Stephen Sizer

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Person.png Revd Dr Stephen Sizer   Twitter WebsiteRdf-icon.png
(Pastor, Evangelist)
Stephen Sizer.jpg
Born 27 July 1953
Lowestoft, United Kingdom
Nationality British
Alma mater Sussex University
Interests “9-11/Israel did it”
A Church of England of vicar who incurred the establishment's wrath by posting a link to Wikispooks on Facebook.

The Reverend Stephen Sizer is the Anglican vicar of Christ Church, Virginia Water, in Surrey, England.[1] He is known for his opposition to Christian Zionism, which is the basis of his 2004 PhD thesis[2] and is also the focus of his published works.[3][4]

In October 2012, the Board of Deputies of British Jews (BDBJ) made a complaint against Dr Sizer claiming his blog had made antisemitic statements and published links to racist websites. The complaint was handled under the Church of England's clergy discipline measure and was resolved with a meeting between BDBJ vice-president Jonathan Arkush and Dr Sizer, who said:

"I don't regret what I said. Antisemitism is racism - it is dehumanising and treats Jews in a derogatory or negative way. I repudiate that unequivocally."[5]

In April 2014, Dr Sizer was interviewed on George Galloway's Sputnik programme, highlighting that Christian Zionists (neo-cons) outnumber Jewish Zionists 10 to 1 in America.[6] Ten months later, he was again at the centre of a Church of England investigation for alleged anti-Semitism and was banned from writing or speaking about the situation in the Middle East for at least six months.[7] Dr Sizer was forced into an apology after posting a link on Facebook to a Wikispooks article entitled "9-11/Israel did it".[8][9]

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn argued that those criticising Dr Sizer were politically motivated and were "intent on discrediting the excellent work that Stephen does in highlighting the injustices of the Palestinian Israeli situation…..as part of a wider pattern of demonising those who dare to stand up and speak out against Zionism."[10]

The Bishop of Guildford, the Right Rev Andrew Watson, said he had received a "solemn undertaking" from Dr Sizer that he would refrain entirely from writing or speaking on any theme that relates directly or indirectly to the Middle East or its historical backdrop. He said Dr Sizer had also promised to refrain from attending or participating in any related conferences and from all writing, emailing, teaching, preaching and use of social media on themes related to the Middle East. "Should he break this agreement he has pledged his immediate resignation," the Bishop said, adding that a six-month social media ban was also then in place.[11]

Background

Stephen Sizer was born in Lowestoft in 1953, the son of a carpenter. He began his career working for the Department of Health and Social Security (1971–1973) as a Supplementary Benefits Visiting Officer in east London. From there he went on to study Geography (African & Asian Studies) at Sussex University, (1973–1976), where he became a Christian. After graduation Sizer worked as a Campus Director/student counsellor with Agape at the Universities of London, Liverpool and Sussex. In 1980 he was accepted for training as a minister in the Church of England and gained a Diploma in Theology at Trinity College Bristol. In 1983 he was ordained and became an Assistant Curate for St Leonard's in St Leonards-on-Sea, then was appointed Rector at St. John's, Stoke, Guildford in 1986. He gained an MA in Theology from Oxford University in 1994. After 11 years at St John's, in 1997 he became the Vicar of Christchurch, Virginia Water, where he is now incumbent. He continued to study and was awarded a PhD from Oak Hill Theological College and Middlesex University in 2003.[12][13][14]

Views and opinions

Stephen Sizer is a Conservative Evangelical and has aligned with a number of related organisations. He is a member of Reform (Anglican) and the Church Society. He has endorsed the Jerusalem Declaration issued by the Global Anglican Future Conference and has joined the resulting Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. He supports the Third Province Movement.

In 2004, Stephen Sizer adapted his PhD thesis into a book, "Christian Zionism - Road Map to Armageddon?"[15] Dr Sizer claims that Christian Zionism infused with the neo-con political ideology has led millions of Christians astray and helped to tip the world on its side heavy with military artillery.[16]

He argues that Christian Zionism has no biblical foundation or historical precedent. [17] He writes that his motivation lies in the conviction that ignoring or stereotyping Palestinian Christians is a contradiction of faith and immoral before God.[18] He suggests that "it is irresponsible to believe that God will bless Christians materially if they support the largely secular State of Israel."[19]

On 27 September 2014 Dr Sizer spoke at the "Second New Horizon Conference" in Tehran.[20] The Iranian state-run Press TV described the conference as designed to discuss “the influence of the Zionist lobby.”[21][22]

Christian and Jewish responses

In the Christian world, some of Dr Sizer's writings have been commended by Christians who embrace Calvinist covenant theology, including leaders and academics such as John Stott (Stott's essay "The Place of Israel" is included in Sizer's Book "Zion's Christian Soldiers?"), R C Lucas, Gary Burge, Gilbert Bilezikian, Stephen Travis, and Paul Copan.[23]

Some reviews of Christian Zionism - Road Map to Armageddon? have been highly critical.[24][25][26] A prominent Christian opponent of Dr Sizer, Bible teacher David Pawson, wrote a book called Defending Christian Zionism - in response to Stephen Sizer and John Stott.[27] Pawson has said of Sizer: "I am grateful to Stephen Sizer for drawing attention to the legitimate criticisms of dispensational Zionism. He has rendered a service to the cause of Zionism which was needed." [28] Pawson publicly debated Sizer on Premier Christian Radio.

