Tag Archives: Petition

Is this the ‘Best Use of New Media in a Christian Campaign’?

David Keen writes:

The ‘Bloggies’ – Christian Web and New Media awards – are now open for nominations. I’ve taken the liberty of nominating this blog for ‘Best Use of New Media in a Christian Campaign’.

Phil’s blog is very much the hub of the SPCK campaign, but there’s much more going on. Many of us who are involved have never met face to face, but through blogs, email, Facebook, online petitions, Google Groups, and even Twitter we’ve built a network of supporters from several countries, and in the last 2 weeks there has been a mini-avalanche of remarkable results from the pressure that the campaign has brought to bear:

  • Durham Cathedral have served notice on the Brewers to leave the premises
  • The Charity Commissioners have taken control of the assets of the Society of St. Stephen the Great.
  • Following the CC action, an out of court settlement with unfairly dismissed staff may now be possible
  • and Dave Walker is back to blogging about the SPCK story. Mark Brewers initial ICBM (inter-continental bullying manoevre) seems to have backfired spectacularly in the intervening 10 months. Welcome back Dave.

I have a slight quibble about the Bloggies, in that anyone using new media effectively will, hopefully, be using more than one website to do it. The online SPCK campaign – which effectively began as Dave Walker’s ‘Save the SPCK’ campaign on The Cartoon Blog – has diversified into several ‘new media’ as it has evolved. Any campaign simply using one platform probably shouldn’t get past first base!

If you’d like to nominate the SPCK/SSG campaign too, please do! Here’s what I put in the ‘additional information’ box:

A campaign to scrutinise and hold to account the new owners of SPCK bookshops, which recently resulted in decisive action by both the Charity Commissioners and Durham Cathedral. The campaign provides a discussion space, as well as a focus for scrutiny and lobbying.      

Use of new media includes

– Several blogs, of which the named blog is the key one. With the censorship of Dave Walkers blog, it’s been important to have several blogs reporting the story, so that ‘divide and rule’ through legal threats won’t work.  The reposting on over 70 blogs of material which the new SPCK owners attempted to censor was vital both in building a public profile, and in demonstrating support for those victimised by the new owners.
– Online petitions
– Facebook: there are two related groups on Facebook, which give the campaign an online mailing list of around 600 people, as well as a forum for spreading information.
– Google groups, as a forum for the leaders of the campaign to communicate and share information.
– more recently, Twitter.

Many of those involved in the campaign haven’t met face to face, but new media has enabled us to network, co-ordinate our efforts, and spread information to a wide group of people.

David Keen blogs at St. Aidan to Abbey Manor, and has just joined the team on SPCK/SSG News, Notes and Info.

Anger in Durham as Dean Snubs Petitioners’ Concerns

Phil Groom writes:

Dean of DurhamPetitioners calling for the Brewers’ business relationship with Durham Cathedral to be terminated have responded angrily to an announcement in last Sunday’s Cathedral Newsletter that the Dean’s new book — somewhat ironically, published by SPCK — is to be officially launched from the Cathedral Shop.

One petitioner has bluntly described the Dean’s decision to host his book launch in the Brewers’ shop as verging on “a deliberate two fingers against those who’ve signed the petition”, whilst another, leaving a message on the petition itself, states equally bluntly, “The fact that this petition still exists displays a singular disrespect for those who have signed it.”

I will trust in you, by Michael Sadgrove, Dean of Durham

I will trust in you, by the Very Revd Michael Sadgrove, Dean of Durham

The book, entitled I Will Trust In You: Companion to the Evening Psalms, ISBN 9780281059874, is priced at £9.99 but can be pre-ordered from Amazon for only £6.59, a 34% discount.

In November 2008 the Dean responded to a concerned petitioner by issuing a strong statement distancing the Cathedral authorities from the shop, noting that “the Cathedral Chaper does not manage the shop in its Great Kichen.” [sic] and emphasising that the shop “is NOT managed, is NOT controlled and is NOT run by the Cathedral itself.”

The book’s title, however, seems to beg the question: can the Dean be trusted to maintain that distance? If you share the concerns raised here and by the petitioners, please consider writing to the Dean personally to ask him that question and encourage him to seek an alternative venue: contact details may be found on the Cathedral Who’s Who page.

