A controversial Church of England vicar will “end his clerical career under a cloud” after breaching the terms of an agreement he had with bishops on not discussing Israel, the Board of Deputies has said.
Stephen Sizer agreed not to write, speak or tweet about the Middle East last year after he was disciplined by bishops for posting a link to an article suggesting Israel carried out the 9/11 attacks.
But the vicar, who leads the Christ Church congregation in Virginia Water, Surrey, last week attended an event at the House of Lords at which an audience member appeared to blame the Jews for the Holocaust.
The session, organised by the Palestine Return Centre, was hosted by Baroness Tonge and led to the Liberal Democrats suspending her party membership.
After attending the event, Rev Sizer published a social media post about it, breaching the terms of his agreement signed in February last year which effectively banned him from saying anything about the Middle East on any platform.
Sizer has spectacularly flouted his written undertaking to the Church of England Marie van der Zyl
The JC understands he posted seven pictures of the session on Facebook, but has since deleted the images.
The Board said he had “spectacularly flouted” last year’s deal.
But Rev Sizer has been allowed to keep his job after being given a final chance by Andrew Watson, Bishop of Guildford.
The vicar had given notice of his resignation from his church, effective from Easter 2017, and told the bishop he believed the agreement was thus no longer effective.
Marie van der Zyl, Board of Deputies vice-president, said: “The ‘soon-to-be-ex’ clergyman Stephen Sizer has spectacularly flouted his written undertaking to the Church of England by attending an event filled with toe-curling antisemitism.
“If he had any shred of decency, Sizer would have fulfilled the terms of the agreement and tendered his resignation with immediate effect.
“He now guarantees that he will end his clerical career under a cloud. The sad irony that this divisive figure is moving on to a charity called ‘Peacemaker Mediators’ is not lost on us.”
Rt Revd Watson said: “In February 2015, Dr Stephen Sizer undertook to refrain from writing or speaking on themes relating to the current situation in the Middle East and to its historical backdrop for as long as he remained a parish priest in the Diocese of Guildford.
“Until now, this agreement has been upheld in letter and spirit, however Dr Sizer recently attended an event which clearly engages in these themes, and around which there has subsequently been understandable controversy.
“Additionally, Dr Sizer published a social media post relating to the event, also contravening his agreement.
“Dr Sizer has already given notice of his resignation as vicar of Virginia Water from Easter 2017, and said that he attended the event in question on the understanding that our agreement no longer stood now that his resignation had been tendered.
“This is certainly not the case. I have spoken with Dr Sizer to make clear that I am disappointed by his actions and to clarify that our agreement categorically must run until the end of his tenure of office.”
The bishop said the vicar was “aware how seriously I view this” and had not been his intention to break the agreement.
Rev Sizer has been warned any future brief, before he departs Christ Church, would trigger “his tenure of office ending with immediate effect”.
He had previously been warned about sharing Holocaust denial and Zionist conspiracy articles, but last year linked on Facebook to a page entitled ‘9-11/Israel did it,’ which alleges Israel was responsible for the terrorist assaults in 2001 that killed nearly 3,000 people.
Under the link to the page on conspiracy theory website Wikispooks, he wrote: “Is this antisemitic? If so no doubt I'll be asked to remove it. It raises so many questions.”
In 2014, Rev Sizer attended a conference in Iran where Israel was accused of plotting the attacks on New York’s World Trade Centre buildings in a session called ‘Zionist Fingerprints on the 9/11 Cover-up’.