Monthly Archives: December 2008

An Open Letter to the American Orthodox Institute

Phil Groom writes:

Letter to the American Orthodox Institute,  submitted 30/12/2008 via their Contact Us page:

Dear Friends,

I represent the UK Christian news blog, SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info – – which exists to report upon, scrutinise and provide space for discussion about the acquisition and running of the former SPCK bookshops by the St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust (SSGCT).

Having posted their promotional video on your blog in March this year (, you know that SSGCT purports to be an Orthodox missionary society. It has, however, been disowned by the wider UK Orthodox community, members of which regard its USA based owners, J Mark and Philip W Brewer, as an embarrassment to their church:

The organisation is now operating under several different guises: ENC Management Company, Durham Cathederal [sic] Shop Management Co, Chichester Shop Management Co and Third Space Books; there may well be others – the Brewer family seem to be particularly adept at changing company identities and shuffling assets between their various companies when they come under scrutiny or when bills become due.

Earlier this year, J Mark Brewer attempted to file “St Stephen the Great LLC” for bankruptcy in the USA. This was thrown out by the Court as having been submitted in bad faith and was described by the Trustee of the Court both as an attempt to commit fraud on the court and as an attempt to evade responsibility for debts here in the UK, where many former employees and suppliers to the bookshops remain unpaid.

Mr Brewer also set out to silence reporting on his activities by issuing ‘Cease and Desist’ letters to a number of people, myself included. This appears to have been another part of his strategy to evade his UK creditors by ensuring that evidence needed by the Courts would be inaccessible.

Since then, despite a solemn and legally binding undertaking by covenant to maintain the SPCK shops as Christian bookshops for a period of seven years, he has gone on to sell the Exeter shop (which is now trading as a jewellery store) for the sum of £507,000. We have not yet ascertained what he has done with that money but his former employees and suppliers to the bookshops still remain unpaid whilst the few shops left are inadequately stocked, understaffed and poorly run.

All of these innovative business practices are being carried out in the name of Orthodox mission, in a so-called bid to “Rescue Britain’s Christian Heritage” as per that promotional video. Instead of rescuing Britain’s Christian heritage, however, the Brewer family are trampling it underfoot and treating Christians and non-Christians alike in the UK with contempt.

In his essay “Conflicted Hearts: Orthodox Christian ‘Social Justice’ in an Age of Globalization” John Couretas, your Executive Director, observes that “The Orthodox tradition of social witness is ripe for renewal and revival.”

In his end of year message, Fr. Hans Jacobse comments that “Now more than ever, Orthodox Christians need to make their voices heard on the most important social issues of the day.”

For us here in the UK, one such important social issue is the injustice meted out by the Brewers to their former employees and their suppliers in the name of Orthodox mission. I therefore make bold to suggest that a good starting point for your longed for renewal and revival would be to call the Brewer family and their St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust to order – and if they fail to respond in proper repentance and restitution towards those they have wronged in the UK, then to publicly dissociate AOI from SSGCT and their so-called ‘Orthodoxy’.

Finally, in the interests of transparency, please note that I will be publishing this message as “An Open Letter to the American Orthodox Institute” on our blog. A new year is almost upon us: it would be an immense relief to my colleagues and myself to bring this disgraceful episode to a close before another year passes. I urge, you, please: do all that is in your power to help us achieve this end.

If you need any further information, please feel free to contact me.

Thank you for your attention: I look forward to receiving your response soon.

Yours faithfully,

Phil Groom

Phil Groom
SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info


Exeter: More Missing Pieces – and Threats of Violence?

Phil Groom writes:

Discovered two rather interesting posts yesterday, excerpts below. Click through the titles to read the complete posts. From employment by ‘genuinely lovely people’ to unemployment after learning of threats of violence towards former staff members in just ten days. Is this a record? And was this a one-off or has anyone else been subjected to, witnessed or otherwise encountered threats of violence by the Brewers?

A word to the wise: when considering a new job, run a Google search on your prospective employers first; you may save yourself a lot of grief…

31/10/2007: Wherein Indiana_George Gains Employment… 

Having been unsuccessful in a number of job applicaitons lately, I have been employed by the genuinely lovely people at the Christian Bookshop on the cathedral green. 

Good god it’s unorganized though!

The lady who was supposed to be training me, only started yesterday, and the girl who trained her, quit after three days. 

The other have all been there less that a month. I’m not kidding. No one knows how to use the computer system, except for fairly basic stuff, but no one is bothered because they’re getting new software in a week or two anyway, and everyone will be trained then…

9/11/2007: In Which Indiana_George is Sad

It was nice while it lasted. 

Lovely job, bad bad bad situation. 

Remember previously, I said that everyone had been there less than a month, and that the whole place was badly organized but that it didn’t bother me?

Well, there was a whole lot of stuff that none of us had realised but that actually turned out to be rather important. 

Fistly, it all starts with this.

Which none of us had known when we were all hired. This I found out when one of the previous employees came into the shop briefly to see if the previous manager (actually one of the owners of the whole thing) was still there, to inform him, and by the way us, that the police were now investigating after they were threatened with violence by the owners after trying to get the pay they was owed, but hadn’t been given (along with the rest of the staff, hence the walk out)…

Rescuing Britain’s Christian Heritage: Saint Stephen the Great Charitable Trust lead by J Mark Brewer

Just a little reminder of what they said when they started …

Pages Rearranged

Phil Groom writes:

Apologies for any confusion or inconvenience this may cause: since no one seems to be making use of the jobs page and evidence against the Brewers’ is largely being submitted privately rather than publicly, I figured it was time to move those pages down the hierarchy — which in turn allows me to bring Chichester to the top alongside Durham. Read more >

The Twelve Days of Gerald the Sheep Day Two: Cartoon by Ben Gallagher

Typically, this was the only time Gerald completed a Rubik’s Cube


Cartoon: Ben Gallagher

The Twelve Days of Gerald the Sheep. Day One: Cartoon by Ben Gallagher

The Twelve Days of Gerald the Sheep Day One

The Twelve Days of Gerald the Sheep Day One

Cartoon: Ben Gallagher

Er … woof

Matt Wardman

Where it all started…

Fun to Shop at the SPCK

Fun to Shop at the SPCK

Dave, thanks for flying the flag first and prominently. It was a good thing you did.

(Even though everybody is probably watching Dr Who not this blog.)

A Very Happy Christmas to All this Blog’s Friends and Supporters

Get the Goat this Christmas

Get the Goat this Christmas

Phil Groom writes:

Every year I’ve taken to buying a goat from World Vision instead of sending Christmas cards to my online friends and supporters. This year is no exception: you’ll find the official e-card here, which I’m also sharing with the UKCBD Bloggers.

Thank you for your support and friendship through the past year.

A very Happy Christmas to you all, and my very best wishes for the year to come — the fight continues.

My thoughts and prayers are with you all.

Twas’ Christmas Eve in Saint Stephen the Great’s Bookshop: Christmas Cartoon by Mousey

Twas’ Christmas Eve in the Bookshop…


… and all was not (yet) well.

Cartoon: Mousey