The date of the proposed launch is uncertain, given in the newsletter as March 31st whilst shop staff have reportedly been told that the event is scheduled for April 7th, during Holy Week. As this report goes live there is no mention of the book launch on the Cathedral website NewsNotices or Services & Events pages.

The petition, calling upon the Dean to take urgent and decisive action to free the Cathedral Shop from the Brewers’ control, was launched in August 2008. It now carries more than 360 signatures and remains open until its objective has been reached. If you have not already signed it, please consider doing so and please spread the word.

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.

Durham Cathedral Shop: The Story That Won’t Go Away!

Phil Groom writes:

It just keeps on growing:

  1. Storm rages over cathedral shop: Northern Echo, 28/11/2008
  2. Row breaks out over ownership of cathedral bookshop: Durham Times, 28/11/2008
  3. Critics want cathedral bookshop ‘saved’: Durham Advertiser, 05/12/2008

Where next? Watch this space…

If you haven’t signed the petition, please do read it and, if you share the concerns raised, please sign it.

If you have signed it, please spread the word: a good place to start would be to share this page on facebook.

For more background on this story, please see our dedicated Durham petition page.

Thank you.

Durham Petition: Chapter Clerk Replies

Phil Groom writes:

Thank you to the Dean and Chapter of Durham for their reply, copied below, to my message forwarding the latest 50 signatures on the petition to rescue Durham Cathedral Bookshop from the Brewers.

This excerpt from my message sets the context for their reply:

… there is a growing sense of astonishment that the Cathedral is still allowing the Brewers to trade from its premises. The impression given by this ongoing situation is that the Cathedral authorities are not sufficiently concerned about the quality of their visitors’ experiences to take the necessary action to resolve it. 

I am sure that this impression is false and that you and your colleagues are extremely concerned, not only about your visitors’ experiences but also about the Cathedral’s reputation which the Brewers continue to tarnish by their dubious business practices, their reprehensible treatment of their staff and their pursuit of their own so-called ‘Orthodox’ mission agenda. Their continued promotion of their particular brand of Orthodoxy – disowned by the wider Orthodox community here in the UK – must surely be to the detriment of the Cathedral’s own mission as a centre of Anglicanism…

… I would be very grateful – indeed, it would be very helpful to all concerned – if the Chapter would be kind enough to make a public statement to help allay the concerns raised, please. In the meantime, I will continue to collect signatures and will forward them to you whenever a multiple of 50 is reached…

Here then is their reply, followed by my further response:

From: Paul Whittaker
Subject: Petition Update: Durham Cathedral Bookshop
Date: 25 November 2008 10:18:18 GMT
To: Phil Groom

Dear Mr Groom

The Dean has asked me to thank you for your e-mail of yesterday and to reply on his behalf.

As you state in your letter we are all of course extremely concerned, and we read the many comments with much more than just passing interest.

But as you have previously been kind enough to acknowledge, you accept our assurances that we are not sitting on our hands even if, for sound reasons, it may appear on the surface that little is happening.

We wish we could say more in public but, at the front of the current situation, injudicious comment will not assist it.  I hope you will feel able to respect that reticence.

With best wishes,

Yours sincerely

P M A Whittaker
Chapter Clerk

My response:

From: Phil Groom
Subject: Re: Petition Update: Durham Cathedral Bookshop
Date: 25 November 2008 13:02:20 GMT
To: Paul Whittaker

Dear Mr Whittaker,

My thanks to both the Dean and to you for this response – even a brief note such as this is helpful and I am sure it will go some way towards reassuring those who have signed the petition that their voices are being heard and that the concerns raised have been noted.

As you say, injudicious comment will not help the situation; but a careful and judiciously crafted statement is, of course, another matter and if the Chapter would like to carefully consider what may be said then I am sure such a statement would be warmly received and would, I very much hope, help to win back some of the customers whose trade has been lost.

The Cathedral Shop is far too important a resource to the Diocese – indeed to the whole area – for its running to be left in the hands of men whose agenda is so far removed from that of the Cathedral itself — men who have demonstrated their complete lack of concern for staff welfare, for customer service and even the elementary tenets of honesty and integrity in dealing with others that are essential for running a business, tenets that are all the more important when that business represents the public face of the Cathedral.

