Orthodox Liars to the Glory of God

Phil Groom writes:

Recently, a friend suggested that I might be able to find better things to do with my time than keep blogging the Brewers, and I have to agree: there are many things that I’d rather be doing — so many books to read, for instance! So why do I carry on? Is it just mindless bleating, like a sheep caught in a briar patch? Or is there something more to it?

My friend also thought that the shops were closing down as a result of the recession. I explained:

…the closure of the SPCK bookshops has very little to do with the recession: they’ve been run into the ground by their unscrupulous new owners, who accepted them as a gift from SPCK on trust that they would invest in them and their staff and maintain them as Christian bookshops.

Instead, however, they attempted to foist illegal contracts upon the staff and drove them to despair with their reprehensible behaviour (most walked out in disgust; one had a nervous breakdown; another committed suicide), then proceeded to close shops down, clearing out the stock without paying the suppliers; they attempted a spurious bankruptcy filing in the USA, changed their trading identities here in the UK and continued trading in the stock they’d acquired from the shops they’d closed — all supposedly in the name of “Orthodox mission”. In September they sold the Exeter branch for £507,000 and — in direct breach of a legally undertaken covenant — have allowed it to become a jewellery store.

In the meantime, the staff they drove out have not received their wages and the suppliers whose stock they took have not been paid.

So for me, the online campaign to expose these evil men and, yes, to bring them down, remains a truly worthwhile use of my time and energy.

In some ways it’s rather like having a toothache: something you can’t ignore until the rotten tooth has been pulled; or even more bluntly, it’s as if the Brewers are a boil on the backside of British bookselling. Until that boil’s been lanced, I, as a British bookseller — and more to the point, as a Christian bookseller — simply can’t sit comfortably.

It’s about justice and truth versus injustice and lies; about treating other people with respect rather than contempt; about honesty and integrity, concepts that J Mark and Philip W Brewer seem to know nothing about.

As for the title of this piece, “orthodox liars for the glory of God” — that’s from one of my all time favourite writers, Geoffrey A Studdert Kennedy, otherwise known as Woodbine Willie: After War, Is Faith Possible? (reprinted by Lutterworth Press 2008, p.68 ). I’m using it completely out of context, of course: it’s from a piece he wrote back in 1919 entitled “Why does God permit war?” — but even so, even from ninety years ago, I find Studdert Kennedy still speaks to our situation:

Christian preaching has very often consisted in pious attempts to make evil good in order to save God’s face. We have suffered from what Hilary of Poitiers called irreligiosa sollicitudo pro Deo, and have become orthodox liars to the glory of God. Passive resignation to evil as though it were God’s will has been exalted into a virtue, and consequently the Christianity which should have turned the world upside down has been turned into a method of keeping it as it is and meekly accepting its wrong-side-upness as the discipline of Almighty God. The Revolutionary Christ has been disguised as a moral policeman.

That’s just a very short snippet of Studdert Kennedy’s writing, enough, I hope, to whet your appetite for more; but more to the point, to emphasise that walking away or doing nothing in the face of evil is not the way of Christ. Christ does not call us to be doormats to be trampled underfoot by the likes of the Brewers; Christ does not call us to accept wickedness as a mysterious part of God’s will in the hope that all will be well in the end because God is ultimately in control, the Sovereign Lord of the Universe. No! God calls us to follow Christ, to call whitewashed tombs what they are, to expose hypocrisy, to be light in the darkness — because our God, the God revealed in Jesus, is not some remote deity who will put everything right at some dim and distant point in the future: our God is here and now, hands on through you and me. We are his hands and feet.

And that’s a call to live dangerously: because Christ’s hands and feet get nails smashed through them. If we raise our heads above the parapet for the cause of Christ, for justice, truth and love, we’ll find ourselves, like Christ, wearing a crown of thorns. Blood will flow and it will be ours, and our enemies will treat us with contempt and wash their hands of us and ask, “What is truth?”

