Rescuing Chichester’s Christian Bookshop: New Petition Launched

Phil Groom writes:

Yesterday morning we launched a new petition addressed to the Bishop and Diocese of Chichester: Rescuing Chichester’s Christian Bookshop. By midmorning 25 people had signed; by yesterday evening that number had more than doubled, and as with the Durham petition, my intention is to submit the petition to the Bishop whenever a multiple of 50 signatures is reached… so the first copy will be winging its way to him very soon.

Here’s the full text of the petition:

We, the undersigned, call upon the Bishop of Chichester and the Diocese of Chichester to rescue this once outstanding bookshop, previously part of the SPCK chain, from the control of Philip and Mark Brewer and their changing series of organisations (St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust / St Stephen the Great Limited and now Chichester Shop Management Co). 

The Brewers took control of this bookshop, of the entire SPCK Bookshop chain, with fine sounding words, but actions always speak louder than words: the former Chichester SPCK Bookshop is now but a shadow of its former self. Due to the failure of the Brewers to honour invoices for goods received, suppliers have been left high and dry at a time of recession; and the shelves stood empty until recently when stock was brought in from the former SPCK shop in Norwich, which has now been rescued by the local community in Norwich. 

St Olave’s in Chichester has a claim to be the oldest building in the city, yet is in a desperate state of repair. It was set up through covenant to provide information for the community, yet advertising anything that Philip Brewer considers contrary to the so-called ‘Orthodox’ aims of the charity is banned. Mark Brewer has claimed ownership of St Olave’s Church and has announced plans to turn it into an Orthodox place of worship. These men have abused staff, treated covenants and UK employment law with contempt, disregarded debts to their suppliers, fabricated a bankruptcy filing in the USA Courts and blatantly bullied anyone who has stood in their way: it ill-behoves the Diocese of Chichester to play host to them and their presence here casts a shadow over the mission of the wider church. 

Enough is enough: we urge you to take decisive action now to rescue this shop and St Olave’s Church from further depredation. We call upon you to step in, and to remove these men who are bringing Chichester’s Christian heritage into disarray and disrepute. We urge you, please: take back control of this building. It would be better for the shop to be closed than allowed to carry on in its current state. Then, as we see happening elsewhere around the country, people will be free to work together to create something new and bring light to this community. 

If you’re unfamiliar with the shop, you’ll find some information and photos here:

For information about the Brewers’ changing companies and their fabricated bankruptcy filing, see this post, Who are the ENC Management Company? — as cited in the USA Bankruptcy Court motions for dismissal of Mark Brewer’s case.

For information about their contemptuous disregard for UK employment law, refer to Usdaw, who have been fighting for justice on behalf of some thirty former employees (we hope to have more information about yesterday’s Case Management Discussion soon).

Finally for now, proof that those who are determined can break free of the Brewers: Norwich’s new Christian Resource Centre opens its pearly gates.

So please, if you share the concerns expressed, head on over there today and sign this petition. Let’s send a very clear message to

  1. The Bishop and Diocese of Chichester, that we will stand with them in taking whatever action is necessary to Rescue Chichester’s Christian Bookshop from further depredation;
  2. The Chichester Bookshop staff, that we stand with them and support them;
  3. The suppliers who have been robbed, that we share their distress;
  4. The Brewers, that their business practices are not welcome.

I could say more — much more! — but I’ll leave that to you: comments may be left on the petition and here.

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14 responses to “Rescuing Chichester’s Christian Bookshop: New Petition Launched

  1. My continued prayers are with the staff at Chichester, who continue to be dedicated to serving the Christian community despite being hampered by the “Brothers Grim” (yes only one “M”, they don’t merit the second one, though they are quite good at making up stories!)
    I’m sure there are people waiting to step in to rescue and restore the building and the business to their former glory as a vital resource for the area.
    I hope the Diocese lawyers are busy searching through the lease details for any possible loophole, ie a non transferable lease without re-negotiation, structural/ maintainance repairs not done etc..etc.

  2. My prayers too are with the present staff. I hope that soon they will be free of the Grims so that they can serve the Diocese of Chichester as well in the future as they have done in the past.