Assuming no objections, as an interim measure I will post this brief response on the SPCK/SSG News Blog and I look forward to receiving a fuller response in due course.

My thanks once again, assuring you of my support in whatever action may be necessary to resolve the situation,

With best wishes,

Yours sincerely,

Phil Groom

Phil Groom
SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info

Durham Cathedral Bookshop: Mark Brewer Responds

Sign the Petition
Just sign it: you know you want to. Already signed it? Talk about it. The petition remains open until the Brewers are no longer in control of the Cathedral bookshop and will be resubmitted to the Dean at each multiple of 50 signatures. Yesterday, September 23rd, we passed another milestone at 250 signatures…

Phil Groom writes:

I have mixed feelings over this. On the one hand, I’m delighted to receive confirmation that Mark Brewer has found our petition. On the other, I’m appalled by his response. Read on and I think you’ll understand the problem. He’s taken to writing to people signing it; to at least one person anyway:

Subject: RE: In memoriam
Date: Wed, 10 Sep 2008 16:25:37 -0500
From: Brewer@bplaw.com
To: jacqui smith

Dear Ms. Smith,

I’m trying really hard to understand you. You signed a petition blog to stop a Christian bookshop in Durham cathedral. Can this be right?

From the subject line, you could be forgiven for thinking that Mark is preparing an epitaph ready for the shop’s inevitable demise. The truth, unfortunately, is far more sobering than that: Mark’s enquiry about the petition is a follow-up to some earlier correspondence with Jacqui, but whilst he changed the subject, he didn’t change the subject line:

From: jacqui smith 
Sent: Tuesday, July 29, 2008 3:57 PM
To: Mark Brewer
Subject: RE: In memoriam

Dear Mr Brewer
I’m trying really hard to understand you. You stopped a blog with a page dedicated to Steve Jeynes. Can this be right?

Jacqui is, of course, referring to Mark Brewer’s threat of legal action against Dave Walker, the now well known ‘Cease and Desist’ demand sent on July 22 which Dave felt left him with no option but to take down all of his SPCK related material, including the page of tributes to Steve Jeynes. Brewer’s parroting of Jacqui’s message to him seems rather like a re-run of his parroting of MadPriest’s “I am Dave Walker”. MadPriest filed that under lame. No doubt it’s supposed to be clever, but I’m filing this under outrageous (for the record, I should point out that Mark did send an earlier reply to Jacqui’s enquiry, in which he denies any responsibility for the removal of the tributes page; that, too, I find outrageous).

Mark, if you happen to be reading this, I’d like to take this opportunity to help you understand: it is not, as you put it, a petition “to stop a Christian bookshop in Durham cathedral” — it is, rather, a petition to save the Christian bookshop in Durham Cathedral, to rescue it from those who are ruining it. From you, Mark, and your brother, Philip. If that’s not clear enough for you, perhaps the following quote from justflyingkites will do the trick. It’s a little blunt, unfortunately, but it expresses exactly how an increasing number of people are feeling:

Mark Brewer can you get it into your skull that people are mad at you because of what you have done to Christian Bookselling. Stop looking for somebody else to blame. You have refused to take advice from booksellers in your shops. You insist on knowing what everyone needs and when shoppers leave in their droves you find somebody else to blame.

As I said yesterday, Mark, it really is time to call it day. But if you won’t listen to me or to those commenting here, please listen to the voices of the prospective customers you’re alienating in Durham. More than 250 people have signed the petition now. These comments are from two of the most recent signatories:

As a tutor at Cranmer Hall, Durham for the past ten years I have relied on the Cathedral bookshop to supply good quality texts for myself and our students. I am deeply saddened by the loss of this resource and by the treatment of the staff. I wish to support the Chapter in moving speedily to a positve resolution.

— Revd Dr Gavin Wakefield, 23rd Sept 2008

As a P/T Anglican ordinand doing the MATM course, now in my third year, I have been greatly distressed by the marked deterioration in the stock held by the Durham Cathedral Bookshop over the past year. As a result I have been buying many books through Amazon which, in the past, I would have bought in the Bookshop.

