Thursday, July 31, 2008
Blurb on our main Diocesan website says:
2009 marks the 1100th anniversary of the founding of the Diocese of Bath and Wells. It seems too important a landmark to go unmarked, and a perfect opportunity to give thanks for our past, celebrate our present, and challenge the future.
Meanwhile Phil Groom has posted part of his own C&D order, specifically the bit where he's ordered to take down a website dedicated to fundraising for people made redundant from SPCK.
But I am now so very, very angry. How dare Mr Brewer target the very page that I set up to raise funds to support the people whose livelihoods have been destroyed by this fiasco??
My only interest in this situation throughout has been to support these people, and (although hopes for this faded some time ago) to try and salvage something from the ruin that SSG has made of the former SPCK bookshops. Why? Because as Dave Walker kept reminding us, “It’s fun to shop at the SPCK”.
Meanwhile after a spate of 'I am Dave Walker' solidarity posts, some are now appearing for Sam Norton too. Sam has published a helpful 'SSG/SPCK for beginners' post today. My hit counter tells me there's been 100+ new people a day coming here to find out what all the fuss is about. For info, my summary is here, Matt Wardmans is here.
The Streisand effect is a phenomenon on the Internet where an attempt to censor or remove a piece of information backfires, causing the information to be widely publicized. Examples are attempts to censor a photograph, a file, or even a whole website, especially by means of cease-and-desist letters. Instead of being suppressed, the information sometimes quickly receives extensive publicity, often being widely mirrored across the Internet, or distributed on file-sharing networks (from Wikepedia 'Streisand Effect')
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
One key reason he gives is that the matter is in the public interest, which 900+ extra hits on this blog, and a 200-a-day spike in Matt Wardmans traffic since he started coverage, demonstrate. Both the SPCK story, and the silencing of one of its main narrators, are matters of public interest, going wider than SPCK itself to free speech and its place on the internet. I don't like people using websites to abuse people anonymously, and Dave has consistently, carefully and fairly reported the SPCK case. It's impossible to interpret what he's done as a personal attack on anyone. Dave doesn't do personal attacks, he does irony and humour.
One line in the C&D quotes remarks about 'incompetence' and 'injustice' as defamatory. I would have thought bankruptcy could be interpreted as evidence of financial incompetence, and an ongoing union action on unfair dismissal is evidence of an injustice committed. These are not personal attacks, they are fair descriptions of the situation as it stands.
This is what Sam Norton has written in reply, which I think is entirely fair.
I believe that my blog contains only material which is either true or "fair comment" upon truthful matters.
If there are particular aspects of the material published on my blog which you believe to be neither true nor fair comment I am prepared to look again at specific items.
Please be aware that I consider the making public of this correspondence to be in the public interest, and that I shall share, via my blog and other media, both your original "cease and desist" request, and any subsequent correspondence.
I would assure you that I have no personal malice towards you in this regard. My concern is that an innocent man (Mr David Walker) has been victimised by your actions. Should you be willing at any point in the future to make a public apology to him, leading to him reinstating his blogposts concerning SPCK, then I shall certainly cease and desist any further writings on this affair.
It's a courageous thing to do, well done Sam. If you think this is in the public interest, you might want to copy and repost bits of it on your blogs too. And if you didn't, then you wouldn't be reading this, would you? ;-)
Today is Awards and Puzzles Day.
The 'We Support Dave Walker Awards'
Best Quote: “Thank goodness that we have this one, last bastion of free speech– the Internet. The internet, in particular, is the only truly free “press” we still have.” (J Mark Brewer). Ht Matt Wardman. Oh, the irony. SquiggleJones has some commentary on this, well worth a look.
'With Supporters Like These, Who Needs Subpoenas?' Award: Rev Dr Christian Troll and his GAFCON blog (not quite what you'd expect!). I wouldn't endorse his tactics, but its, erm, interesting.
Magic Number of the Day: 300, which the We Support Dave Walker Facebook group trundled past yesterday. Please join it to show your support for Dave. I'm a bit embarassed that is has more members than the SPCK support group, so you should join that as well. I just did. Our membership is a weird and wonderful blend of vicars, bloggers, youth workers, booksellers and journalists.
Misleading headline of the day: Dave Walker Speaks!
....to the Anglican Journal about his cartooning and Lambeth etc. But there is a cryptic message on Dave's blog: Continued thanks, by the way, to friends everywhere, I wonder what it could mean?
Missing Word Competition: hosted today at Unicorn Tree Books of Lincoln. See if you can work out which words and phrases have been left out in telling the story of the SPCK staff members in Lincoln who, it is reported, arrived at work one morning, switched on the shop email, and discovered on the aformentioned email that they'd been fired. Nice.
Maths Puzzle: How many Cease and Desists Are There? We know about Dave Walkers, and Elizaphanian (also worth a visit if you like nice photos, film reviews and debates about atheism). The 'Important, Please Read' notice on the SPCK/SSG blog (which just reported the excellent news of a new Christian bookshop in Cardiff) suggests there might be a third. I'm surprised. If there is a no.3, and it was served whilst the blogger in question was on holiday last week, that means there has been no further communication from SSG since last Wednesday. Read into that what you will, but lots of other people have done exactly what Sam at Elizaphanian did. Mind you, imagine tackling Madpriest in court. On second thoughts, don't.
Maths Puzzle: Advanced. Will former SPCK workers get any pension payments? Asingleblog reports a friends attempts to get some answers out of the Church of England pensions board.
More Links (Sorry, couldn't think of how to make these an award or a puzzle)
another blog dealing with this story: US blog TalkToAction, who notes that British bloggers are quickly stirred to action when libel threats are bandied about.
Matt Wardman is updating daily, so have a look there too. He's just posted a list of the Church Times articles on the SPCK/SSG transfer, if you want to look into the background. He also has a full-ish list of who's blogging about this, though see the comments too for additions. Welcome aboard to Maggi Dawn and Tim Abbott.
