Conspiracy theory vicar’s new charity receives £6,600 from Surrey church

Disgraced reverend Stephen Sizer, who promoted a link to a Holocaust denial website, is still being supported by his former church


The former church of a vicar who promoted a Holocaust denial website and supports conspiracy theories about Israel is funding and supporting his charity work, new research reveals.

An investigation into Rev Dr Stephen Sizer has shown that his former ministry, Christ Church Virginia Water in Surrey, has donated thousands to his new charity, the Peacemaker Trust, and praised its work.

It also reveals how the vicar, who was banned by his diocese from using social media for six months in 2015, and also banned from preaching in the months preceding his retirement from his post in 2017, continues to make inflammatory statements about Israel and post conspiracy theories in his new “peacemaker” role.

It was reported in 2012 that Rev Sizer had promoted via Facebook a website that supported Holocaust denial and warned of a Zionist conspiracy controlling the world.

The website hosted cartoons in celebration of Shoah deniers, blamed Israel for the war in Iraq, and supported Iran’s then president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s nuclear ambitions.

Having left his post of 20 years with Christ Church Virginia Water in 2017 – the same year he set up his charity – in 2018 he made an appearance on the Iranian state television Press TV where he said the Jewish community was “paranoid” about Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister.

Also in 2018 he posted a link on Facebook to an article titled: Is Israel’s Hidden Hand Behind the Attacks on Jeremy Corbyn?. Underneath he wrote: “You would have to be as blind as a bat not to see their hands.”

And this year he published a post on Facebook that suggested Israel was a “terrorist state”.

The revelations come in a new academic study by James Mendelsohn, a Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of the West of England and Bernard Nicholas Howard, the son of former Conservative leader Michael Howard, who is a pastor in New York.

Called A Lesser Bigotry, the article assesses how various conservative evangelical Christian groups reacted to Dr Sizer’s views compared to other controversies.

The Peacemaker Trust, of which Dr Sizer is now director, pledges to “be a catalyst for peace-making”.

In their report, Mr Mendelsohn and Mr Howard reveal how his former church, Christ Church Virginia Water, still offers both money and support to Dr Sizer’s new venture.

In 2018, under the leadership of new vicar Rev Dr Simon Vibert, the church donated £6,600 to Dr Sizer’s new charity, which was then called Peacemaker Mediators.

And in both March 2019 and January 2020, the Peacemaker Trust was named “Mission of the Month” in the church’s Connection magazine.

Rev Dr Vibert did not respond to the JC’s request for a comment but in the past has said it was not his role to “try to unpick my predecessor’s position on these issues”.

Dr Sizer is best known for his opposition to Christian Zionism.

In 2012, the Board of Deputies, backed by the Community Security Trust (CST) and the Jewish Leadership Council, formally complained to the Church of England about Dr Sizer’s views.

In a statement issued at the time, the BoD said it had lodged the complaint because Dr Sizer’s views were “utterly offensive” to the Jewish community “to the point of crossing the line into antisemitism”.

The complaint was also filed because of “his pattern of posting links to racist and antisemitic websites where scurrilous statements against Jews and other are published”, it added.

It triggered a Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) and a conciliation meeting in 2013, in which Dr Sizer agreed to have his online activity monitored.

The A Lesser Bigotry report states: “Significantly, the CDM never led to any formal verdict from the Church of England on the rights and wrongs of Dr Sizer’s conduct.”

The South East Gospel Partnership, to which his church was affiliated, concluded in 2012 there was “no justifiable grounds for breaking partnership with Stephen”.

In 2014 the report’s authors asked the Christianity Explored Ministries (CEM) to remove Dr Sizer from his position as an advocate on one of its courses. The CEM took no action because Dr Sizer had already been the subject of an “appropriate” disciplinary review.

The same year, Rev Sizer was alleged to have attended a conference in Iran where Israel was accused of plotting the attacks on New York’s World Trade Centre in a session called “Zionist Fingerprints on the 9/11 Cover-up”.

In 2015, the Bishop of Guildford condemned Reverend Sizer for displaying “appallingly poor judgment” over his anti-Israel posts but said he did not believe his motives were antisemitic.

The Bishop, the Right Reverend Andrew Watson, banned Rev Sizer from using social media and prohibited him from speaking about the Middle East on any platform.

But the vicar went on to attend an event at the House of Lords in 2016 at which an audience member appeared to blame the Jews for the Holocaust, and breached the terms of his agreement by posting about the event afterwards.

Rev Sizer and Christ Church Virginia Water did not reply to requests from the JC for comment.

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