Anti-Israel Anglican vicar “temporarily unavailable”
Amazing as it may sound, vicars in the Church of England can actually go too far in their hostility to Israel. Rev Sizer's website link to a 9/11 conspiracy theory blaming Israel for the attacks has got him into big trouble
What a headline! What a concept! But so says the website of Rev Stephen Sizer, whose bishop states that his “strong but undisciplined commitment to an anti-zionist agenda has become a liability to his own ministry and that of the wider church.”
His sins have led finally to him being severely disciplined by his own church.
Rev Sizer has been in hot water several times with his ecclesiastical bosses over ill-advised social media posts about Israel and the Palestinians. He has always protested his innocence of any intention to offend Jews and claims to like Israel (see previous article in The Commentator).
He has, however, repeatedly attended and spoken at conferences and meetings where antisemitism is the order of the day and the state of Israel is denigrated and demonised with aggressive rhetoric seldom backed up by solid facts.
His most recent “slip” was to post a link to a blatantly anti-Israel conspiracy theory article blaming Israel fair and square for the 9/11 terror attack on the US. News of his sin regrettably broke on Holocaust Memorial Day -- this year being also the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Soviet army.
Complaints about previous anti-Israel or anti-semitic posts have led only to delays in any action by the Church of England authorities and a seeming reluctance to take responsibility for the actions of one of their priests.
This time, however, their reaction has been swift and decisive, with the new (not yet inaugurated) Bishop of Guildford holding an impressive press conference within days of Sizer’s Facebook post hitting the national media and issuing a strongly-worded press release and accompanying video.
The C of E has finally woken up to the fact that Stephen Sizer’s “undisciplined commitment to an anti-Zionist agenda” has led to him crossing “a serious line” (quotes from the bishop’s press release). Furthermore, he has become a liability to the Christian witness and reputation of Britain’s largest and most important denomination.
By his past association with the more rabid end of the boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, Sizer has absorbed their anti-semitic agenda and has become tainted in anything he says himself.
By associating with groups like the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the Christ at the Checkpoint conference and (most untenable of all) by speaking at conferences in Iran, one of the most persistent and aggressive state persecutors of Christians in the world, Sizer has damaged his own status as a credible Christian voice in the Middle East debate.
As an evangelical Christian myself, it is sad to see a fellow minister sinking to the depths of disseminating ridiculous conspiracy articles that are blatantly anti-semitic.
There is a desperate need for holders of all positions on the Middle East conflict to listen to each other and dialogue instead of indulging in the emotive shouting of meaningless rhetoric that is seen at “pro-Palestine” rallies and meetings.
The detailed listing of all that Rev Sizer is forbidden to do from now on, including preparing background material for others to speak, is an indicator of how little his church hierarchy now trusts his protestations of innocence in propagating anti-Israel and anti-semitic material.
Stephen Sizer has received his “final written warning” and for his sake and the sake of his parishioners I hope he heeds it.
Nick Gray is Director, Christian Middle East Watch, a British organisation dedicated to objective and factual discussion of Middle Eastern issues, especially of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Nick, who is a regular contributor to The Commentator, blogs at cmewonline.com
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