For the record: my goal in all of this is not to have a go at anyone. It is to have the Cease and Desist order on Dave Walker lifted, and in the meantime to keep the SPCK/SSG story in the public domain, as a matter of public interest and personal interest too. The fact that 800-900 people have come to this insignificant blog in the last 8 days to find out about the story is evidence of the 'public interest' bit.
That's why I'm blogging daily about it (sorry if you come to this blog for other things - don't worry, I'll get back to mission soon, and there are some book reviews on the way) and encouraging others to do so. For my other posts on this, use the SPCK link.
Update: Matt Wardman has posted 3 Dave Walker posts, with commentary, and asks 'are these defamatory?' A fair answer would probably be 'no'. 72 to go.....
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Roughly a week ago, cartoonist and blogger Dave Walker took down 75 posts from his Cartoon Church blog. The posts detailed the story of SPCK, particularly the troubled last couple of years, the takeover by the Society of St. Stephen the Great (SSG), and the problems which have happened since. He did this because SSG had issued a 'Cease and Desist' order, and threatened Dave with libel if he did not comply by noon on Tuesday 22nd July - about 3-4 hours notice.
Myself and a few other bloggers picked up on this, concerned that Dave was being put under undue pressure, and that the SPCK story detailed on his blog might be lost.
So we've done several things:
1. Dave's posts have been retrieved from the Google cache, and reposted in various sites on the internet. This site archives all the Dave Walker posts, as do the Defend Dave Walker site, and a 'Save the SPCK' archive, two of several set up in the last 7 days as a result of the SSG threat.
2. A We Support Dave Walker group has been set up on Facebook, to show our solidarity with Dave. It has nearly 300 members at time of writing, including Bishops, Cathedral staff, booksellers, prominent bloggers, and a couple of journalists for national newspapers. There are also members from the US, Australia and Africa, as well as many in the UK. Please join it if you support Dave.
3. A couple of sites are keeping a running record of links to the story. Matt Wardman has been the engine room for much of this, with a list of people blogging on the story here (52 at last count, though this is rising all the time), a summary of the story so far , and daily updates on the story. Meanwhile This website is trying to keep track of all the links to the story in the blogosphere. As an indicator, this blog has had about 1,000 more visitors then normal over the last 6 days, as people have followed the story. And there are dozens of us.
4. The bullying of Dave Walker has prompted some bloggers to look more deeply into the current court cases involving SSG, including their attempts to be declared bankrupt in Texas (being disputed), and a queue of creditors and former employees in the UK seeking settlement. Ministry of Truth has done lots of digging, and the comments there are worth a look too. If the idea was to prevent reporting of the ongoing SPCK saga on the internet, it has failed spectacularly.
5. ASBO Jesus has done some very clever and hard-hitting cartoons. Or you can get a disguise kit here to prevent you being hit with a C&D yourself.
Other sources for the SPCK story are still live (at the moment), including the SPCK/SSG blog, and archives from the Church Times, and The Bookseller (search term 'spck').
Dave continues to maintain a dignified silence. Either that or he's too busy partying with the Bishops at the Lambeth conference.
There are several ongoing issues:
1. The threats against Dave Walker have not yet been withdrawn, and they should be, so that all 75 posts can be reposted and the public reporting of the SPCK story continues.
2. Libel threats being made to other blogs - it is highly likely that this is happening, though the wording of the threats themselves probably prevents people saying they've been threatened. One blogger has already concluded this is all a bluff, and gone on record as having been C&D'd.
3. The bankruptcy case involving SSG in the USA, and the irregularities found in their paperwork. There are a nest of other issues too: whether a UK organisation can be declared bankrupt in the US, why they are seeking this through a court several thousand miles away from most of their creditors, as well as some questions over payments and finance.
4. The USDAW action against SSG on behalf of 15 former employees. To quote from the USDAW General Secretary
It is clear that staff, many of whom have been long standing loyal workers, have been mistreated and many are understandably very upset and concerned. We are very concerned at a new company (ENC Management Company) being set up in these circumstances, while our members are losing their jobs. These loyal staff are being given misleading information about these US bankruptcy proceedings and the effects this may have on their rights to take legal action in the UK. Our fear is that the Brewers’ actions may be an attempt to move assets away from the business and out of the reach of our members with legitimate claims.
“We will carry on as before with the claims against the Brewers who are accumulating wealth whilst riding roughshod over hard working employees. We will continue to assist all our members affected by this messy situation and work to rectify it as soon as possible.”
What's really sad about this is that SSG is a Christian charity, and here are unions and all sorts of other people involved in something that should have been sorted out amicably. The Anglican Communion take note: this is how messy it gets if you give up on acting lovingly.
If you want to do something, blog about this, write to a church newspaper, join the Facebook group, and write to Mark Brewer, asking him politely to identify precisely what he had a problem with on Dave's site, and could he please contact Dave to withdraw the C&D order. The address is
7 Tufton Street
The SSG website has other contact details, including a phone number. If it does liquidate, there are several churches which is has acquired as well as the SPCK chain, and goodness knows what will happen to them.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Ministry of Truth has copies of all the court papers linked to the Brewers bankruptcy claim. It is strange that, just before filing for bankruptcy, a 5-figure payment seems to have been made to a charity of which a certain person was (according to one commenter) sole trustee. He's done lots of digging around, and has a list of questions which he's emailed to Mark Brewer. Very very interesting.
Asingleblog has summarised some of the M.O.Truth stuff, and has quite a lot of comments with further links and evidence.
Phil Groom has posted an 'Important: Please Read' note on the SPCK/SSG blog, which is pretty good guidance for anyone involved in commenting or blogging about this.
Meanwhile Elizaphanian, who has also recieved a Cease and Desist notice, hasn't desisted and is posting movie reviews to take his mind off things. Is that the sound of a bluff being called?
Finally, there is an SPCK supporters Facebook group, which has more background, if that's what you're after. Might be worth making backup files of those too.....
