St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust

From OrthodoxWiki
Revision as of 18:35, August 4, 2008 by Squigglejones (talk | contribs)
Jump to: navigation, search

The St. Stephen the Great Charitable Trust (REG. NO. 1109008) is named for St. Stephen the Great, who reposed in the Lord on July 2, 1504, at an old age. By the grace of God, the Trust seeks to emulate his life in the 21st century struggle for the True Faith of the Holy Orthodox Church. This struggle for the Faith is being waged primarily by the acquisition of the "redundant" church buildings of the Church of England.


In June 2008 this organisation declared Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in the Houston Bankruptcy courts. This was later converted to a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. The court appointed Trustee later (19 July 2008) put forward a motion to dismiss this bankruptcy citing a number of concerns, including that the named orgainisation did not exist in the US and that there were issues surrounding the declared assets. [1] [2]

The union USDAW filed a number of employment tribunal cases for their members against SSG. [3] this number increased after the chapter 11 filing when ssg sent an email terminating the employment of all staff and saying they would have to reapply to ENC Managment Company - a company which had been set up in March 2008 and to which both J. Mark and Philip W. Brewer were Directors. [4] [5]

In late July 2008 Mr J. Mark Brewer, the Chairman of SSG, then issued a series of Cease and Desist Letters to blog sites that had been reporting on the SPCK/SSG shops and trust. This caused a Spartacus Action within the blog community of the internet [6] that caused much questioning and ivestigation of SSG and its primary Trustee and chairman. [7]

At this point the Employment Tribunals are still to held and the situation in regards to the Bankruptcy issues has yet to be concluded in the courts.

In this, its second year, the St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust (SSG) has succeeded in acquiring fee title to its second magnificent church building (both are listed buildings). In the years to come, it aspires to acquire at least 45 more. More importantly, a parish is being established in each of these churches. The Trust seeks to facilitate this through financial assistance, guarantees and the like.

As a private foundation formed by laity, the Trust does not function officially within the church; however, its charter forever binds it to the Orthodox Church. Its formation received the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph Pop, a presiding hierarch of the Orthodox Church, who served as one of its initial trustees. The Chairman of the Trust is Mark Brewer.

The Trust has not undertaken any organized fund-raising activities or appeals. It operates without a paid administrator or staff, and with only a small endowment which is supplemented by the faithfulness of individuals who are interested in its work. Anyone is welcome to contribute financially to the trust. Essentially, it deploys funds only to purchase "redundant" church buildings, and with the establishment of parishes.

The Trust also plays an active role in locating a priest for any church it acquires, since it only does the latter with a view to the establishment of a parish for regular worship under the omoforion (or auspices) of an Orthodox bishop. The trust is not interested in acquiring a building for any other use, nor for simply holding it "in inventory." Once a priest has been located, subject always to the blessing of his bishop, the Trust continues to be involved in helping establish the parish. Ideally, however, the Trust would seek to become uninvolved on a gradual basis, eventually conveying the church building itself to the parish which uses it, or to its diocese.

The two buildings currently owned by the Trust are valued in excess of £12,000,000, and are well located in or near the city centers of Poole, Dorset, and Bradford, England. Pursuant to the Redundancy Scheme of the Pastoral Measures legislation, both church buildings were acquired from and with the approval of the Commissioners of the Church of England, as reflected by the Privy Council. The Trust's charter also calls for the diffusion of Christian knowledge through the distribution of "literature." Hence, establishing a bookstall is one of the first items of business upon re-opening a redundant church. The Trust is committed to the widest possible dissemination of Christian literature.

