Daily Archives: September 28, 2008

J. Mark Brewer: you are an embarrassment to the Orthodox Church

Phil Groom writes:

So writes Tikhon, in response to yesterday’s Lies, Damned Lies and St Stephen the Great:

Speaking as a lay Orthodox Christian, I need to remind Mr. Brewer that he has absolutely no right to be involved in any kind of “missionary work” here without the blessing of the canonical Orthodox Bishops present in the U.K.

It goes without saying that anyone involved in any business seeking to promote Orthodoxy in the U.K. will have to display a scrupulous attention to the welfare of staff employed, as well as compliance with all relevant laws, and conduct the business in a honest way – which includes paying suppliers and not misleading a regulator or a Court. That should all be fairly basic, but Mr. Brewer seems not to grasp it.

As Mr. J. Mark Brewer reads this blog, let me say to him, and to the members of his family concerned, each and every one of them : you are an embarrassment to the Orthodox Church. Please wind up your involvement with SSG and leave the Orthodox in the U.K. alone. We can develop our Church with God’s help and without yours, thank you. And please do this NOW.

Tikhon is far from the first person from the Orthodox community to express such displeasure with the Brewers. Steve Hayes, a USA based [1] South African Orthodox blogger, wrote a longish post entitled How NOT to do mission back on 5th August this year. I’ve drawn attention to this before, but here are his opening paragraphs:

I came across this textbook example about how not to do mission on the Elizaphanian blog recently. If you want to see a compendium of missiological errors, it’s almost all here — arrogance, condescension, cultural insensitivity and rank injustice.

What saddened me especially was that this particular example, the St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust, claims to be linked with the Orthodox Church.

The SSG Trust is apparently buying redundant churches in Britain and turning them into Orthodox Churches. But this has apparently caused problems for some Orthodox congregations, as reported by the OrthodoxWiki site:

St Osmund’s Church in Poole, acquired by the SSG in 2005, became mired in controversy in August 2007, when the Orthodox congregation there, led by Fr Chrysostom MacDonnell, walked out of the Church and decamped over to St Edmund Campion Roman Catholic Church in Bournemouth. Fr MacDonnell stated “We parted company with Mr Brewer and his organisation, as we found that the way in which they operated was contrary to our deanery statutes regarding the control of parishes.”

Even worse, however, was their takeover of the SPCK bookshops in England, and then attempting to foist employment contracts on the staff that would have made Mr Gradgrind look like a saint. Many of the staff were fired, and the bookshops were allowed to run down and many of them were closed.

It’s well worth reading the rest of that post and Steve’s follow-up article, Avoiding mistakes in mission.

Looking back even further, on 15 December 2007, Father Gregory Hallam posted at Ship of Fools about the situation in Poole:

Brewer engineered a change of bishop effectively depriving us of the building. In this he consulted neither the community, its priest nor our Dean. 

He claimed that our bishop (who died shortly afterwards) agreed to this. Strange that, since our bishop sought to get an explanation of this development from the other bishop concerned after we alerted him to this. 

Why would have tried to do this if he had already agreed to the arrangement? Is it conceivable that he would have transferred one of his own parishes to another bishop without informing or consulting the people concerned? Why would he do that? I am at a loss to understand, (since we all knew our bishop and his integrity). Unfortunately our bishop died before any of us could find out any more.

Sound familiar?

Let’s put it this way. Orthodox in this country now would rather see a redundant church become a warehouse than be acquired by this Trust. [my emphasis – PG]

 More from Father Gregory here. Hopefully this and the excerpt from OrthodoxWiki should more or less answer yesterday’s query from asingleblog; the Brewers may own the building, but they don’t own the church.

Mark Brewer: not long ago, when you attempted to file SSG for bankruptcy, you 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?

I’m sorry to say that it’s proving no problem whatsoever to find things to write about, and to the best of my knowledge we have not slandered anyone: the truth isn’t slander, no matter how uncomfortable it makes you.

But I would like to echo your question, as you seem so fond of doing: you’ve brought Christian bookselling into disrepute; you’ve brought Durham Cathedral into disrepute; you’re still bringing SPCK into disrepute; the Bankruptcy Courts in Texas; and the Orthodox Church. Who else will you now bring into disrepute?