The letter begins:
I write to request that you kindly remove the following from your website which I was most shocked and disappointed to read when perusing it today:
That's the way to ask for things. I still don't quite understand why that approach wasn't taken with Dave's blog. Specific things, and a polite request to have them removed, and a presentation of the true facts of the case. I don't think Dave has ever had one of these letters, which makes it all the more bizarre that he's suddenly asked to take 75 posts down and threatened with libel if he doesn't. Even if there is any merit in the libel charge (which I don't think there is), it can only apply to 1% of the content of the posts, most of them would still be fine to keep in the public domain.
Meanwhile the Cartoon Blog/SPCK/SSG saga has made the Britblog roundup, and inspired ASBO Jesus to a second cartoon. I have also found Muslim, atheist and political websites today which mention the story. Ministry of Truth has updated their post on the legal side of things, if you're interested in the detail.
For the record, as soon as Dave (and anyone else who has recieved one related to SPCK) has their Cease and Desist notice withdrawn, I will probably stop commenting and linking on this case. I'll take soundings, but would also then like to close down the 'We Support Dave Walker' Facebook group a week or so later, to give people the chance to make friends with each other before it goes offline. That will be job done as far as I'm concerned. But in the meantime.....
PS I'm not sure when Phil Groom gets back from holiday, but just in case he has a legal document on his mat and you're interested in salvaging the SPCK/SSG blog , it might be worth a few of us popping over and saving some of the contents....
Update (lunchtime) the SPCK/SSG blog is back open for business, and taking comments again, with the wise counsel that folk stick to facts. Outside of the Cartoon Blog, this has been the best running source for information on SPCK, and is run by a bookselling insider with knowledge of the industry. The site is specifically for news and information about SPCK and related issues.
The idea of an event which blends two very different passions got me thinking about worship. Obviously, the controlling passion of worship is God, and many cathedrals manage to blend that passion with a passion for high quality choral and classical music. But if that particular blend of worship and culture is possible, then what other blends could work? Historically, we've blended worship with all sorts of art forms, though not (as far as I know) with Doctor Who. An attempt is even being made to blend it with sun-worship, with an inflatable church on an Italian beach (which nearly got blown away by the wind - divine judgement or something else?)
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Also, there is another version of the SPCK history on the Bookseller site: if you search for 'SPCK', the latest 15 or so results deal with the time since the SSG takeover, though there's plenty of bad news before that even happens! Meanwhile the comments on this thread deal with some of the tribunal claims being handled by USDAW, in response to this Bookseller article in June, and it's good to see that at least 1 SSG creditor has been paid in full.
The 'We Support Dave Walker' Facebook group is up to 250, I was hoping it would only last a week, all the legal stuff would be withdrawn, and we could get on with enjoying the summer holiday. It's nice to be optimistic...
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Ship of Fools discussion thread, which predates this weeks events, but picks up on them, with some interesting comments about the Ministry of Truth posting.
Facebook support group up to 213, if you've not checked your Facebook account for a while, you might be one of the 100 or so people who've been invited to join, so have a peek.
Matt Wardmans list is getting up towards 40 sites, plus those who aren't yet logged. Matt's Introductory Guide to the Dave Walker case is a good, um, introductory guide. His 'Cyberactivism 101' post today on how to campaign through the internet is very interesting.
Update: ASBO Jesus has a cartoon this morning, and at least one blogger who is republishing Dave's stuff has had a 'cease and desist' notice as well. Our mail hasn't arrived yet. Anyone else had one? We need someone from Monty Python to come in and tell us this is all getting too silly, and please stop.
Update 2: the Church Times have an article online from yesterdays issue, at http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/60841, on the proceedings in US courts involving SSG. Worth a read, it's a good summary of what's going on Stateside.
The basic triquetra, a Celtic symbol of God the Trinity, is made with three simple arcs. Start by drawing the first arc. From the point you finish the first arc, draw the second so that it intersects the first two-thirds of the way along. At this point, the symbol looks like a fish. The final arc joins the two end points.
Pray a prayer such as this one (known as the trisagion, or "three holies")
Holy and strong
Holy and immortal
Have mercy on me
Just above the tide line, write, draw or build something representing sin, watch the sea wash it away.
“how precious to me are your thoughts O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.” (Ps 139:17). To meditate on this verse, take a handful of sand, then count how many grains you are holding.
“Because you have done this and not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendents as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore.” (Genesis 22:16-17, God speaking to Abraham)
Friday, July 25, 2008
especially the latter. Brewer is trying to get SSG (a UK charity) declared bankrupt in the US, which (it's claimed) he can't legally do. The charity commission in the UK is aware of what's going on. My concern is that various creditors, and people who are look for compensation through the USDAW action, will be denied what's due to them. My guess is that the libel threat was to silence blog reporting of the SPCK/SSG saga, so that nobody looked into it in any detail. That worked well then.....
The links on asingleblog suggest that Brewer is ploughing hundreds of thousands into a campaign to run for elected office, though (see comments below), that seems to be history. I shall probably leave the dot joining to other people - my main goal in blogging about all this in the first place was to draw attention to what has happened to Dave, find a way of salvaging the story he's been telling, and to support him, and all 3 have been achieved.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Other people are starting to save and repost items/comments from the SPCK/SSG blog, in case they are threatened with the same as Dave Walker.
St Aidan to Abbey Manor - David Keen - Vicar (Yeovil)
The Wardman Wire - Matt Wardman (audio of BBC interview from 12/2007)
Gentle Wisdom - Peter Kirk
Bishop Alan’s Blog - Alan Wilson, Area Bishop of Buckingham
Blogula-Rasa - Ginny (detailed - worth a read)
Metacatholic - Doug Chaplin - Vicar (West Midlands)
Of course, I could be wrong - Madpriest - Priest (somewhere in England)
Seven whole days - Scott Gunn - Parish Priest (Rhode Island) and Lambeth Conference.
Thinking Anglicans - Simon Kershaw - Cambridge, England (likely to follow further press coverage)
The Jewish Blog Network - How to recover deleted pages. Firefox Resurrect Pages add-on.