— Dr Caroline Friswell, 23rd Sept 2008

Durham Cathedral Bookshop Petition: The Dean of Durham Replies

Cartoon courtesy of Dave Walker, weblogcartoons.com

Cartoon courtesy of Dave Walker, weblogcartoons.com

Phil Groom writes:

My thanks to the Dean of Durham, the Very Revd Michael Sadgrove, from whom I have now received a response to the petition. He in fact sent that response on 27th August but unfortunately it never found its way to my inbox.

The Dean assures me that the Cathedral Chapter are working tirelessly to do what is possible within the legal constraints of a business franchise to ensure that the service provided by the shop returns to its former standards. He further expresses his gratitude for the support for the Durham shop that has been shown by those who have signed the petition.

Meeting Reminder
2pm, Weds 10th September: Meeting between ex-SPCK staff and suppliers.  

Durham Cathedral Bookshop: Petition Update

iPetition PenThank you to everyone who has already signed the Durham Cathedral Bookshop Petition: if you have not yet done so, please head on over there now, read it and, if you share the concerns expressed, sign it.

We now have a dedicated PETITION page on this blog, featured in the navigation bar across the top of every page: please keep an eye on that page for future updates. As I write the petition has 183 signatures from a broad cross section of the community: members of the clergy, a representative of General Synod, students from Durham University and elsewhere, academic booksellers, publishers, at least one concerned author, former SPCK/SSG employees and many others from amongst the shop’s customer base as well as elsewhere. 

The number of signatories is steadily growing and at each multiple of 50 signatures I am re-presenting it to the Dean, the Very Reverend Michael Sadgrove, until the petition closes — that is, until such time as the Brewers are no longer in control of the Cathedral Bookshop. It has now been sent to him by email three times, the first time to the generic Chapter email address given on the Cathedral’s contact page, subsequently to his personal Cathedral email address. As yet I have received no response, possibly because he has only very recently returned from holiday.

The petition allows space to leave personal comments and many signatories have chosen to take advantage of this to express outrage at the Brewers’ decimation of the shop and at their mistreatment of their staff, as well as to express support for the Dean and Chapter: a selection of those comments will appear in a future update.

Finally for now, however, thanks to those who have mentioned, reported on or linked in to the petition, listed A-Z by post title:

Apologies to any I’ve missed: if that’s you, please let me know and I’ll gladly consider adding your link.

– Phil Groom

Rescuing Britain’s Christian Heritage: Durham Cathedral Bookshop

Today, we launch a formal petition to the Dean and Chapter of Durham Cathedral in a bid to rescue this once outstanding bookshop from the hands of those who have ravaged it, namely Phil and Mark Brewer and their St Stephen the Great Trust.

The Brewers took control of this bookshop, of the entire SPCK Bookshop chain, with fine sounding words, but actions always speak louder than words: Durham Cathedral Bookshop — described by one eminent scholar at an international conference as “the best theological bookshop in the world” — is now but a shadow of its former self. The manager, Carole Burrows — who once organised An Evening Conversation on Jesus and Paul, a conversation between Professor James D G Dunn and the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd N T Wright, as one of many excellent initiatives that helped to keep the shop at the forefront of theological debate — was driven out. Current staff are demoralised.

The time has come to say: enough is enough! The time has come for the Dean and Chapter to take decisive action to rescue the shop from further decimation. Durham Cathedral is a World Heritage Site and an iconic northern shrine, a popular tourist destination and a centre of Britain’s spiritual life — yet it is now marred by association and ill-equipped to serve those who come to it seeking spiritual refreshment and theological enlightenment.

I hereby call upon the Dean and Chapter of Durham Cathedral to step in, as Jesus once stepped in at the Temple in Jerusalem, and to drive out these men who are bringing this unique part of Britain’s Christian Heritage into disrepute. I urge you, please: take back control of your bookshop, of our bookshop.

And I call upon all others who feel similarly outraged — here in the UK, in the USA and throughout the world, and especially upon the residents of Houston, Texas, whose home town’s otherwise good iPetition Penname is similarly marred by this association — to sign this petition and to spread the word to encourage as many others as possible to do the same.

Thank you.

– Phil Groom.

Sign The Petition: Rescuing Durham Cathedral Bookshop