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?

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

  1. Does anyone know if SSGCT has ever been endorsed by any branch of the Orthodox church?

  2. Matt, I don’t believe that he has endorsed by any branch of the Orthordox church in Britain. It was why I wondered who paid the priest. She priest use the spck-online e-mail address until the spck took action. I was having a little chat with a Greek Orthodox priest from London who uses a Roman Catholic church. I mentioned SSG and suggested he contact them if he wanted help getting his own church. I was not being mischievous. He said he knew Fr Hallam and closed that part of the discussion.

    What the Brewer contact is with the Antiochian Orthodox church in America is open to question. I looked at their website some months ago and found no mention of the charity.

  3. As for Mark Brewer claiming in that infamous YouTube movie starring none other than Mark Brewer, he had a church in Gateshead all lined up. Well it went to a group who want to turn the Gatehead church into a stained glass museum. He was never going to get it – not after he was exposed. He has in fact got 52 churches earmarked. In a radio interview he was going to change Chichester into an orthodox church (small o used deliberately) with a bookstand at the back. Now why hasn’t he done so?

  4. asingleblog – I guess that’s a rhetorical question – but I’ll still give some sort of answer and let Phelim phil you in with the phull details. Chichester shop is a church still owned by the Diocese of Chichester. All sorts of ecclesiastical hoops would have to be jumped through before it could be used for another denomination. The Diocese of Chichester are probably limited by the terms of their lease with SPCK how much they could jump in and close the shop down, but they could certainly step in if it was being used for unauthorised worship.

  5. Just a note of clarification: Dcn Steve Hayes is South African, not American or based in the USA.

  6. Actually Pax, it wasn’t a rhetorical question. Thanks for your answer. On the face of it these leases are quite simple – I don’t know what the Chichester lease is like but generally there can be six months notice one way or the other.

  7. who’s sol

  8. From the Orthodox Poole website:

    “For the grace of God, and by the intercessions of Saint Stephen the Great, the Saint Stephen the Great Charitable Trust (Reg. No. 1109008) successfully took possession of this magnificent Church of England church in Poole, Dorset in May 2005.

    The church was consecrated and named Saint Stephen the Great Church on the 12th of August, 2007 by Metropolitan Joseph as a part of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Western Europe.

    With God’s will, the church is being restored to its former glory and will remain as a prominent landmark for future generations.”

    Christopher Howse commented briefly about this in his blog back in June: Orthodox Exodus.

    ‘Flying Bishop’ scenario or something; if it happened on the road we’d probably call it a hit-and-run…

  9. so is SSG affiliated with the Metropolitan Ardchdiocese of Western Europe then?

  10. At one stage they claimed he was a trustee.

  11. Matt, I’m linked to a parish which is linked to the Romanian Orthodox Church. We host Romanian ordinands – the links are great. The ordinands are fantastic. They say they know very little about SSG but they think their metropolitan might have made a mistake.

  12. So they seem to think, Matt, but a Google search for “Metropolitan Archdiocese of Western Europe” doesn’t get us any further. Another case of a non-existent entity like SSG LLC?

    Sol, thanks for that: corrected; apologies to all for any confusion.

    Asingleblog: who is sol? See here.

  13. i tried the ‘google it’ tactic too phil and didn’t get anything. nor anything of use on orthodoxwiki.

  14. To use a Phil Brewer phrase, “Nobody like us.”

  15. Have to buy a new keyboard it won’t keep up with my thoughts.

  16. Nobody likes the Brewers. That’s what Phil Brewer said. The “s” key gets stuck.

  17. Matt on the comments in the YouTube movie and for the record, I’m not going back there.

  18. asingleblog, did Phil not say everybody loves ….. but nobody loves Phil everybody say Ahh!!!!

  19. Aequitas, I’m serious about the “s” word on my keyboard being stuck. Matt, I went back to Mark Brewer rescuing all of christendom much as I hated to do so. (never say never I remind myself). Party B asked the same question you ask and SSGCT answered him/her.

  20. Hi, asingleblog. I’m an Orthodox Christian in the UK.

    I don’t know if I should take it from your comment that this is some sort of closed environment. Sorry if I commented inappropriately.

    I just happened upon a trackback link left on Steve Hayes’ blog, where I had left a comment. It appears from my stats that quite a few people have clicked through from Steve’s blog to my own comments about this situation, buried in an unrelated post.

  21. Matt I went and did it again. SSGCT said on YouTube, “His Eminence, Metropolitan Archbishop Joseph Pop (Romanian Patriachate – Western Europe) is a founding trustee and consecrated the first church of the Trust.

    When the SSG were accused of being a fringe movement there was this comment from SSG, “surely you do not consider Metropolitan Joseph, founding trustee of SSG, part of a fringe movement. Surely Father Gregory does not! Say it isn’t so! (NB – Metropolitan Joseph is the one conducting the August 2007 consecration in the video). Don’t bother looking – the Brewers are the only trustees. They just use people.

  22. Sorry Sol, real sorry. Howzit. I was just amazed at the global reach of this blog. That’s why I asked, “who’s Sol?”

  23. Sol, as this site’s administrator, allow me to say that you are most welcome: thank you for commenting. This is an open house: please do feel free to comment at any point.

  24. Thanks for the info asingleblog. So the Brewers are the only trustees of SSG left. You can clearly see why it might be said that they’re just moving money around between SSG, ENC, BandP e.t.c. Hey, that kind of has a rythem too!!

  25. Hi all,

    I’m a British Orthodox Christian and can (hopefully) make some sense out of this situation.

    SSG invited a Romanian Archbishop (who overseas the whole west of europe under the Romanian Patriarchate) to consecrate the building in Poole which was to be used by a parish under the Antiochian Patriarchate (which had it’s own western-europe Archbishop who was very ill at the time, and who subsequently died). Neither of these bishops resided in the UK.

    Flying bishops indeed. It would be like getting the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church to consecrate a building intended for worship by a parish under the Archbishop of York without ++York being informed or consenting to the consecration.

    I don’t know the motives of Metropolitan Joseph, but the Romanian Orthodox I have met in this country are lovely, mission minded people and they wouldn’t agree to the motives or tactics of SSG one bit. They are, however, quite ethnically orientated (as are many of the Orthodox communities in this country) and therefore not 100% ‘up to speed’ with the language and politics of jurisdictional issues. I suspect that SSG manipulated the Archbishop into unwittingly doing something which is actually quite a scandal in Orthodoxy, the invasion of one canonical territory by another. However, in these ethnically ‘mixed’ times, canonical territories can get a bit confusing and so I think any error was misguided rather than malicious on the part of the Romanian Patriarchate.

    As for the Brewers Orthodoxy….I believe that their ‘home jurisdiction’ is/was the American Antiochian Archdiocese and that they are ‘persona non grata’ within that community somewhat….

    Orthodoxy IS it’s Bishops, and ones Orthodoxy is reflected by ones answer to the question, ‘Who is your Bishop?’. In the case of SSG, I don’t believe that ANY jurisdiction/patriarchate/bishop has continued to align itself with their ‘mission’ so, apart from what appears to be an accidental involvement of a Romanian Metropolitan, SSG finds itself outside any canonical community.

    In Orthodox language this = NOT Orthodox.

  26. Thanks Richard – that’s helpful. Can’t help wondering if there’s anywhere left that the Brewers are NOT ‘persona non grata’ these days…

  27. Pingback: American Werewolves in Durham « SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info

  28. Pingback: An Open Letter to the American Orthodox Institute « SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info

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