Other Christian authors who have criticised Sizer include Barry Horner[29] and Paul Wilkinson,[30] leaders of Christian missions to the Jewish people such as Mike Moore,[31][32] General Secretary of Christian Witness to Israel, and Tony Higton.[33] Later, having met Sizer, Tony Higton largely retracted his view and wrote:

After years of sparring, Stephen Sizer and I met up and found we had wide areas of agreement. Having worked in Jewish ministry for seven years, half of them in Jerusalem, I have seen the best and worst of Christian Zionism. Insofar as it combats anti-Semitism, defends the existence of a safe homeland for Jewish people, promotes evangelism among Jewish people, and supports reconciliation in the Holy Land, it is good. However, Sizer is right to criticise the serious failings of some Christian Zionism. I agree with him in rejecting the following errors which are held by many Christian Zionists: Lack of godly compassion for the Palestinians, and of concern for their human rights and about their legitimate aspirations. A negative attitude toward Palestinians, and Arabs in general, to the point of racism. Uncritical support for Israel (a secular, sinful state like any other), justifying all its actions against the Palestinians. Neglecting or even opposing and forbidding evangelism of Israelis, sometimes believing that Jewish people can experience salvation through Judaism. Being more interested in the fulfilment of prophecy than in application of kingdom principles such as justice and reconciliation. Opposing the peace process. Sometimes advocating the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the Holy Land. Sometimes supporting the rebuilding of the temple regardless of the problematic theological implications and the danger of provoking extreme violence.[34]

British Journalist Melanie Phillips has criticised Sizer and has condemned him in her writings.[35] The historian Geoffrey Alderman has also criticised Sizer for masking his religious prejudice in "academic guise."[36][37] Jewish Christians and Messianic Jews such as Aaron Abramson[38] and Jacob Prasch[39] have also expressed their strong disagreement with Sizer's views. The Board of Deputies of British Jews formally complained to the Church of England in November 2012 over documented statements made by Sizer since early 2010 which the Board argues are antisemitic.[40][41] Sizer's Diocesan Bishop, Christopher Hill, defended him, saying that he "repudiates anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial" and was just drawing attention to article about potential military action by Israel against Iran.[42]

In reference to Facebook posts making claims such as "God's people are all those who do His will, who are righteous, who are compassionate and who do not submit themselves to the false gods of voracity, vengeance, vulgarity and viciousness, which pretty much leaves the Jews out", the Rev. Nick Howard asserted in an article for Standpoint that given Sizer's statements on Press TV and elsewhere, the link made on his Facebook page is not an isolated, or "uncharacteristic", incident.[43]

However, the British solicitor advocate and academic, Anthony Julius (who became chair of The Jewish Chronicle in 2011 and who is known for opposing 'anti-Semitism') acknowledges that Stephen Sizer “categorically reject(s) any position that threatens the territorial integrity of Israel as a sovereign nation” and describes his work as having “the merit of clearly setting out the issues that divide the two sides, and furthermore doing so without the rancour or sheer nastiness of tone typical of the polemics in the conflict." [44] Moreover, following accusations of anti-Semitism levelled against Stephen Sizer in 2012 (seven months prior to the Board of Deputies' formal complaint) several prominent people wrote to the Bishop of Guildford in his defence. Amongst them was Rabbi Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok, emeritus professor of Judaism at Aberystwyth University, wrote, “I have been disturbed to read about the allegations made against Stephen Sizer. These are, I believe, completely without foundation: there is simply no evidence that he is an antisemite. It would be a mistake… to construe Stephen Sizer's political criticisms as evidence of antipathy against Jews.” [45]

Public positions

Stephen Sizer is a member of the Executive of the Guildford Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship and a member of Guildford Diocesan Synod. He is a trustee and former chairman of the International Bible Society UK, publishers of the New International Version. He is a founding member of the Institute for the Study of Christian Zionism, a member of the Advisory Council of Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding, a Trustee of the Amos Trust and on the UK Board of Reference for the Mar Elias Educational Institutions in Ibillin, Galilee. He is also on the editorial board of Living Stones Magazine. Sizer regularly contributes articles for newspapers and journals including Evangelicals Now.[46] Third Way,[47][48] Plain Truth[49] and Friends of Al Aqsa.[50] He is a regular contributor to programmes on Premier Radio, and the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB). He has also appeared on BBC2 Newsnight, Syrian TV and Al Manar TV.

