Brewers Still Faking It In Salisbury

Congratulations to J Mark Brewer on winning the much coveted Mr GAFCON 2008 award. Mark, you are truly a hero and I can think of no one else so deserving of this trophy: well done, sir, well done!

Phil Groom writes:

Is it ENC? Is it SSG? Is it Third Space Books? No: it’s SPCK!!

Thanks to one intrepid photographer (you know who you are: thank you) we can reveal that despite a Trading Standards investigation requiring the removal of their illegal SPCK signage, as of 18th December 2008 the former SPCK Bookshop in Salisbury was still using an SPCK Sale notice in its window:

Salisbury, 18th Dec 2008

Salisbury, 18th Dec 2008

Salisbury SPCK Sale Notice, 18th Dec 2008

Zooming In: Salisbury SPCK Sale Notice, 18th Dec 2008

Have to say, I was rather taken by the ‘Window Pictures by Icon Art’ backdrop to the sale notice. Very fetching; and I do hope someone closer to hand will check — and if they’re still displaying this notice, that someone will fetch Wiltshire’s Trading Standards back again…

Somebody remind me, please: how long ago was it that the licence to use the SPCK name in connection with the bookshops was withdrawn? And what did Mark Brewer himself say about wanting to dissociate SSG from that name? Something about “traditional Christian values”? One wonders which tradition he had in mind…

“It is important that the people who work for this charity want to work for it and are devoted to supporting its work because it is not ‘just a job’; it is a mission,” he said. Brewer added that he has no intention to sell off stores. “I did not agree on behalf of Saint Stephen the Great to acquire 23 brilliant locations in great cathedral cities throughout the country, only to sell them a year later,” he said.

“These shops are like the talents the Lord spoke of in the parable, and to earn His favour as ‘good and faithful servants’ we must invest these talents for His glory. That is why I have taken a bold e-commerce initiative to become the dominant online Christian bookseller. I have also opened two new shops since the acquisition.”

Splendidly said, Mark, splendidly said

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28 responses to “Brewers Still Faking It In Salisbury

  1. Valiant for Truth

    I gather that the SPCK signs are still up outside the Chester shop. The Trading Standards there, or, indeed, SPCK need to get on to that one also.

  2. I’m an icon fan but not a fan of the Brewer Blingy Ones. Hopefully I’ll find the Trinity Icon in a Third Space, SSG Bookshop. Who knows?

    It’s the goat/ram above that door that has caught my fancy. It’s probably telling Valiant for Truth and Phil Groom to butt out. OK I’m getting my jacket and I’m butting out before I get an ASBO.

  3. Whereas I agree with much that is said on this site about the whole SPCK/SSG scam this is, in my opinion, nit picking.

    All this shows is that some lackey has not actually considered what they are putting up in the window… probably some poor sod who doesn’t have a clue about what SPCK stands for, the Christian faith, or what they have got themselves in to.

    Lets leave this before it starts to look vindictive.

  4. I guess that’s one way of looking at it, RevEv, and I hear what you say. Even so, it seems to me that the devil is in the detail: it’s the company owners’ responsibility to ensure that staff are kept informed and updated on the legal aspects of their business, such as ensuring that they trade under the correct business name.

    It’s more than a year since SPCK withdrew the licence for these shops to trade under their name and since Mark Brewer himself said that he wanted to dissociate SSG from the SPCK name — yet he has blatantly disregarded this point and continues to drag the SPCK name through the mud.

    Where would you draw the line?

  5. Valiant for Truth

    A question – wasn’t it said recently on this blog(?) that the Salisbury shop was presently being staffed by a member of the Brewer family? Not exactly a “lackey” then?

  6. Church Times article: “The SSG shop is still trading in a limited way in Salisbury, managed by a member of the Brewer family.”

  7. Valiant for Truth

    Oh yes, in 2007 weren’t all shop managers told they were responsible for the actions of their staff even if they, the managers weren’t on duty.

  8. The inconsistency is what strikes me here: Phil Brewer’s memo to shop managers last summer (I think it was) had plenty of micromanagement – choice of muzak, how to lay on tea & coffee for customers etc., yet there are other details which seem to get no attention at all.

  9. Little details like: paying staff and suppliers; which country the company is trading in; the company name; not telling the courts about certain conflicts of interest; a covenant…

  10. RevEv

    First of all we appreciate the comment; it is the negative feedback that pulls us back to the centre.