My point, gentle reader, is this: if you are one of the employees or suppliers whom the Brewers have not paid, and if you have decided not to fight for what they owe you because you believe that such fighting is somehow unChristian, that as a follower of Christ you are called to set aside your rights to reparation because it’s all in God’s Almighty hands and he will see it right in the end — then I urge you to think again. Your rights, my friend, are indeed in God’s hands: and God’s hands on earth are your hands and mine, joining hands with our oppressed and dispossessed brothers and sisters to become a joint responsibility to stand together against injustice, lies and dishonest business practices as together we work to fulfil Christ’s call for God’s will to be done on earth as in heaven.

God’s kingdom is not some distant never-never land of pie in the sky when we die (although yes, we have that hope) — it’s about how we live now, about turning the world with its twisted values on its head. That’s why, although there are many things I’d rather be doing, I’m still here blogging the story of the Brewers and their rundown of the former SPCK Bookshops.

Getting Involved in 2009

And finally, for any members of the UK’s (or even the wider) Orthodox community who may be reading: most of us here, I think, are well aware that the Brewers are mavericks who do not represent you or your faith; but any formal measures or statements that you may be willing to take or make to emphasise that distance would be warmly appreciated by us and should, I hope, help the Brewers to recognise their increasing isolation. Thank you.

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10 responses to “Orthodox Liars to the Glory of God

  1. Valiant for Truth

    Thank you, Phil. I have hesitated in posting a comment as it will be so light weight compared to the power of the above statement, but, of course, this power is what is needed. To those not involved in the fight, it’s hard to understand how important the blogs are – Dave Walker first, and now this one. When speaking to those who are more directly concerned, it’s interesting to note how often a conversation starts “Have you seen the Blog?” People feel supported and amazed that a number of Bloggers who have not been directly concerned with the situation want to support those who still feel weak and vulnerable. It is also empowering after so much bullying and divide and rule tactics, to feel that someone cares and is still fighting. The division manifests itself in those who wish to be finished with the fight because they have a new life to forge; those who are still working for the Brwers so are fearful for their jobs at a time of Recession; those who still concerned but have run out of steam and wonder if want they say and do can be of value. I hope and pray that the Blog will continue to spur on and create unity of thought and deed.

  2. I’m glad you did decide to comment, VfT: for me it’s important that everything here is part of an ongoing conversation; and I can fully empathise with those who feel like they’re running out of steam — I’ve felt that way myself at times, then another snippet of info comes through and I’m fired up again. There’s plenty more behind the scenes that doesn’t make it into the public arena — as you know!

  3. Pingback: Gentle Wisdom » “The Revolutionary Christ has been disguised as a moral policeman”

  4. Phil, your “pie in the sky” reminds me of another comment that went something like, “the poor will inherit the earth when the rich have done with it”. Now is not the time for anybody to remain silent or inactive or afraid. I’m reminded of another quote, “Freedom tastes of hearts that have been broken and blood that has been shed. Freedom tastes of pain”. Can we free ourselves of the Brewers? Oh yes we can!

  5. Was sorting some old papers out and came across the 2004 Thanksgiving for 50yrs of SPCK.
    A quote from the New Testament reading may seem strangely relevant now for Justice, Asbo, VfT et al.
    “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed . . “

  6. I would like to echo vft
    This blog is so valuable to many people – thanks Phil and Matt!
    I think that its important to note that there is a lot going on behind the scenes that can’t be blogged about at the moment
    The Brewers are hoping we’ll go away….we won’t!

  7. I too am v grateful to you – Dave, Phil, Matt and other ‘torch carriers’ on behalf of so many people – the ex employees, the suppliers etc. by this blogging. The quote that stirs me deeply and calls so much into question about all the SPCK/SSG machinations is “for evil to flourish all it needs is for good folk to do nothing.” Isn’t this just so very true?

  8. It seems like longer but on Thursday it’s 6 months to the day since Mark Brewer tried to shut down this blog, along with Dave Walkers. Back then I was hoping this would all be over in a few weeks, so full credit to Phil, Matt and the rest for keeping the fire stoked and piecing together the jigsaw. Keep up all the good work!

  9. Responding to your appeal for Orthodox Christian commentary, I would like to add my own sense of being appalled at the Brewers’ unChristian behavior. Devilish deeds done in the name of God are nonetheless received by the devil as his own.

  10. John, thank you. Your voice is appreciated.

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