Censorship incident

On 29 November 2009, Joseph Weissman, a 23 year-old graduate student at Leeds University was visited by police officers at his home. Weissman had created a blog under the name "Seismic Shock" which had criticised Sizer's anti-Zionist views and alleged links to "extremists". The police were acting on complaints of harassment made by Sizer and a lecturer at the Wales Evangelical School of Theology, Anthony McRoy. No legal action was taken against Weissman, but it was reported that he voluntarily removed the blog following the visit. News of the incident, referred to as "Sizergate" by some commentators, broke in January 2010 and rapidly spread throughout the blogging community. Sizer and McRoy were widely accused of censoring Weissman's views, but the Streisand effect raised awareness of the dispute between Sizer and Weissman.[51]

Social media ban

On 20 January 2015 at 9.17 pm, Sizer posted a link on his Facebook page to the Wikispooks "conspiracy theory" page "9/11 Israel did it". He asked in his posting: "Is this anti-Semitic? If so no doubt I’ll be asked to remove it. It raises so many questions."[52] Sizer removed the post at the request of the Board of Deputies of British Jews but in correspondence with Jewish News online, he asked that evidence be provided to refute the conspiracy theory.[53] After he removed the posting, Sizer continued to insist that it was "encouraging debate."[54]

On 29 January 2015, the Church of England said in a statement that the comments made by Sizer were unacceptable and that the Diocese of Guildford would launch an investigation.[55] On 30 January 2015, Sizer issued a statement of apology[56] and announced that the diocese had suspended him from all social media and blogs.[57] On 9 February it emerged that Sizer has been banned from social media by the new Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Rev Andrew Watson, for at least six months for the Facebook post linking to the 9/11 Israel did it article. He is also banned from commenting on issues relating to the middle east.[58]

Published work

Author

Contributor

 

Related Document

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Why We Should Be Concerned About Christian Zionismletter25 August 2015Mary AlshomalyA letter from a Palestinian Christian to the news director and lead anchor of EWTN News


