Anglican vicar admits offending Jews over web posts

Reverend Stephen Sizer

Reverend Stephen Sizer

An Anglican vicar has said he regrets posting website links which promoted Holocaust denial and Zionist conspiracy theories.

Reverend Stephen Sizer said he accepted that his actions had offended the Jewish community and acknowledged he should have “taken more care” and “reflected on the choice of words more carefully”.

Rev Sizer was the subject of an unprecedented complaint made by the Board of Deputies to the Church of England last year.

Following mediation sessions with the Board, he said on Wednesday that while he did not accept claims that he had made antisemitic statements, he now realised the importance of monitoring online posts and avoiding “inflammatory” language.

He was twice forced to alter his website last year and was briefly investigated by police.

One link had directed readers to a website featuring Holocaust revisionism and adverts for the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Another had claimed that countries including Britain and Israel had “special forces operating in Syria… backed up by the CIA and Mossad”.

The mediation sessions, held earlier this year, were led by Christian and Jewish conciliators – the Very Rev Christopher Lewis, Dean of Christ Church Oxford, and retired High Court judge Sir Gavin Lightman.

During the meetings Rev Sizer discussed the offensive links with Board vice-president Jonathan Arkush. He agreed to have three people check his blog posts and links he posts to other websites, and said he would respond “promptly” to future critics.

After both parties signed the conciliation agreement, Mr Arkush said: “The outcome has demonstrated that the Board of Deputies, the community and very many Christians were right to feel very deep concern about Rev Sizer.

“The Board welcomes Rev Sizer’s acknowledgments and undertakings, which clearly demonstrate that conduct on his part which led to the complaint was unbecoming or inappropriate to a minister of the Church of England.”

Mr Arkush said the Board was committed to ensuring strong Christian-Jewish relations in Britain, and that Rev Sizer’s actions had been “the exception, not the rule”.

The Board has agreed to treat the result of the mediation as the resolution of its initial complaint.

Writing on Twitter on Wednesday morning, Rev Sizer said the Board's complaint could have been resolved "18 months ago" if the Board had been "willing to meet". He said he had offered to meet Jewish community leaders at the end of 2011, "but this offer was never taken up".

In a statement on his website, Rev Sizer said he was an "enthusiastic user of new media", but added: "Whilst the web is a rich source of reference, it also contains a great deal of material with which one would not wish to be associated.

"I care passionately about the safety of the Jewish people and the right of Israel to exist within internationally agreed borders.

"I have always opposed racism, antisemitism and Holocaust denial as well as Islamophobia and the denial of the Palestinian right to self-determination and will continue to do so."

Last updated: 9:29am, October 23 2013