by Pat Ashworth
SPCK bookshops have been instructed not to stock the Qur’an, a book that features on the reading lists of most religious-studies courses. The move comes in the wake of the partnership with the St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust (SSG), in which all 23 bookshops in England and Wales were transferred to the Eastern Orthodox charity, which is based in the United States (News, 27 October).
Concerns over Islam are apparent on the SSG’s website, where the charity reports: “England has not only become extremely secularised in recent years, but has witnessed the explosion of Islam. . . In an effort to stem the growth of non-Christian faiths and re-establish Christianity in areas where it has been driven out, the Trust has acquired a beautiful building [the redundant St Mary Magdalene’s] in Bradford. (This city has one of the highest percentages of resident Muslims in the UK.)”
Text on the website has been amended since the Church Times published the report announcing the partnership. References to the “misguided beliefs” of those who turned to the Roman Catholic Church, and other references to the Orthodox Church as “the only Church true to the Word of God, and therefore the only one that offers true salvation and eternal life”, have been removed.
The charity now reiterates that in seeking to promote Orthodoxy in Britain: “We are not ‘against’ Protestants, Catholics or any others; rather, we are ‘for’ Orthodoxy. . .
“The trustees of St Stephen the Great believe that a broad array of Orthodox Christian material can be distributed in England and Wales by continuing to serve SPCK’s existing customer base of Anglicans, other Protestants, and Roman Catholics.”
The charity is headed by Mark Brewer, managing director of the Texan law firm, Brewer & Pritchard, who is a former judge advocate for the US Air Force at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk. Mr Brewer said on Tuesday: “SPCK has never aimed to promote the knowledge of other religions. With the SPCK Book-shops being part of St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust, this will continue. . .
“It is our further general intention to stock those items which will bring the gospel message of Jesus Christ to the widest possible audience. In doing so, we are mindful that the stocking of books which are inimical to Christianity, which without question the Qur’an is, could well create the wrong impression among some that we endorse the belief systems of other religions as ‘equal’ or viable alternatives to Christianity.”