  3. This petition is a disgrace, how dare the people who arranged it, and the people who have signed it prefer to see the shop CLOSED rather than continue as it is. The Bishop and Diocese have shown no inertest in taking over the shop or even care what is happening to the staff. It does not matter how many ex-staff sign this petition nothing will be done, if the powers that be, in the diocese decide not to take on, as the Bishop and Diocese have done sod all to solve the situation since the Brewers took over the shop I can’t see them doing so now. I have shopped in this Christian outlet for many years purchasing items for myself and as a churchwarden for my church. If I worked in this shop I would be so upset that our Christian community in Chichester and Diocese could and would treat fellow Christians so badly, by planning and hoping they lose there jobs. The Brewers are not ideal but is the Diocese any better!

  4. Thanks for speaking out, Steve, but I can assure you that no one wants to see any more bookshop staff lose their jobs: what we want is for them to be employed by employers they can respect rather than live in fear of.

    It’s not the petition that’s a disgrace: it’s the necessity for it. It’s the Brewers’ outrageous treatment of their staff that’s a disgrace: ask Usdaw if you need further clarification on that point, or any of the people who they’ve driven to despair, who to this day remain unpaid.

    Ask the suppliers whose goods, unpaid for, are being sold from this and other former SPCK bookshop shelves: that’s a disgrace, if ever there was one, and it’s a double disgrace that people who call themselves Christians trade in such a way!

    You’re a churchwarden: you’re a member of the Church of England in the Chichester Diocese: few people are in a better position than you to make their voice heard in the Diocese and ensure that the Bishop cannot ignore what’s been done, what’s being done, in Diocesan property.

    So don’t diss the petition: make it redundant. Get on in there and get proactive — get a group of people and churches together to take control of the shop. You and your church are there on the spot, Steve: your call.

  5. I do hope that Steve is aware of what SSG is all about. He rightly points a finger at the Diocese of Chichester. They need to take note of this petition. I would ask Steve to note petitioners 46 and 50. Nobody wants to see the present staff lose their jobs. Why else would Ruth be offering prayers? In the final analysis you have to be either for the Brewers and their shameful deeds or against them.

  6. Sign the petition steve.

  7. Steve, its the petition, or will can all just turn our backs and watch some low life, rip off charities, and wreck the good name of the churchs and christian values, as an ex employee of the Brewers, you need to walk a mile in our shoes, before you judge if a petition is valid or not, and as for the staff that work there, that is where we have faith and trust god to take care of them!!!

  8. In response to Steve – you may remember me from the Chichester shop. I was the assistant manager there and left after having a nervous breakdown caused by the treatment I received from Mark and Phil Brewer. I have signed the petition because I do not want the mismanagement and abuse of staff that has happened over the last two years to continue. I agree that the Diocese have shown a complete lack of any concern, especially the Bishop, but the complete disregard of employee rights, rights of the suppliers and health and safety law by Mark and Phil Brewer can not be allowed to continue. The petition is not to cause the staff to loose their jobs – it is to put pressure on the Diocese to act rather than continue their attiude of see no evil/hear no evil.

  9. Steve>

    >This petition is a disgrace, how dare the people who arranged it, and the people who have signed it prefer to see the shop CLOSED rather than continue as it is.

    >I have shopped in this Christian outlet for many years purchasing items for myself and as a churchwarden for my church. The Brewers are not ideal but is the Diocese any better! The Bishop and Diocese have shown no interest in taking over the shop or even care what is happening to the staff.

    The Diocese are the only body in a position to really do something directly, unless regulatory bodies such as the Environmental Health dept get involved over the condition of the building. Certainly there are questions on aspects of the Diocesan Stewardship, such as whether the legally required Quinquiennial Inspection of the building has taken place (no one I know can remember that it did, but I am open to correction). However, I’d also say that with respect the Diocese probably are a damn site better than the current managers: whatever you say the Chichester Diocese do not cause their staff to have nervous breakdowns and wait more than a year for their wages.

