss SSG’S file for liquidation. Randy W. Williams has based his case for dismissal on these points (again a summary):

– There are a number of inconsistencies in the filing and a number of practical factors that favor dismissal of this case. The inconsistencies are that the Debtor’s legal name is not St Stephens the Great LLC.

– There is no St Stephens the Great LLC or a dba for anyone to operate under that name. The legal name of the entity alleged to be the Debtor in this case is St Stephens the Great, which is the same name as a registered in the United Kingdom. And while there do appear to be two separate St Stephens the Great entities, the information provided to the Trustee is that the taxpayer identification number given for the Debtor is the same number for the registered charity.

– The petition states that the Debtor is not for profit entity under the Internal Revenue Code, but the Debtor has no Internal Revenue Service Employee Identification Number.

It then goes on to argue the case of SSG operating in England and Wales and the practical considerations of creditors attending hearings in America.

Wish I could scan the whole thing but I can’t.

The entire document can now be downloaded here: electronic-bankruptcy-notice-ssg.pdf — as the filename indicates, it’s a pdf so you’ll need a pdf reader to open it. At just under 752kb it’s a fairly hefty file: if you’re on dial-up you’re in for a bit of a wait…

Comments Now Open

My thanks to Phelim in particular and to everyone else who has continued to post comments here since Dave Walker found himself in too deep. Solidarity, Dave: you’ve done an excellent job over the last couple of years keeping us all up to speed: grace and peace to you.

This site remains open and comments are welcome, but please comment with courtesy, truthfully, responsibly and respectfully bearing in mind that if push comes to shove I may call upon you to testify to the veracity of your comments in court. This site is explicitly and specifically for news, notes and info along with related discussions: if you wish to post anything other than this, please follow asingleblog’s example and open your own blog.

Should you wish to import the contents of this site to your own blog, please download, unzip then upload this file*, but whilst this site remains open it would be best if you turn comments off on the uploaded posts, please, and refer your visitors to this site: far better, I think, if we can keep comments on the same post all together. As and when time permits, the file will be updated so that you can include the latest posts and comments: please bookmark this page if you wish to take advantage of this.

Thank you.


* Download problems? Windows users: right-click on the link; Mac users: ctrl-click on the link; then choose “Download to…” (or similar) from the pop-up menu. It’s a standard .zip file so should unzip with a double-click.

Still having problems? OK: link to the plain text .xml file below, but be aware that it’s bigger and will take a tad longer to download: spckssg.2008-07-28.xml — if it opens in your browser, come back and try the right-click/ctrl-click trick described above…

Comments on Moderation

As Phil Groom is on holiday he has asked me to look after the site (I am an officer so have some rights). In the light of the threats made to Dave Walker by the Brewers I have set all comments to moderation. As yet I have not heard from Phil where to go with the blog so am being as careful as I can. As this is not my blog I can not morally remove posts but will check them all out.

Other blogs exists but unless I have permission I will not be posting them here, I will email them out to people who want to know – but beware I need proof of who you are. Also I have set this post for no comments as this may not be the best place to discuss. Sorry about the tighter security but I need to be careful for Phil’s sake.

 

EDIT – the comments below are pingbacks and will take you to Wardman’s Wire where you can see what he is up to concerning this issue. Ot go to spckwatch on live journal.

Employment Tribunals Notice Posted

In the matter of complaints of unfair dismissal, and redundancy payment, notice period

Direction of the President: In the matter of complaints of unfair dismissal, and redundancy payment, notice period

By Order of His Hon. Judge Meeran, President, details of a number of pending employment tribunals have been posted on the Employment Tribunals website. The notice, in MS Word format, is dated 20 June 2008 although I (Phil Groom writing) only stumbled across it myself this week; not sure when it was actually posted.

Google have helpfully translated it into HTML format so you don’t need Word to read it, or there’s a pdf version here: take your pick.

Interestingly the document lists the respondents as

  1. St Stephen the Great Limited Co
  2. St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust
  3. ENC Management Company

which perhaps suggests that if setting up the ENC Management Company was some sort of attempt by the Brewers to duck out of their employer’s responsibilities under their earlier SSG guises, then it’s an attempt that has failed. H H Judge Meeran, it seems, is not that easily outwitted, even by clever Texan lawyers…

The notice orders specifically that:

  1. The claims in the attached schedule, and any additional claims in England & Wales identified as raising the same or similar issues, be subject to an Order for combined proceedings under Rule 10 of Schedule 1 to the Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) Regulations 2004.
  2. And it is further Ordered that these claims be transferred to the Bury St Edmunds office of the London East region, for the Regional Employment Judge to give directions for the consideration and expeditious disposal of the claims.
  3. A copy of this Direction be sent to ACAS and to all known interested parties, and be published on the Tribunals Service website at http://www.tribunals.gov.uk.

So here it is, as directed, available to all interested parties. Here’s wishing the claimants every success!

A Letter to Mark Brewer

A few days ago — on the eve of Steve Jeyne’s memorial service — Mark Brewer wrote:

Now that SSG is in liquidation, you and your most of your readers must be elated . . . except whatever will you find to write about and who will you now slander?

Several people have responded. But this response from Pax Vobiscum perhaps sums up most effectively how most of us feel:

Dear Mark Brewer

The 600+ people who filled Worcester Cathedral on Monday for the Thanksgiving Service following the funeral of Steve Jeynes were not elated. They wanted to give thanks for a wonderful life of Christian witness, for a dedicated Christian Bookseller who had brought many to faith and for a husband, father, friend who meant so much to them. They were shocked, saddened, angry, but they were not elated.

