November 1, 2012
Rev Stephen Sizer is the Vicar of Christ Church in Virginia Water, Surrey. He is now the subject of a complaint by the Board of Deputies to the Church of England, for making statements that the Board and most of the Jewish community find utterly offensive, to the point of crossing the line into antisemitism, even if this is neither his motivation nor intention. This is not all, as we also complain of Sizer posting links from his website to articles on racist and antisemitic websites where scurrilous views against Jews and others are published. When this happens, the Jewish community has to act.
Under Church law the Board’s complaint has to be brought under an Act of Parliament, the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003. The complaint is therefore for misconduct consisting of “conduct unbecoming or inappropriate to the office and work of a clerk in Holy Orders”.
The complaint, which can be found at http://www.bod.org.uk/content/Complaint%20regarding%20Revd%20Stephen%20S... , includes detailed supporting evidence at http://www.bod.org.uk/content/Evidence%20in%20support%20of%20complaint%2... , an appendix of the offending material at http://www.bod.org.uk/content/StephenSizerComplaintAppendix.pdf and a statement made earlier this year by the Bishop of Manchester, the Chairman of the Council of Christians and Jews, in which Sizer’s delay in removing a link to an antisemitic website and the content he linked to was described as “disgraceful and unbecoming for a clergyman of the Church of England to promote” http://www.bod.org.uk/content/CCJ%20Statement.pdf .
On the subject of Sizer posting links to racist websites, the complaint says this:
"The matters complained of disclose a clear and consistent pattern of
activity on the part of Rev Sizer. The evidence indicates that he spends
time trawling dark and extreme corners of the internet for material to add
to his website. Rev Sizer re-publishes such items to support the target of
his polemical writing, while at the same introducing his readers to the
racist and antisemitic websites from where he draws his material. As the
evidence demonstrates, there are five instances of this over the 11 month
period from July 2011 to June 2012."
Thankfully for relations between British Jews and Christians, Rev Sizer is very much the exception. He displays an obsession with Israel and opposes its identity as a Jewish state. The Jewish people’s belief in national self-determination, or Zionism, is shared with most of the world’s nations – but Sizer displays a deep hostility to Zionism, which he writes about as if it was a term of abuse. It is not difficult to come across his views, as he is an enthusiastic self-publicist who proclaims his preoccupation with Israel on his website, blog, Facebook and flickr pages.
Considering his position as a Church of England vicar, Rev Sizer keeps some strange company. He has shared a platform with and quoted from Holocaust deniers, goes on trips to Iran as the guest of the NEDA Institute which contributes to global efforts to deny the Holocaust and gave an interview with Qods News Agency, a Holocaust denying website. Sizer is also a speaker at the provocatively named Christ at the Checkpoint conference, which features a theology called supersessionism which has antisemitic overtones. It seems that Rev Sizer has few qualms about keeping company with anyone who shares his hostility to Israel, however dubious.
We need to be clear about what it is we complain of. We make no complaint about Rev Sizer’s anti-Israel views, nor of his trips to Iran or his supersessionist theology. While we view all of these with concern and distaste, Rev Sizer is entitled to his views and may travel where he wants. But we draw the line at making statements that we regard as antisemitic and advertising the content of racist and antisemitic websites. It is a matter of great regret that we are driven to make this complaint, but the Jewish community should not have to stomach material that we see as crossing the line into antisemitism.
To anyone who asks what it is that we seek from the complaint, my answer is simple. If it is upheld, it will be a matter for the Church of England what action to take to address Rev Sizer’s conduct. But I can say that we are not seeking to have him stopped from his ministry or dismissed from his job. We only ask one thing, which is that effective measures are taken to prevent him from publishing or re-publishing material that we find to be not merely offensive, but antisemitic.
We don’t think that’s too much to ask.
This is a cross-post from the Board of Deputies website at http://www.bod.org.uk/content/CCJ%20Statement.pdf