Tag Archives: Boycott

Sunday Sermon

Being Sunday, I figured we needed a sermon. Except it isn’t really a sermon: it’s the article I wrote for the August issue of Christian Marketplace magazine, but it was pulled at the last minute when Mark Brewer sent his friendly request to ‘Cease and Desist’. So for anyone who’s wondering why there’s no magazine contribution from me this month, now you know. Essentially the article is an introduction to this blog, written before Dave Walker’s situation blew up…


Another Christian Bookshop Blog

June this year saw the launch of another Christian bookshop blog: “SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info”. In the ideal world it’s a blog that should never have been necessary, but in the real world it should have been born much earlier. You’ll find it at spckssg.wordpress.com but be warned: in the words of Neil Denham, an ex-Exeter SPCK employee, “some of the commenters are very bitter and it does not make very happy reading!” (exeterblog.blogspot.com).

Alongside the bitterness you’ll find anger, a sense of betrayal, confusion and – perhaps most of all – grief: in short, the legacy left to the UK Christian book trade by Mark Brewer and his St Stephen the Great Trust. Mark Brewer himself (or, since we cannot be entirely certain of identities online, someone posting under his name [1]) has generously taken time out of his busy schedule to respond to the concerns of his customers, ex-employees and suppliers, offering the following pithy observations, both posted on July 6th, the eve of Steve Jeyne’s memorial service (reported on elsewhere):

In response to my call for a boycott of the SSG shops, Brewer writes, “What a great idea! Boycott! How very Christian of you” and, in response to the post “SSG tribunal claims mount”, he writes, “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?”

With respect to boycotting the SSG bookshops, my feeling is that a mere boycott is not Christian enough: Christianity is about following Jesus and the Jesus I read about in the Gospels had no qualms when it came to driving out unscrupulous traders from the temple. Jesus’ comment about turning a house of prayer into a den of thieves seems apposite in view of the Brewers’ record of unpaid employees and suppliers: I remain astonished that Durham Cathedral in particular continues to allow them – in whatever guise they now use – to trade from their premises.

With respect to SSG’s liquidation, a number of people have replied but this, from ‘Pax Vobiscum’, perhaps expresses best how many affected by the situation feel:

Dear Mark Brewer

The 600+ people who filled Worcester Cathedral on Monday for the Thanksgiving Service following the funeral of Steve Jeynes were not elated. They wanted to give thanks for a wonderful life of Christian witness, for a dedicated Christian Bookseller who had brought many to faith and for a husband, father, friend who meant so much to them. They were shocked, saddened, angry, but they were not elated.

The 100+ Christian Booksellers around the country who have had their careers, their ministries thrown in the gutter over the past year are not elated. They are upset, angry, struggling to rebuild their lives.

The myriad suppliers, who have not been paid are not elated. They are downhearted, some made financially unstable, others have lost an integral outlet for their goods.

The Christian communities which relied on their SPCK Bookshop as a resource centre for their mission and spiritual growth are not elated. Some, like Worcester, feel that one of their vital organs has been ripped out and stomped upon.

What has happened to the SPCK/SSG Bookshops over the last 18 months has caused so much needless hurt, so much pain, so much impoverishment of certain areas of the Christian faith in the UK that it is impossible to feel elation over the ‘bankruptcy’ of SSG. Only relief that this whole sorry episode is drawing to a close.

As well as updates on the ongoing situation the blog includes what should become a comprehensive index of news reports, blog posts and other related articles which should prove useful to journalists and other researchers.

If you are amongst those affected – whether as a concerned customer, an
(ex-)employee, a supplier or in any other way – please do take time to visit and join in the discussions: it’s an open forum which, I very much hope, will not only provide a catharsis but also help us find a way forward…

Phil Groom, Friday, July 11, 2008
679 words.

Phil Groom is webmaster and reviews editor of the UK Christian Bookshops Directory, a free online guide to the UK’s Christian Bookshops. Unless otherwise stated the opinions expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Marketplace or its publishers.


Re-reading that, I honestly can’t see why it had to pulled, especially with such a very clear disclaimer on the end. There’s nothing there that goes beyond perfectly legitimate reporting and fair comment. What do you think?
Please note that no criticism of Clem Jackson is implied in this observation.

Notes
1. See: SSG/SPCK – Will the real Mark Brewer please stand up? Metacatholic, 17/07/2008 and The Mark Brewer Saga: weirder than you think, MetaCatholic, 03/08/2008. My parenthesised comment is part of the original article as written and submitted to Christian Marketplace on 11/07/2008.

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Time to Boycott SSG?

Has the time come to boycott the SSG bookshops?

Thus far I have resisted an outright call for a boycott, simply because I have not wanted to risk damage to the jobs and livelihoods of those who, against the odds, have somehow managed to keep on working under the Brewers’ regime.

Back in December 2006 Dave Walker summed this up well when Joe, one of his respondents, suggested a boycott:

I think we should continue to support SPCK shops for the following reasons:

  • I think the good the shops and the books sold through them do outweighs the strange and dubious objectives of the owners.
  • I want to support the staff, some of whom I know.
  • I suspect that once this chain is gone it really is gone and I can’t see anything similar replacing it. At least if we continue to support SPCK there remains the chance that it will be taken over by someone we are able to support more wholeheartedly.

That was then, however; this is now. Reports indicate that neither staff nor suppliers are being paid: so where is the money entering those few shops that are still trading going?

Have we reached the point where any money paid to buy goods from these shops can no longer be regarded as supporting either the beleaguered staff or the shops’ suppliers but must rather be seen as simply propping up a thoroughly discredited and disreputable regime? Has the point finally come when so much damage has been done by the Brewers themselves that this call must now be made?

Calls to boycott have already been issued: Mark Tiddy posted his Boycott The SSG (SPCK) a couple of months ago (his post is dated 2006 due to a bug in his blogging software), and, more recently, this comment from Maggi Dawn echoes something of my own feelings:

While in the short term in might be harsh for those who have been offered “employment” by these new companies there is one very simple response that the Christian community can make to these events – resolve not to buy anything from these new shops and encourage others to boycott. We have plenty of alternatives run by people and companies of integrity, who for all their difficulties in a tricky market at least treat their staff with justice. The Church hierarchies can also make sure that no further deals are done with SSG about buildings etc – with luck they might just get the message and return to the US before they do more damage to the reputation of Orthodox Christianity.

The time, surely, has come to say:

Boycott the SSG/ENC Bookshops!

— Phil Groom

(Updated 3/7/2008 to correct the date of Mark Tiddy’s call for a boycott: see comments below)