The 100+ Christian Booksellers around the country who have had their careers, their ministries thrown in the gutter over the past year are not elated. They are upset, angry, struggling to rebuild their lives.

The myriad suppliers, who have not been paid are not elated. They are downhearted, some made financially unstable, others have lost an integral outlet for their goods.

The Christian communities which relied on their SPCK Bookshop as a resource centre for their mission and spiritual growth are not elated. Some, like Worcester, feel that one of their vital organs has been ripped out and stomped upon.

What has happened to the SPCK/SSG Bookshops over the last 18 months has caused so much needless hurt, so much pain, so much impoverishment of certain areas of the Christian faith in the UK that it is impossible to feel elation over the ‘bankruptcy’ of SSG. Only relief that this whole sorry episode is drawing to a close.

Steve Jeynes: A Life Remembered

Hundreds expected to bookseller’s memorial

Worcester News, 4/7/2008: Hundreds expected to bookseller’s memorial

Hundreds of people, including many ex-SPCK booksellers, are expected to gather at Worcester Cathedral at 3.30pm today to remember and show their respect for Steve Jeynes, the former manager of SPCK’s Worcester branch who was found dead, apparently having taken his own life, just over a week ago.

As reported here previously, Joy Jeynes, Steve’s widow, has issued a call to continue to pray for God’s work in Worcester. A few of the many tributes and expressions of sympathy for Steve’s family that have poured in — and continue to pour in — are reproduced below. 

Trevor Gibb, 30/06/2008:

Steve was one of the first people I knew in Worcester when I moved here in 1989. As the manager of Icthus Christian Bookshop he was a lively, loving man with a passion for Christ and a heart for the lost. Steve did not just work in the Icthus bookshop he served in it. He saw his work as ministry and was used by God to pray for and witness to many, many people.

He took this zeal with him to the SPCK shop and saw his role there in the same way as as he saw his role at the Icthus shop, serving God by praying and witnessing. This was Steves passion. I am in no doubt that Steve is with the Lord he loved so much in his earthly journey.

Steve Supported ALL the ministries in Worcester and was also committed to supporting the local churches.

Steve will be sadly missed by those who knew him. And he would be glad to know that so many are supporting Joy and the Children in prayer and concern.

Rest in peace mate your brother and fellow worker in Christ
Trevor Gibb, Director Worcester City Mission

Brian Fowler, 01/07/2008:

I am deeply saddened by the turn of events that left Steve so distressed and unable to face the future. All who have been associated with SPCK bookshops have suffered heartbreak as the bookshops chain has been devalued and decimated especially in the very short time since SSG took over the chain. Staff of the former SPCK believed passionately in the cause for which they worked, namely spreading the word of God. Steve worked untiringly for this cause and that will be his epitaph.

Mark Smith, 02/07/2008:

Oh my dear old friend and Brother in Christ. May you rest in the arms of our loving heavenly Father and may He now wipe every tear from your eyes, place a smile on your face and a song of joyous praise on your lips as you sing with the Saints in glory.

I first met Steve just over 31years ago whilst looking for some trendy clothes to wear (he was the manager of a men’s wear shop in Worcester). He always had a smile or grin on his face and, no mater what the circumstances, always had a word of encouragement. Later, when at the Icthus Christian Bookshop he was just the same and although I only saw him infrequently, after having moved from Worcester, I would sometimes bump into him and, as always, he would listen, empathize and then his face would begin to shine and then beam as he uttered a few salient words of encouragement. He was never judgmental and like others I always felt better for having spent time in his presence.

God Bless you Steve, I look forward to the time when I bump into you again and recognize you by your smile. I know that when that happens my own smile will for once, match yours.

Joy, please accept my sincere condolences and know that you and the family will be our prayers.

Janet Fuller, 03/07/2008:

Steve was a lovely, humble, caring, helpful servant of the Lord, whose work was not just a job, but a ministry to all with whom he came into contact. He will be sorely missed by us all. May you, Joy, and your family know the Lord’s eternal arms around you at this sad time, and His strength to face the coming days.

Ewan Gear, 07/07/2008:

I have only just heard. What a shock. What a loss.

Steve’s death is a great loss to all who knew him. I have maintained a friendship with Steve through the years since he began as the Manager at Ichthus. Most weeks I called in to see him and have a chat.

He never failed to greet me whith a characteristic “Hello Ewan!”, and would not only draw my attention to a book or three, but would invariably introduce me to anyone else who happenned to be in the shop. He had a real interest in people which led to him knowing everybody’s name, where they were from, and what church they went to.

I , who knew him only in passing, will miss him a lot. My deepest sympathy and compassion go out to the family and those who were closer than I.

The Christian community of the City of Worcester will be much the poorer for his absence.

We talked often of the ongoing difficulties he was having with the St Stephen the Great “charity”, and his dilemmas regarding whether to continue working with them as their behaviour towards SPCK and the staff seemed increasingly unethical and unchristian. This was balanced against his own sense of mission to the people of Worcester.

He showed me several of the e-mails he had received, and I had been shocked at their inhumane attitudes, and had formed a very low opinion of them and their ways. I personally hold them partially responsible for bringing Steve to the position where his life ended.

I pray that some good will come out of this situation and that in remembering Steve in the future, it will allways be with a grin, rather than with any bitterness towards those who added to his burrdens in life. I take confidence in the truth that God is the Judge, and that Steve’s reception into Glory will be an honourable one.

For more tributes see: 

Update 8/7/2008
Doug Chaplin has written about the service here: