Monday, 4 February 2008

"Church of England launches campaign against Orthodox charity"

So claims Mark Brewer, owner of the SSG (former SPCK) chain of bookshops in the title of an email containing the following press release:


For Immediate Release
Contact: J Mark Brewer
January 29, 2008 (01) 713-725-4788


Whilst touting itself as "a place for all people," the Diocese of Sheffield of the Church of England has issued this message to Orthodox Christians: "Stay Away."

The Sheffield Diocese has been engaged in a campaign against Orthodox Christians and those who would "further Orthodox mission." The Diocese hopes to drive SSG out of business because SSG has an Orthodox "aim." In what can only be described as a mockery of Christian charity and ecumenicity, the Sheffield Dean and Chapter wrote SSG's trustees:

"Because of the stated aims of the St Stephen the Great Trust to further Orthodox mission, we feel unable to support the bookshops at the moment by purchasing goods ourselves, or by recommending to our visitors that they visit your shop in Sheffield."

In contrast, Churches Together in England which includes the Church of England is a visible sign of the Churches' commitment as they seek a deepening of their communion with Christ and with one another, and proclaim the Gospel together by common witness and service. Its strength comes from people from different traditions finding new ways to work and worship together."

The SSG "shop in Sheffield" is the Sheffield Cathedral Bookshop. It which was transferred to SSG, an Orthodox lay charity, in 2006.

According to Mark Brewer, SSG's chairman, Sheffield's hierarchy from the Bishop all the way down have rebuffed numerous attempts at dialogue.

"The Cathedral's letter came out of nowhere and was a complete and utter surprise. It was absolutely devastating to think that our charity's bookshop would be singled out because we are Orthodox Christians."

Nevertheless, 4 months have now passed, and the Diocese' boycott remains firmly in place with its position as intransigent as ever. Consequently, SSG is having to consider its options, including whether it can continue a viable trade in Christian books on the Cathedral close at 8 East Parade.

I've done my best to preserve the formatting - the original document can be downloaded here (pdf, 54kb)

Update (5th February) : Canon Dr Joanne Grenfell of Sheffield Cathedral has issued the following statement:
Sheffield Cathedral has had a fruitful relationship in the past with the adjacent bookshop [1], formerly owned by SPCK, and now under the management of the St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust.

There have been reports in the church and national press about the management of the chain of bookshops, which the Dean and Chapter have followed with interest. Indeed, the Chapter has discussed various issues of concern relating to the St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust, though, as with all Chapter discussions, these must remain confidential.

We do not feel able to make any further comment on the bookshop or the St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust.

The ecumenical relations between Sheffield Cathedral and our Christian brothers and sisters across denominational boundaries are generally excellent, and we hope that this will continue to be so."


[1] There is no Cathedral close, and the bookshop is not in premises owned by the

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