References

  1. "Remembrance Sunday: How to Love Your Enemies"
  2. "About Stephen Sizer". 
  3. Sizer, Stephen. "Christian Zionism". 
  4. Sizer, Stephen. "Zion’s Christian Soldiers?". 
  5. "Vicar Stephen Sizer 'has no regrets' after Jewish complaint"
  6. "George Galloway's Sputnik: Stephen Sizer on mess in Palestine"
  7. "Vicar gets social media ban for 9/11 Israel Facebook post"
  8. "9-11/Israel did it"
  9. "Church bans 9/11 Israel conspiracy priest from using social media"
  10. "Jeremy Corbyn defends banned vicar Sizer who suggested Israel was behind 9/11"
  11. "Rev Stephen Sizer banned from speaking on the Middle East but retains role as Virginia Water vicar"
  12. "About Stephen Sizer". Retrieved 2009-04-06. 
  13. "Stephen Sizer". Retrieved 2009-04-06. 
  14. Additional biographical information from Dr Sizer's CV
  15. Sizer, Rev Dr Stephen (2004-11-26). Christian Zionism - Road Map to Armageddon?. Inter-Varsity Press. ISBN 978-1-84474-050-5. Retrieved 2009-04-04. 
  16. "Christian Zionism: The New Heresy that Undermines Middle East Peace". Middle East Monitor. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  17. Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon?, p.17 and 20
  18. Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon?, p.13
  19. Zion's Christian Soldiers, p.46
  20. NewHorizons. "Conference Itinerary". New Horizons. Retrieved 2 October 2014. 
  21. PressTV (30 Sep 2014). "Iran hosts 2nd International New Horizon conference". Press TV. Retrieved 2 October 2014. 
  22. Grossman, Michelle (2 October 2014). "ADLSlams "hatefest" promoting anti-Semitism". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2 October 2014. 
  23. "Commendations of "Zion's Christian Soldiers"". Inter-Varsity Press. Retrieved 2010-02-02. 
  24. Macaulay, Ian; Parker, Rev Keith (Summer 2005). "Christian Zionism "A Road Map to Armageddon?"". Christians for Israel. Archived from the original on 2005-12-01. Retrieved 2009-04-04. We are therefore disappointed at the writer’s failure to engage in enough questions in sufficient depth 
  25. Smith, Dr Calvin L. (2007-11-26). "Book Review of Christian Zionism". Midlands Bible College. Retrieved 2009-04-04. 
  26. Merkley, Paul (2007-01-01). "Was Israel a Mistake?". Christianity Today. Retrieved 2009-04-04. major misrepresentations of historical fact too numerous to list 
  27. Pawson, David (2007). Defending Christian Zionism - a response to Stephen Sizer and John Stott. Bristol: Terra Nova Publications International Ltd. ISBN 978-1-901949-62-9. 
  28. David Pawson, Defending Christian Zionism, p. 39
  29. Horner, Barry (2008-10-15). Future Israel - Why Christian Anti-Judaism must be challenged. B&H Academic. ISBN 0-8054-4627-3. 
  30. Wilkinson, Paul (2008-04-15). For Zion's Sake: Christian Zionism and the Role of John Nelson Darby. Paternoster. ISBN 1-84227-569-0. 
  31. Moore, Mike (2008). "Stephen Sizer and Anti-Zionism". Mishkan. Caspari Centre (55). 
  32. Template:Cite conference
  33. Higton, Tony. "A Response to Stephen Sizer's criticisms of CMJ and ITAC". Church's Ministry Among Jewish People. Archived from the original on 2006-03-07. Retrieved 2009-04-07. I have to conclude that Stephen's paper is ill-researched, rather unscholarly and very prejudiced. As such it should not really be taken too seriously. 
  34. Tony Higton, A Critique of Christian Zionism, p. 18
  35. Phillips, Melanie (2009-03-04). "Beware the new axis of evangelicals and Islamists". The Spectator. Retrieved 2009-04-06. 
  36. Geoffrey Alderman. "Disturbing Turns in Pulpits and Theses" (2004-07-09, p. 23. ed.). The Jewish Chronicle.  Not available online without subscription but quoted at [1] "Dr Sizer's thesis struck me as little more than his own religious prejudices dressed up in academic guise."
  37. Baty, Phil (2004-08-06). "Zionism thesis stirs up a storm". Times Higher Education Supplement. Retrieved 2009-04-07. Professor Alderman told The Times Higher: 'Middlesex has permitted its highest research degree to be awarded in respect of a work of propaganda.' 
  38. Abramson, Aaron. "Aaron Abramson's dissertation critiquing Sizer's book Christian Zionism - Road Map To Armageddon?". Jews for Jesus. Retrieved 2009-04-07. 
  39. Prasch, Jacob. "Stephen Sizer & The Sons of Menelaus". Moriel Ministries. Retrieved 2009-04-07. 
  40. Complaint by the Board of Deputies of British Jews under the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 [2]
  41. Marcus Dysch "'Antisemite' vicar in Board of Deputies complaint", The Jewish Chronicle, 1 November 2012
  42. Marcus Dysch "Bishop: anti-Zionist vicar 'no antisemite'", The Jewish Chronicle, 5 January 2012
  43. Nick Howard "Web Only: The Asymmetry of Racism Awareness", Standpoint, January–February 2012
  44. Julius, Anthony (2010). Trials of the Diaspora. Oxford University Press. p. 517. ISBN 9780199297054. 
  45. http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/66609/sizer-i-am-ready-meet-board-deputies-any-time
  46. Israel : The Mystery of Peace by Julia Fisher A Book Review for Evangelicals Now, May 2004
    See also Barak and the Bulldozers of Bethlehem A series of interviews with Christians in Palestine with an evaluation of the recent Israeli elections, published in Evangelicals Now, August (1999)
  47. Benny Morris for Third Way. "Israel: The Revised Version. A Review of 'Righteous Victims, A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict 1881-1999'". 
  48. "Annapolis: Optimism Vs. Pessimism An article for Sojourners Magazine" (PDF). Sizers.org. January 2008. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  49. American Apocalypse. Why are some Christian's anxious for Armageddon? Published in Plain Truth May–June 2007
  50. Travelling through the Holy Land: by Donald Bridge Book review published in Al Aqsa Journal, Vol 1, No. 2, April (1999)
  51. "dot.Rory: Seismic Shock: When blogging meets policing". BBC. 2010-01-26. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  52. Lizzie Dearden "", The Independent, 30 January 2015
  53. "'Show me evidence Israel wasn’t behind 9/11’, asks vicar Stephen Sizer'", Jewish News, 29 January 2015, retrieved 29 January 2015
  54. John Bingham "Vicar investigated over ‘9/11 Israel did it’ posting", Daily Telegraph, 29 January 2015
  55. "Statement on Rev. Stephen Sizer" retrieved 29 January 2015
  56. "Vicar 'sorry' for 9/11 Israel Facebook post". BBC News. 31 January 2015. Retrieved 31 January 2015. 
  57. "A statement of apology from The Revd Dr Stephen Sizer" retrieved 30 January 2015
  58. "", The Guardian (PA), 9 February 2015

External links