Lingamish - Blogger Bludgeoned by Bozos - David Ker - Mozambique. Kudos for the cartoon above.
[Update: 23/07/2008] SPCK Watch - Gagging attempts by Mark Brewer - SPCK Watch. (Somewhere in Europe). Whole blog devoted to SPCK saga.
[Update: 23/07/2008] Elizaphanian - We are all Dave Walkers now - Sam Norton, Rector of West Mersea, Essex. Suggests that we reposts Dave’s ex-posts from Google Cache
[Update: 23/07/2008]Mad Hare - Solidarity post - SPCK/SSG and Dave Walker (New Mexico : United States).
[Update:24/07/2008 AM]The Cartoon Blog - Cease and Desist Demand from Mark Brewer Dave’s original post - now gone
[Update:24/07/2008 AM]GOD, CHRIST: QUESTIONS & FAITH - More and More on the Exploding SPCK Story & Dave Walker’s Cartoon Church Blog Check out the illustration from the 1950s
[Update:24/07/2008 AM]Saintly Ramblings - Dave Walker Solidarity Post
[Update:24/07/2008 AM]SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info - Comments on Moderation Expect comment when owner returns from holiday
[Update:24/07/2008 AM]PamBG’s Blog - Those Christian Bookshops
[Update:24/07/2008 AM]Scatter Cushions - Nothing like like having an informed debate
[Update:24/07/2008 AM]connexions - Cartoon blogger silenced
[Update:24/07/2008 AM]Turbulent Cleric - Libel law used as censorship Reflections on the Craig Murray case
[Update:24/07/2008 AM]Exigency In Specie - Bullying the Bloggers Southern England
[Update:24/07/2008 AM]Asingleblog - Brewers are challenged in court More detail on the attempt to put SPCK UK into Chapter 11 in the USA
[Update:24/07/2008 AM]Philip’s Tree House - I’m also Dave Walker
[Update:24/07/2008 AM]John Inbetween - Yet another Dave Walker
[Update:24/07/2008 AM]Wormwood’s Doxy - Because there’s nothing I hate more than a bully….Standing up for Dave Walker & SPCK
You will need to go where they are, you will not get them to come to you. Plant churches that are shaped by their culture, but reflect Christ. The Christian distinctive stays, but otherwise the shape of the church is substantially decided by the actual lifestyle and circumstances of the people you are trying to reach. The very shape of church we are used to can be a stumbling block to the gospel. No one expression or shape of church life will fit the whole of our diverse culture. I suggest that to have in mind what a church plant will look like probably won’t work. We need a baptised imagination in the practice of mission, not just dreaming up what we think we are going to do under God as we begin. (Graham Cray)
The first stage of our strategy is to reach people where they are, in the form of community they actually live in, and not the ones we believe they ought to live in. You plant churches in networks, communities of people who do have a relationship with one another, not in streets of people who ought to have a relationship with one another. (Cray)
don’t fool yourself about bridge projects - they don’t work. Soul Survivor Watford was planted as a bridge project. It became a youth targeted church plant. Youth got on the bridge and would not get off. The jump to the highly traditional form of Anglicanism at St Andrews, Chorleywood was hugely too far culturally! (Cray)
Get the church into the shopping centres; consider an area or deanery youth congregation with the cells in local churches; put your resources together; identify initiatives with the elderly; and if you do all that stuff, effective mission must be allowed to create problems of unity. All that stuff about unity in the New Testament was because they planted churches among people not like them, called Gentiles, and then had problems about how they held together in the body of Christ. First do it, then sort out the glorious problem. Christian unity is not meant to be a spiritual form of birth control. (Cray – superb)
“You are not , if you are involved in church planting, an odd nutter in the church, you are part f what God is calling the whole church to be.” (Robert Warren)
I guess in the past it was too easy for us to think that we knew how to do Church, and that in hurch planting all we needed to do was get the birth process right and then everything else would sort itself out.
We must do better in future. (George Lings)
(By the way, there is a current legal action against SSG from several former SPCK bookshop employees, the notice of it is here. If you want to keep up to date with who's blogging, see Richard Peat's link on the post below (warning - long scroll!!), or Matt Wardman. (
Here goes. Sorry about the formatting, but here are the last three posts, with comments. They're colour coded so you can tell them apart: ..............
Employment Tribunals Notice Posted
July 12, 2008 · 13 Comments
Direction of the President: In the matter of complaints of unfair dismissal, and redundancy payment, notice period
By Order of His Hon. Judge Meeran, President, details of a number of pending employment tribunals have been posted on the Employment Tribunals website. The notice, in MS Word format, is dated 20 June 2008 although I (Phil Groom writing) only stumbled across it myself this week; not sure when it was actually posted.
Google have helpfully translated it into HTML format so you don’t need Word to read it, or there’s a pdf version here: take your pick.
Interestingly the document lists the respondents as
St Stephen the Great Limited Co
St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust
ENC Management Company
which perhaps suggests that if setting up the ENC Management Company was some sort of attempt by the Brewers to duck out of their employer’s responsibilities under their earlier SSG guises, then it’s an attempt that has failed. H H Judge Meeran, it seems, is not that easily outwitted, even by clever Texan lawyers…
The notice orders specifically that:
The claims in the attached schedule, and any additional claims in England & Wales identified as raising the same or similar issues, be subject to an Order for combined proceedings under Rule 10 of Schedule 1 to the Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) Regulations 2004.
And it is further Ordered that these claims be transferred to the Bury St Edmunds office of the London East region, for the Regional Employment Judge to give directions for the consideration and expeditious disposal of the claims.
A copy of this Direction be sent to ACAS and to all known interested parties, and be published on the Tribunals Service website at www.tribunals.gov.uk.
So here it is, as directed, available to all interested parties. Here’s wishing the claimants every success!
Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)
Categories: Announcements · Info Tagged: ENC, St Stephen the Great, Tribunals
13 responses so far ↓
justflyingkites // July 13, 2008 at 7:28 am
Some good news to wake up to on a Sunday morning. Any odds on how long the Brewers will last at Chichester and Durham?