    Normally we discuss what to report and how to report it offline, but you’ve asked a well-targeted question, and I’d like to offer the courtesy of a detailed and honest answer, and take the opportunity to explain why we really try to sweat the detail, and why it is important to record as much as we can in public.

    (This is a long comment, which I’ll turn into an article tomorrow – so you make like to get a cup of tea!)

    First of all, I agree with you that this is seemingly trivial.

    Secondly I’d probably have written it slightly differently (I’m not saying it would be better – Phil and I have complementary styles). I’d probably have emphasised the history of the covenant breaking and mentioned the sign as a detail in passing. On different occasions, Phil has reminded me to tone down my style slightly for this niche compared to my usual political stamping ground.

    (Phil, I’m wondering if we should have a “Sweating the Detail” category or tag to point out this type of post. On my political blog I have a “knockabout” category I use to indicate “tongue in cheek” when I am having an over-the-top “go” at people, and it works well.)

    HOWEVER…

    The whole approach of this campaign has been to “take what was hidden and shout it from the rooftops”, and that is the only approach – apart from formal legal action – that has delivered any results. Dave Walker did it for 18 months, and we are continuing the same basic approach now slightly more on the front-foot. We have repeatedly found that small details let us follow a piece of string which is attached to a piece of rope which has something significant on the end of it, and that the way to follow the trail has been to publish facts and let the network of getting on for 1000 people (e.g., 750 on Facebook) who are interested find relevant information and help build the jigsaw. So we publish lots of detail, even if it seems trivial. Perhaps 90% of the benefit has come from publishing material.

    The general attitude of the Brewers to both English and US Law has been to treat compliance as optional, and relatively small details build up a rounded picture of that attitude. That may be needed later in investigations. This may be going to end up with serious legal action. I’ve stopped thinking about “vindictive” when it comes to documenting breaches; I just see that as collecting evidence that may be used in civil or criminal investigations later on. We try to make sure that everything is strong enough that it will be repeatable on oath when that becomes necessary. It may be the trivial detail that will be crucial: in this case concrete proof that the management have not ensured that a Trading Standards instruction is followed thoroughly.

    We are also not just working nationally: we are trying to build consciousness in 25 centres so that when this is all over there will be the optimum opportunity to create independent bookshops maintaining the SPCK tradition of critical enqury and dialogue. Publishing small details about individual shops helps with that. It also helps with engaging the local media, who need emphatically local angles; local media are critical to raising local consciousness, and the new bookshops are going to need local communities of interest to support them. In the case of Exeter, a Charity Commission enquiry plus $700k taken out of the overall charity through the back door plus $1.5m of unpaid debts plus a fraudulent bankruptcy might not make the local paper. But those plus ignoring the covenant on an Exeter shop, plus 12 months of Trademark Violation, plus not fully obeying Trading Standards, plus ignoring the covenant on the shop, plus the staff all walking out together (I think), plus other stuff we haven’t published, could make a compelling story about the time the USDAW Tribunal goes to legal action.

    Publishing embarrassing details also provides a certain amusement, morale boost and is a maintainer of interest to keep us all engaged on what will be a very long and tedious campaign; humans need it. That was one of the reasons we had such fun with Mark Brewer’s “deep belief in freedom of speech” when he was making threats to shut people up: we needed to create a sense of esprit de corps to build support and interest, and laughing at him helped people forget to be intimidated. The same goes for Phil Brewer’s aeroplane, although that also involves $1500 of misspent charity funds.

    Scrutinising tiny detail lets the Brewers know just how closely they are being watched, which may help keep them on their toes and distracting them from nefarious activities or even more vigorous mismanagement/bullying/asset stripping than would have happened otherwise. Hopefully it will keep them hopping mad, too.

    Finally, we have to maintain a flow of articles (“feeding the content monster”), and keep an eye on all the different areas so that people who should be interested find the site when they go looking in Google.

    ** Example of Detail

    One example is that that publishing seeming trivia on a blog was how we found the bankruptcy documents, which revealed Brewer as deceiving the court and admitting to all the money he had taken out, while lying to the Court about assets existing in the charity.

    In turn, the detail in the documents lead to a major front page article in all the Durham local papers (if the Durham shop was closed, the whole thing would collapse).

