Vicar guilty of ‘antisemitic activity’ banned until 2030

Revd Dr Stephen Sizer’s ban on clerical duties is among the longest in modern CofE history 


An Anglican priest will be defrocked until 2030 after being found guilty of “antisemitic activity”.

Revd Dr Stephen Sizer, who has been suspended from his ministry since 2018, will be banned from carrying out the functions of an ordained minister until his penalty expires in over seven years' time.

The ban comes after the former parish vicar was found guilty of “antisemitic activity” by a first-of-its-kind Church of England public tribunal last December. It is one step down from the most serious penalty that Anglican priests can be punished with: prohibition for life.

Following the 30 January hearing at the court house adjacent to St Andrew’s Church Holborn, it was announced that: “The unanimous conclusion of the tribunal is that the appropriate period of prohibition from exercising any ministry or functions as a clerk in holy orders, in this case, is a period of twelve years.” 

The decision to include time already served in the prohibition means he will be unable to act as a minister for another seven years until 12 December 2030.

The tribunal heard evidence of 11 instances of alleged antisemitism. The 68-year-old denied the allegations that he was antisemitic but, in December's unprecedented judgment, it concluded that in four of the 11 claims, Dr Sizer’s conduct was “unbecoming to the office and work of a clerk in Holy Orders,” in that he “provoked and offended” the Jewish community over a sustained period.

He was also found to have carried out 'conduct unbecoming' of an ordained minister after promoting antisemitic material online – although he was not found guilty of unbecoming conduct in respect of the fact that he shared a platform with a Holocaust denier.

The tribunal ruled Dr Sizer had engaged in “antisemitic activity” in one of the 11 allegations; a post in January 2015 that contained a link to an article entitled “9/11/Israel did it”.

Dr Sizer was also criticised for being “disingenuous in his answers”. The Bishop of Winchester, in whose diocese Dr Sizer’s former parish of Christ Church Virginia Water is situated, suspended the Anglican priest in 2018 pending the outcome of this hearing.

The Clergy Disciplinary Measure process against Dr Sizer began following a complaint from the Board of Deputies to the head of his Diocese, the Bishop of Winchester, who referred him to the ecclesiastical hearing.

The vicar was previously banned by his former diocese from using social media for six months in 2015, but still continued to make “deeply offensive” and “unpleasant” antisemitic pronouncements, last December's hearing in London heard.

The tribunal heard that he “provoked and offended the Jewish community and/or engaged in antisemitic behaviour” through a series of actions in recent years.

These include participating in a conference run by the Iran-backed Islamic Human Rights Commission in 2005.

He admitted to having spoken at a conference in Indonesia in 2008 alongside Fred Tobin, an alleged Holocaust denier.

The vicar also admitted to having met senior Hezbollah commander Sheikh Kaouk in 2006, claiming that he “advised” him that Hezbollah should release captured Israeli soldiers. The tribunal said this meeting was unbecoming and inappropriate for an ordained minister, but that Dr Sizer was not engaging in antisemitic activity.

He also posted to Facebook an item claiming former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was a victim of “the hidden hands of Zionism”. However, the panel concluded that Dr Sizer was not engaging in antisemitic activity in this instance.

Marie van der Zyl, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews representative body who brought the case against the disgraced vicar, told the JC: “I am pleased that the Tribunal has made an unambiguous statement in banning Stephen Sizer from being able to act as a Clerk in Holy Orders for 12 years. Given that he indulged in 'antisemitic activity' and caused grievous offence to the Jewish community over a number of years, this is the correct decision.

"I am grateful to the Tribunal for hearing our evidence and look forward to a continued strong and close relationship with the Church of England in the coming years. Many thanks to my predecessor as President, Jonathan Arkush, who also worked tirelessly on this case with me," she went on.

Following the penalty judgment, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said: “I note the findings of the Bishop’s Disciplinary Tribunal for the Diocese of Winchester regarding the Revd Dr Stephen Sizer and his subsequent prohibition from licensed ministry in the Church of England.

"It is clear that the behaviour of Stephen Sizer has undermined Christian-Jewish relations, giving encouragement to conspiracy theories and tropes that have no place in public Christian ministry and the church. I renew my call for the highest possible standards among ordained ministers of the Church of England in combatting antisemitism of all kinds.”

The JC has reached out to Revd Dr Stephen Sizer for comment.
An earlier version of this story failed to make clear that the tribunal did not consider Dr Sizer’s participation at the conference was conduct unbecoming for an ordained minister. We have amended it to make this clear.

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