Phelim McIntyre // July 13, 2008 at 1:06 pm
justflyingkites - they willlast as long as the authorities let them. Hopefully not long though.
Annie // July 13, 2008 at 8:04 pm
We are all thinking of you…………….and a big “Thank you” to USDAW!
justflyingkites // July 13, 2008 at 9:27 pm
Annie, the union makes us strong.
Justice // July 13, 2008 at 11:13 pm
justflyingkites, im sure the pressure is on the Brewers now and there days could be short, at Durham.The shop looks like a jumble sale gone terribly wrong .
asingleblog // July 17, 2008 at 6:10 pm
Just thought I’d let readers of this page know that a Mass was said at Our Lady of Walsingham for all current and ex-workers. Prayers will also be offered for the next two weeks. A very kind deed by the person who made it possible.
Annie // July 18, 2008 at 10:00 pm
Lets not forget the few ……the very few,who still remain and need our support and prayers.We are thinking of you.
asingleblog // July 19, 2008 at 8:23 am
Thank you Annie, thank you USDAW and thank you to the person who offered prayers at Walsingham.
Phelim McIntyre // July 19, 2008 at 11:15 am
Just to warn people that Dave is away at Lambeth, and Phil is on holiday. Any fresh news please email to me at email@example.com
Gentle Wisdom » Dave Walker capitulates on ex-SPCK bookshops // July 22, 2008 at 2:53 pm
[...] at least as I write. I wonder how long it will last. Probably at least until Phil returns from his holiday, as if he has been sent a similar letter to Dave’s he will not receive it until he returns. [...]
Lambeth Conference Cartoonist in Residence threatened with Legal Action over blog The Wardman Wire // July 22, 2008 at 5:56 pm
[...] SPCK ex-employees Blog reports on the continuing Industrial Tribunals. [...]
Pax Vobiscum // July 22, 2008 at 6:03 pm
Cartoonblog has just been forced to remove all SPCK/SSG posts by Mark Brewer. I say ‘forced’ - Dave has been sent a ‘Cease and Desist’ note from MB threatening libel action. While Dave has done nothing wrong he is not in a position to fight a legal battle against the Brewers. Dave has worked hard for us all and we must say a big ‘thank you’ for all that he has done. However, we mustn’t let this stop us from telling the truth about this situation if we are able. And we must be extra-cautious not to say anything libellous to get anyone else into trouble (such as Phil Groom).
asingleblog // July 22, 2008 at 7:46 pm
Most creditors will have received this but I’m posting a summary on this site just in case.
Basically there has been a Chapter 7 Trustee’s motion to dismiss SSG’S file for liquidation. Randy W. Williams has based his case for dismissal on these points (again a summary):
- There are a number of inconsistencies in the filing and a number of practical factors that favor dismissal of this case. The inconsistencies are that the Debtor’s legal name is not St Stephens the Great LLC.
-There is no St Stephens the Great LLC or a dba for anyone to operate under that name. The legal name of the entity alleged to be the Debtor in this case is St Stephens the Great, which is the same name as a registered in the United Kingdom. And while there do appear to be two separate St Stephens the Great entities, the information provided to the Trustee is that the taxpayer identification number given for the Debtor is the same number for the registered charity.
- The petition states that the Debtor is not for profit entity under the Internal Revenue Code, but the Debtor has no Internal Revenue Service Employee Identification Number.
It then goes on to argue the case of SSG operating in England and Wales and the practical considerations of creditors attending hearings in America.
Wish I could scan the whole thing but I can’t.
I note that Mark Brewer has turned on Bloggers. asingleblog is anonymous. Post anything you want on it.
A Letter to Mark Brewer
July 9, 2008 · 19 Comments
A few days ago — on the eve of Steve Jeyne’s memorial service — Mark Brewer wrote:
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?
Several people have responded. But this response from Pax Vobiscum perhaps sums up most effectively how most of us 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.
Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)
Categories: News · Worcester Tagged: Mark Brewer
19 responses so far ↓
Jan // July 9, 2008 at 3:28 pm
Thank you Pax –this about sums everything up on behalf of all of us present and past employees just how we all feel. This needed saying and I couldn’t have improved on what you have written
Phelim McIntyre // July 9, 2008 at 3:51 pm
Well said Pax! As someone who has spoken with people around the country who have been so badly treated, both ex-Bookshop staff and suppliers, as well as ex-customers you have caught the way we all feel.
Hopefully some phoenixes will rise from the ashes of what was SPCK Bookshops, and any way those of us who have got back on our feet can help those still recovering we will do so.
justflyingkites // July 9, 2008 at 8:22 pm
Thank you Pax. And to think that the Brewer’s once used to talk about ministry!
annie // July 9, 2008 at 9:31 pm
I totally agree Pax.Mr Brewer, your comment speaks volumes……..Out of interest, in what way do you think you have been “slandered”?
justflyingkites // July 9, 2008 at 10:10 pm
Me, I didn’t know where to post this. Your comments about UK law and the Brewers are quite devastating. They seem to expose the hierarchy at Chichester and Durham. Can anything be made of the fact that goods were moved from Norwhich to Chichester and from Canterbury to Durham prior to the liquidation of SSGLLC?
me // July 10, 2008 at 12:01 am
I too am frequently sorry that the law is blind and can quite understand your upset.
It is not my intention to ‘expose the hierarchy at Chichester & Durham’ - they may well be in action that we do not know about (as it would seem, according to Phelim, are so many others! Though this argument only holds for so long before it begins to be implausible - an accurate statement of exactly what one is in contention about can generally be given at a certain point in any legal proceeding).Indeed they may not have been formally approached or consulted by the Brewers!It is easy to assume that because we are aware of a situation others must also be - however sometimes because it is assumed people will know they are not told - or everyone assumes someone else will have told them and so problems may occur.I would always recommend writing and or contacting someone in the first instance to ensure they are initially aware of the problem and or concern -even if you think they will have been already informed or should have made measure to know.