St Osmund's Church in Poole, acquired by the SSG in 2005, became mired in controversy in August 2007, when the Orthodox congregation there, led by Fr Chrysostom MacDonnell, walked out of the Church and decamped over to St Edmund Campion Roman Catholic Church in Bournemouth. Fr MacDonnell stated “We parted company with Mr Brewer and his organisation, as we found that the way in which they operated was contrary to our deanery statutes regarding the control of parishes.” [8] The Antiochan Orthodox Deanery Newsletter explained that relations had completely 'broken down' between the SSG and the Church. [9] It is thought this was a reference to SSG bringing in the Romanian Metropolitan Joseph Pop to oversee a congregation under the juristiction of the Patriarch of Antioch. In November 2007 Fr Gregory Hallam, of St Aiden's Orthodox Church, described the distance between SSG and UK Orthodoxy as comparable 'to the span of the observable Universe' [10]


The St. Stephen the Great Foundation seeks to make this "Orthodox experience" more widely known in Britain through:

  • Providing physical spaces of worship whose architectural features reflect something of the beauty of the eternal Kingdom of God
  • Financing priests and other Christian workers who can preach and bear witness to the fullness of Christian Faith found in the Orthodox Church
  • Publishing and distributing books and other items that bear witness to the Truth of Christ.

SPCK Bookshops

On November 1, 2006, St. Stephen The Great Charitable Trust took over the running of the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge (SPCK) Bookshops.

St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust's (SSG) partnership with SPCK will enhance and broaden its mission of distributing Christian literature.

SPCK have agreed that the Bookshops and their staff will transfer to SSG, continuing to operate as SPCK Bookshops (under license) by SSG, with a maintenance of their breadth.

SSG and SPCK share a strong commitment to communicate the richness of the Christian Faith. SSG intend to employ a vigorous marketing strategy for the SPCK Bookshops. "People in our stressful, modern age, care deeply about spirituality and long for a deeper faith. SPCK Bookshops will offer a primary solution to these questions of faith," said Mark Brewer, Chairman of SSG. "SPCK will continue into its fourth century with its shops as places where all people, Christian or otherwise, are welcome and given the chance to widen their spiritual horizons."

"We are delighted to have found partners with a similarly strong vision and a determination to invest in the mission of presenting the Christian message imaginatively and effectively in an attractive environment," commented SPCK's new Chairman, Bishop Michael Perham.

Under the new arrangements, SPCK Bookshops will continue to stock a broad and diverse range of Christian books and resources. SSG will also place a major emphasis in online marketing, utilizing the internet and harnessing the market power and presence of SPCK's long history on the High Street.

In this way we believe the Bookshops will be both maintained and strengthened, remaining broad and looking ambitiously to a growing future. We believe that this is good news for the whole Christian community.

In June 2007 the management of SSG announced that the bookshops would open on Sundays and Bank Holidays, including Good Friday. The Times report Mark Brewer, the Chairman, declared that this was sanctioned by Canon XXIX of the Synod of Laodicea, but controversy erupted over his interpretation since the ancient Epitome of Canon XXIX reads 'A Christian shall not stop work on the sabbath, but on the Lord’s Day.' [11] It is not thought that this has yet become blanket policy.

Controversy continued to erupt over the management of the Bookshops throughout 2007. A series of complaints arose about staff morale, working practices, and new contracts. [12] There have also been concerns that promises to retain a breadth of stock have not been upheld. Sales of the Qu'ran were banned within a month of the takeover, and the Anglican organisation Affirming Catholicism has had its material withdrawn.[13] As of 1 November 2007, 12 shops were without managers, and staff at both Exeter and York publicly walked out in October 2007 in protest at new contracts.[14]

By November 2007, Bishop Michael Perham of Gloucester and Simon Kingston had resigned as SSG trustees, out of concern that there was now a 'conflict of interest' between the SSG management and the best interests of the SPCK. The Bookseller The continued use of the SPCK name by the stores is now under review.


Founded in 1698, SPCK is a registered charity and Christian mission agency. For over three hundred years, it has helped people to grow in the Christian faith, especially through the ministry of Christian education and literature. The SPCK Bookshops group is currently the second largest Christian bookseller in the UK with 23 stores in England and one in Wales.

SPCK also equips Christians throughout the world with financial grants, resources, advice and encouragement in partnership with Feed the Minds. Working with Christian communicators and educators in many countries, in an average year it supports about 200 projects in more than 60 countries.


External links