    A single line item in the papers has also lead to an interview later this week with an Africa development charity from whom the Brewers have withheld $30,000 despite at least $1.5m of assets available. That $30,000 is (I think) the entire proceeds from the sale of Palm Crosses through SPCK in 2007, which has gone to support specific communities in a specific diocese in Africa for the last 40 years.

    There are dozens of other examples.

    ** Wrapping Up

    I hope that helps explain the approach, even though we’ll both certainly admit we’ve got it a bit wrong at times.

    Rgds

    Matt

  11. Thanks for that, Matt; poliblogger’s friendly growl acknowledged 😉

  12. Valiant for Truth

    Hear, hear, Matt & Phil. Those at the sharp end know of hundreds of “minor” incidents that have taken place which wouldn’t gain “air space” but which have devastated lives, and still are. Let me repeat, people are at the receiving end of all the Brewers do and have done, and as Christians we say “Love thy neighbour”.

  13. Matt/Phil

    Agreed that identifying small misdemeanours often leads to finding huge mistakes, but I just feel in this case that this is nit picking.

    As a regular contributor to other sites watching the actions of particular retailers, I have found that such nitpicking leads to those being watched dismissing what is being said on the whole… saying that I would wholly expect the personages in this dispute to dismiss this, and similar sites, anyway.

    Trust me, I do not in any way wish to defend the Brewers. I am more concerned that this dispute does not appear to become vindictive. There is more at stake here than the future, or not, of the former SPCK chain. This dispute could appear to be wholly unchristian if it appears at all to be vindictive and nitpicking, something certain elements of the press would latch on to with glee.

  14. Thanks for coming back Rev Ev.

    Much appreciated. We will bear it all in mind.

    Rgds

    Matt

  15. Pingback: Ethics of Campaigning « SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info

  16. Rev Ev , im also aware of how things can sound or look. In all this mess that the Brewers have caused ,I am sure no one wants to be vindictive,and yes the press would latch on to the negative. As someone who still has to bare what so called Christians are doing to others.Im so glad to have , Matt& Phil. , and before them Dave Walker. Before all this happened I had never heard of bloggs ,would never have had the confidence , to do anything like this. its justice that drives us all ,for all those devastated lives.

  17. Valient
    re Chester signage
    I understand that Trading Standards have already been informed….

  18. yorkshire pride

    Chester shop is also still using bags with the SPCK name and charity number on.
    I have contacted the charity commission to complain about this and they told me that at present they have no contact address for Saint Stephen the Great as any letters are being returned to them as not known
    at the address.
    When I said surely no charity can operate without a contact address they said it was probaly just an oversight that no one had thought to give them a new address.

  19. SSG beggars belief. A previous post by someone once stated that personal details of employees are at that shop. The worker at Chester has probably run out of bags and found some somewhere. Surely a contact address would be Bplaw. Then again the Brewers seem to do a vanishing act whenever it suits them. Mark Brewer will probably ignore the charity commission like he ignores the Pensions Board.

  20. It should be possible to contact J Mark Brewer here:
    Brewer & Pritchard PC: Contact. Assuming he’s still with the company, of course. But if not, as a wannabe US Congressman, his campaign address is also a matter of public record: Campaign Money: John Mark Brewer.

    (Don’t get too excited about the outstanding debt of $559,846 from his 2000 campaign; it was self-loaned: “Brewer ranked fifth among U.S. House candidates for self-loans during the first half of the year” – Texas Weekly: ‘Tis the Season to Spend Money.)

  21. This is bigger than the links provided by Squigglejones on asingleblog. It deserves a post on its own.

  22. Phelim he was trying to rule the world.

  23. Don’t you mean fool the world?

  24. Yeah and he thought he would succeed. Silly bugger.

  25. Phelim McIntyre

    Um – what is going on? A reference to me in post where I have not posted?

    If they are having trouble getting hold of SSG why not try and send it care of Chichester Shop or Durham Shop Management companies – remember the Brewers are still in charge of these. Or go to http://asingleblog.wordpress.com/ and get the address of Phil Brewer’s holiday home that he rents out and send it there.

  26. Just asbo getting him/herself confused, I think; or trying to get your attention, in which case: it worked!

  27. Are you planning to take private legal action or something regarding the Exeter SPCK shop?

    From what I’ve read it’s been made obvious that the covenant basis of your argument doesn’t come into consideration for the local planning committee etc.

  28. Stephen: if I was in a position to do that, I’d love to; but it’s SPCK whose trust they’ve betrayed and with whom the covenant exists, so any action really has to come from them.

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