This aside in relation to your question as to the movement of goods prior to liquidation I refer you to these previous postings:
Also if you suspect that an act of fraud may have been committed within this country then you can also contact your local police force and ask to speak to their Economic Crime Unit or Fraud Squad about your concerns.
However it needs again to be stated that there may not have been a fraudulent transfer or any other act of fraud as there may be perfectly legal and mitigating circumstances we are not aware of that allow the transfers you make reference to!
Valiant for Truth // July 10, 2008 at 11:40 am
A succinct and accurate report on the SPCK/SSG story appears in the current issue of “Private Eye” (11-24 July), so more people will be in the know.
Phelim McIntyre // July 10, 2008 at 11:46 am
Well done Private Eye!
Me - as to Chichester and Durham, my point is silence does not mean that nothing is happening. I know some of what is going on with ex-employees, and suppliers on the legal front. They are not speaking out because they have been advised not to seapk out as it will affect their standing in court. Durham and Chcihester may be doing the same, but in Chichester’s case I doubt it. When the STL thing fell through many other shops were contacted by their diocese and/or their bishop. Chichester said nothing. Even over the plans of Mark Brewer to turn Chichester shop (which is still a sacred building owned by the diocese) into an Orthodox place of worship, nothing seems to have been done other than an “oh dear - he can’t do that”.
Phelim McIntyre // July 10, 2008 at 12:36 pm
Have just read the Private Eye article (under the books and bookworm column). Nothing new to many of us but hopefully this will bring it to the attention of a wide audience - shame Radio 4’s New Quiz and Have I Got News For You aren’t on.
jim // July 10, 2008 at 12:50 pm
Being legalistic here, alledging fraud by individuals/companies without clear evidence is very probably slanderous/libellous and any action would be taken against the owner of the blog & the commenter.
Phil Groom // July 10, 2008 at 3:55 pm
That’s life, Jim: full of doubtful probabilities. No one is alleging fraud anyway: we’re simply asking the questions and discussing the possibility; and as far as I know freedom of speech has yet to be outlawed here in the UK.
Christina // July 10, 2008 at 7:13 pm
Lots of thanks for keeping this in the public arena. It’s not a time for anyone to be complacent and I find it sad that many more of the church community and hierarchy did not raise their voices before now. At least on these web-sites their is room to comment and question.
asingleblog // July 10, 2008 at 8:05 pm
Just read through a load of SPCK/SSG history. I was reminded through my reading and then listening to Mark Brewer’s radio interview, that the bookshops seemed to have fallen into the laps of Mark, Phil and Sandra. Seems that they were going to run an orthodox outfit in the same way one runs a pizza chain. I watched their Youtube movie and read the comments. One of the earlier ones struck me. It said something like, “let’s use this business…”
I think that the Brewers were never really interested in the bookshops other than that they would help finance buying up redundant churches and forward the aims of orthodoxy as seen by the Brewers.
In their movie the Brewers pointed to the Gateshead Church. They were pretty sure they were going to get it. In fact they have earmarked 52 churhes. Well it seems they can cross the Gateshead church off the list. The Chronicle Echo (free Gateshead paper) says that it is going to be turned into a stained glass window museum.
Justice // July 10, 2008 at 9:22 pm
Asingleblog,the reason the Brewer Brothers were never going to get there hands on the St Cuthbert Church , would be the powers that be new of there unchristian behaviour.
me // July 11, 2008 at 2:26 am
Jim,Thank you for your comment but no one has actually alleged fraud - In most instances a point has been made to state quite clearly that no wrong doing may have been done as there are circumstances to which we are not priviliged.Certainly questions have been asked, and information given, but in most cases it has been quite clearly stated that the legal authorities cited - namely the US Judiciary Courts - state that if someone has concerns or suspicions of wrongdoing they should report it.‘If you have information about an individual or company you SUSPECT is not complying with federal bankruptcy laws, report this activity.‘http://www.uscourts.gov/contact.htmlThis is passing on public domain information as provided by the courts of the USA and/or the UK.
jim // July 11, 2008 at 12:44 pm
Thanks ‘me’ & phil for clarifying.
asingleblog // July 11, 2008 at 8:18 pm
Justice, I guess you’re right. I’ve heard the Brewers called a number of names. The last one was, “a bunch of crooks”. Please Jim, note the inverted commas. Maybe I should add “allegedly” like that Heslop guy from Private Eye who also does “Have I Got News for You”.
Veritas // July 12, 2008 at 7:04 pm
Phelim I feel sad for the people who are currently working in the Chichester shop. They really do need the support of the Diocesan authorities. Since SSGLLC went into liquidation, none of the suppliers want much to do with SSG in any form. Both Chichester and Durham will struggle to keep the shelves stocked and the Brewers will turn on the staff in those shops and blame them. This is not just a guess - it is the way they work.
Nobody knows the details of lease agreements when it comes to Durham. All I can say is that the Cathedral family are aware of what is happening in the shop. It doesn’t take rocket science. All a Cathedral steward need do is take a walk through the door, look at the shelves and then sympathise with staff. At least at Durham there is some support. I’m not saying that this has always been true for all staff - all we can hope for is that there is some movement behind the scenes.
Phelim McIntyre // July 12, 2008 at 8:26 pm
Veritas - I agree. Chichester has received the stock from Norwich and either Bristol or Bradford. But this will be outdated soon, if it isn’t already, due to ENC/Chichester/Durham being blacklisted by suppliers. As for the people working in Chichester - make that person. Someone is there on their own five days a week, as far as I am aware without lunch cover. Sound familiar? Some one is going in one day a weeek to give them a day off. I think a couple of people are also going in part time a few days a week, but generally it is one man in the shop.
From Bankruptcy to Liquidation?
July 4, 2008 · 19 Comments
A report in today’s Bookseller, St Stephen the Great liquidates in US, states:
Christian charity and bookseller St Stephen the Great has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in the US, a form of liquidation. There will be a meeting for creditors at Houston Bankruptcy Court on 22nd July.