    Nor do Chichester Diocese cause 20-25% of ex-staff to go through Industrial Tribunals to obtain unpaid wages of perhaps $30k while taking $500k out of the organisation themselves in the previous 12 month period.

    Nor do Chichester Diocese leave the Palm Sunday crosses charity “African Palms” hanging at the same time with $30k unpaid debts (an entire year’s turnover) that should have gone to support Masasi Diocese in Africa, as the Brewers have done in 2008.

    There are far more serious things that have gone on that we don’t discuss in public, but that we will talk about if you get in touch by email.

    I’ll be publishing an article on Monday showing that between March 11th this year when a new company was set up to operate the bookshop , and early June when J Mark Brewer attempted to fraudulently (as stated by the “Trustee in Bankruptcy to the South Texas Bankruptcy Court “) attempted to make the previous operating Organisation (Society of Saint Stephen the Great) bankrupt, $35,000 was taken out of the Chichester Shop and materialised as an unpaid debt in the Bankruptcy Documents of SSGCT. That is $35k that the Chichester Bookshop may never see again.

    No disrepect to you Steve, but there’s a lot of backstory here that I’d recommend you read. Nobody here is fighting this campaign because we want to do so or enjoy it. Some of us have been the targets of intensive bullying ourselves.

    >If I worked in this shop I would be so upset that our Christian community in Chichester and Diocese could and would treat fellow Christians so badly, by planning and hoping they lose there jobs.

    One of our objectives is to begin to create a network in Chichester with the potential to create a new facility once the Brewers have gone. I accept that it won’t be easy, but there are at least 3 or 4 places where it has already been done.

    May I suggest that you start by reading the accounts of the fraudulent Bankruptcy application.
    It was actually on the basis of the Bankruptcy Application having been filed in bad faith. See the first para of:
    https://spckssg.files.wordpress.com/2008/09/sanctions-motion.pdf

    The questions in my view are about how it became bankrupt, and the timing.

    Are you fully familiar with the Motion for Sanctions placed by the Trustee in Bankruptcy stating that (Mark) Brewer had:

    * attempted to perpetrate a Fraud on the Court.
    * concealing a fundamental conflict of interest in not declaring that he was representing in a Bankruptcy Court an entity of which he was an officer.
    * concealing the true identity of the debtor.

    There’s a lot more, all on a level of deceiving the Court in order to avoid taking responsibility for debts. Mark Brewer himself is a Law Firm Principal. The concept of good faith is not even in the same universe, in my opinion.

    Try the first 3 downloads on this page:

    https://spckssg.wordpress.com/about/downloads/

    I have referred to one above. If you haven’t read them it is worth doing so at least once.

    >It does not matter how many ex-staff sign this petition nothing will be done, if the powers that be, in the diocese decide not to take on, as the Bishop and Diocese have done sod all to solve the situation since the Brewers took over the shop I can’t see them doing so now.

    *That* remains to be seen.

    Rgds

    Matt

  10. Pauline Edwards always tells it like it is. She calls a spade a shovel. It’s why I like her.

  11. Valiant for Truth

    Well, if you are a Christian you are familiar with sacrifice, even self-sacrifice for the greater good. If you are a human you reach the point where you cannot be under the control of evil people. If you are a professional, you cannot lower your standards. If you are a retailer you believe in serving your customer – with what when the stock does not supply even a basic need? There may have to be death before resurrection.

  12. Matt – the manager retired in 2007 after 35 years with SPCK and over 30 years in the shop and no Quinquiennial Inspection was done during her time there.

    I agree with Matt about checking out the backstory before criticising the petition. I am in contact with a lot of the small shops in the Sussex and Hampshire area and many have customers who used to shop at Chichester but because of lack of stock and not being willing to support the unChristian behaviour of Mark and Phil Brewer have taken their custome elsewhere.

    It is time for people to stop acting like an ostrich over the Chichester situation and act.

  13. Pingback: Petition to Chichester Diocese about Chichester Christian Bookshop: Questions Answered « SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info

  14. ostrich, can’t see won’t see, can’t or won’t read, can’t or won’t see the writing on the wall. I cannot understand how ANYONE can defend the Brewers.

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