Exactly what this implies about the status of SSG here in the UK remains unclear. The report cites an unnamed Usdaw spokesperson:
Our legal team has been in contact with the Brewers. They are continuing to look into the legality of the bankruptcy and what we can do for our members.
The Brewers themselves, unsurprisingly, have declined to comment…
19 responses so far ↓
Veritas // July 4, 2008 at 2:48 pm
I note in reading about Chapter 7 (I’m no lawyer) that the debtor can hold onto “exempt” property. Does this mean that the Brewers can hold onto Chichester and Durham and the freehold property that they are not allowed to sell?
Phil Groom // July 4, 2008 at 3:51 pm
This is the question, isn’t it? I’m totally astonished that Durham Cathedral haven’t booted them out by now. Booktrade rapists or what? Why is Durham giving them sanctuary?
Phelim McIntyre // July 4, 2008 at 4:48 pm
Concerning the Chichester shop - the Brewers (SSG/ENC) do not pay rent to Chichester Diocese, but may be in breach of the Covenant which allows them use of the building. With the relationship between SSG and ENC (same directors) could this expalin why the other two companies (Chichester Shop Management and Durham Cathedral Shop management) are registered as having been founded in Australia? Is there someway we can let the courts in America know that SSG and ENC are one and the same?
me // July 4, 2008 at 6:44 pm
suspected US Bankruptcy fraud can be reported here:USTP.Bankruptcy.Fraud@usdoj.gov
You need to provide the following info,You are not required to give your details but they would prefer it for follow up if necessary.
* Name and address of the person or business you are reporting.* The name of the bankruptcy case, case number, and the location of where the case was filed.* Any identifying information you may have regarding the individual or the business.* A brief description of the alleged fraud, including how you became aware of the fraud and when the fraud took place. Please include all supporting documentation.* Identify the type of asset that was concealed and its estimated dollar value, or the amount of any unreported income, undervalued asset, or other omitted asset or claim.* Your name, address, telephone number, and email address. You are not required to identify yourself, though it is often helpful to do so if questions arise.
THE LIKELIHOOD OF FURTHER INVESTIGATION AND POSSIBLE CRIMINAL PROSECUTION IS INCREASED FOR THOSE MATTERS WHERE SUPPORTING DOCUMENTATION AND SPECIFIC FACTUAL INFORMATION ARE PROVIDED. ANY INFORMATION YOU PROVIDE IS VOLUNTARY AND ITS MAINTENANCE BY THE UNITED STATES TRUSTEE PROGRAM IS AUTHORIZED BY 28 U.S.C. § 586.
This info is from:http://www.usdoj.gov/ust/eo/fraud/index.htm
me // July 4, 2008 at 6:58 pm
‘fraudulent transferA transfer of a debtor’s property made with intent to defraud or for which the debtor receives less than the transferred property’s value. ‘
‘If you have information about an individual or company you suspect is not complying with federal bankruptcy laws, report this activity.‘http://www.uscourts.gov/contact.html
‘It is very important that a bankruptcy case be filed and handled correctly. The rules are very technical, and a misstep may affect a debtor’s rights. For example, a debtor whose case is dismissed for failure to file a required document, such as a credit counseling certificate, may lose the right to file another case or lose protections in a later case, including the benefit of the automatic stay. Bankruptcy has long-term financial and legal consequences - hiring a competent attorney is strongly recommended.
Debtors must list all property and debts in their bankruptcy schedules. If a debt is not listed, it is possible the debt will not be discharged. (Lists of the documents [including schedules] that debtors must file are set out on Form B200, one of the Director’s Procedural Forms.) The judge can also deny the discharge of all debts if a debtor does something dishonest in connection with the bankruptcy case, such as destroying or hiding property, falsifying records, or lying. Individual bankruptcy cases are randomly audited to determine the accuracy, truthfulness, and completeness of the information that the debtor is required to provide. Please be aware that bankruptcy fraud is a crime.’http://www.uscourts.gov/bankruptcycourts/prose.html
however it needs to be stated that there may not have been a fraudulent transfer or any other act of fraud as there may be perfectly legal and mitigating circumstances we are not aware of that allow the transfers phelim made reference to!
furious // July 4, 2008 at 11:21 pm
Why is Durham giving them sanctuary?I don’t think it’s as simple as that.
Phil Groom // July 5, 2008 at 6:26 am
Would you like to elaborate on that, please, furious? I know there’s some sort of covenant in place between SPCK and SSG — but surely by now SSG have thoroughly breached the terms of that covenant?
justflyingkites // July 5, 2008 at 9:54 am
Maybe furious is referring to Durham and its 2010 programme. I’m only guessing. I go into that bookshop every time I am in Durham and I leave sadder every time. I’m sad that the staff are so demoralised and I’m sad that both the gift and bookshop look really empty.
I’m also sad that people in charge of Durham Cathedral have left it to come to this. If Leicester, Norwich and many others have managed to get shot of the Brewers, why has this august place not managed to do the same? My guess is that as long as the Brewers pay their lease they will be allowed to continue. Once again it’s up to suppliers not to supply the Cathedral Shop and up to staff to tell local suppliers exactly what the risks when they deal with the Durham Cathedral Shop. There are so many who could kill off The Durham Cathedral Shop Management Co. but for some reason nobody dares.
Phelim McIntyre // July 5, 2008 at 12:41 pm
Having spoken to people who work/have worked at the Durham shop there are big issues which makes getting rid of SSG/ENC an uphill struggle. Durham Cathedral is not pro-Brewer it just takes time and energy to get rid of them. There have been opportunities where they could have got rid of the Brewers but it would have cost too much to do so. Notice that other than Durham and Chichester all the others are under ENC. Durham and Chichester have their own companies. Why? Could this be due to the specific legal situations with the landlords? At Chichester they do not have to pay rent, is there a similar clause which protects the Brewers - like a long term fixed contract - at Durham? If so this may also explain the silence from Durham Cathedral.
justflyingkites // July 5, 2008 at 1:01 pm
Chichester was just looking for a way to use a church building. Durham is different. The shop is in the cloister. Prime property. Do the Brewer’s have to pay rent? Sure they do and then some. The Brewer’s will find the money from one of their many accounts. It’s up to the Dean and Chapter of Durham Cathedral to get rid of SSG. Whilst they are about it they might tell the real people who work in the shop where they stand. The old story of “it’s up to them and their employers” no longer washes.
Phelim McIntyre // July 5, 2008 at 2:20 pm
Justflyingkites - I know that SSG had a contract which has made it legally difficult for Durham to get rid of the Brewers without costing either them or someone else a lot of money. Unless the Brewers are in direct breach of that contract the legal ramifications could be huge. Durham seems to be one shop where the Brewers appear to be keeping, as much as they have to, to the contract. Also, remember silence at the moment does not mean in action. A lot of people want to speak out but due to legal action can not. These are not just individuals but also publishers. I hope that Durham’s silence is because their lawyers are going through things with a fine tooth comb. But unless there are solid legal grounds to chuck SSG/ENC or whatever name they want to call themselves out it can take time.
Chichester is not actually that different, there are tight legal obligations on the occupier that the Brewers are in breach of, and by the end of this month they could be in even further breach of the legal covenant. The building is also in a prime position on the main pedestrain precinct in Chichester, opposite Woolworths. It would cost a huge amount of money to do up but I am sure Starbucks, Costa Coffee, or a wine bar would love to have the building if it was ever sold.
justflyingkites // July 5, 2008 at 4:45 pm
Take your point Phelim McIntyre
me // July 5, 2008 at 6:37 pm
I believe you may be innacurate on Durham as when ssg altered the name of their business they had a legal obligation to reapp for their lease as they had functionally altered the terms - this would be exactly the same with any lease in any premises anywhere!The company that held the previous lease was ceasing to trade (it is the same if a sole trader becomes a ltd, or any business changes its name in a buyout etc!) so needs the permission of the landlord to maintain the lease - or actually - to set up a new lease/change of name, failure to do so is legally problematic, so in point of fact Durham had the perfect opportunity (or even may have the perfect opportunity if they have not already been approached by the new companies owners!!) to end the lease without any financial or legal obligations upon themselves in this instance as the new company have in effect ended their pre-existing lease!Basic land law.
justflyingkites // July 5, 2008 at 8:09 pm
I take that back Phelim, I always felt that there was something fishy about Durham.
Valiant for Truth // July 6, 2008 at 10:28 am
You would have to check with SPCK, but the lease with Durham Cathedral must have a get out clause as in 2004 the Cathedral wanted SPCK to quit the shop for the running to be taken over by Jarrolds. If the same lease is in place, why can SSG or whatever not be asked to quit?
Phelim McIntyre // July 6, 2008 at 12:51 pm
What we need to know is who the lease is with at Durham. If it is with St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust then the Brewers may be technically subleasing the shop to SSG Ltd and then the Durham Cathedral Shop Management Company (or to themselves in practice). This may negate the legal issues brought up by “me” earlier.
me // July 6, 2008 at 5:13 pm
No sorry Phelim,Sub-Leasing is not allowed under any type of lease contract I am aware of without the express permission of the landlord!Also as SSG etc etc is in bankruptcy they cannot assign or sublet a lease to anyone!In fact sub-leasing was one of the problematic legal issues to which I was referring!
Phelim McIntyre // July 7, 2008 at 3:42 pm
me - but as it is SSG Ltd not the wider SSG that is “officially” bankrupt would the Brewers care? Yes the two SSGs are the same company, but they wont admit that.
me // July 7, 2008 at 6:11 pm
I suspect that they may not care - but that is not the point.
The point is that legally as the trading company now operating in Durham is the Durham Cathedral Shop Managment Company they must (or Should) have approached Durham for an agreement on the assignment of their lease to the new company - either that or they will be in breach of their lease due to sub-letting without permission.Either way it is in, or was in, Durham Cathedrals Purview to choose not to continue with the existing lease etc.The same would hold true for Chichester one supposes - though if there is no rent paid etc then the situation might well be slightly more complicated, but it would still have necessitated a consultation as it is a new company in each venue that is trading there now and not in any way shape or form ‘SSG anything’ by legal definitions.
Couple of things that might be of interest:
I'm trying to maintain a collection of links to the relevant postings supporting Dave on FriendFeed at http://friendfeed.com/rooms/dave-walker-spck
For as and when the pages drop out of the Google cache, there are copies of the posts in my Evernote account at http://www.evernote.com/pub/rtpeat/DaveWalkerSPCK/
I've not yet found anyone who's managed to salvage the comments as well as the posts, because these tell some of the story. The fact that SSG are currently the subject of union action might be behind their move, but if they wanted the evidence out of the public domain then that clearly hasn't worked....!!!
The Facebook group is up to 100 overnight, so we'll see what today brings.
Good to see that Dave has been able to carry on cartooning whilst all this is going on:
another one over at Bishop Alan's post today.
On the positive side, a new Christian bookshop may be opening in Cardiff, following the closure of the SPCK shop there. The story of the closure and some of the plans for the new shop are in the comments here, and suggest that SSG are past masters at giving people short deadlines to comply with unfair requests.
It might be worth someone copying all posts from the SPCK/SSG blog maintained by Phil Groom and others, just in case they've been issued with papers by the Brewers too. Phil is currently on holiday, so the posts are still up - for now. Or print them off and forward them to USDAW.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
The idea of the group is to complement the support Dave is getting from blogs (see Blogspotting Anglican Episcopalian for a good summary from a wide range of sites over the last 24 hours). At the very least, it's an encouragement to him (which apparently it is), and with a bit of prayer it might even change things. The whole idea was inspired by Dave's setting up of the Anglican bloggers group last year. Maybe Facebook has a use, after all.....