Group says Church of England vicar anti-Semitic

Formal complaint documents Rev. Stephen Sizer’s offensive anti-Semitic statements and "deep hostility to Zionism."

The Church of England General Synod in London 370 (R) (photo credit: Finbarr O'Reilly / Reuters)
The Church of England General Synod in London 370 (R)
(photo credit: Finbarr O'Reilly / Reuters)
LONDON – Britain’s Jewish community representative organization has taken the unprecedented step of lodging a formal complaint to the Church of England, the country’s officially established Christian church, accusing one of its clergyman of anti-Semitism.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews has accused Rev. Stephen Sizer, the vicar of Virginia Water Church in Surrey and an ardent anti-Israel campaigner, of making anti-Semitic statements and republishing anti-Semitic material.
The action comes at a time when the relationship between the Jewish community and the Church of England has taken a downward turn, following its decision in July to strengthen ties with an anti-Israel group.
According to the board’s vice-president, Jonathan Arkush, Sizer has made statements that the board and most of the Jewish community find utterly offensive, to the point of crossing the line into anti- Semitism.
The representative organization lodged the complaint under the Church of England’s disciplinary process, an act of parliament known as the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003.
Submitting the complaint on behalf of the board, Arkush said, “The evidence disclosed indicates that Rev. Sizer spends time trawling dark and extreme corners of the Internet.”
“Rev. Sizer republishes items to support the target of his polemical writing, while at the same time introducing his readers to the racist and anti-Semitic websites from where he draws his material,” he added.
The complaint cites numerous examples over an 11-month period showing a clear and consistent pattern of activity that “can no longer go unchallenged.”
In October 2011, the Church of England minister posted a link to his Facebook page from an anti-Semitic website called “The Ugly Truth: Zionism, Jewish extremism and a few other nasty items making our world uninhabitable today.”
Sizer removed the link three months later only after numerous complaints.
Bishop of Manchester Rt. Rev. Nigel McCulloch, who is also the chairman of the Council of Christians and Jews, said at the time that “the content and delay in removing the link from Mr. Sizer’s Facebook page was disgraceful and unbecoming for a clergyman of the Church of England to promote.”
In March, Sizer linked a picture of US bases surrounding Iran from the “Veterans Today” website, which publishes articles defending Hitler, and promotes Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke and the anti- Semitic musician Gilad Atzmon.
“Its home page quickly discloses articles displaying hatred of Jews and Israel. Rev.
Sizer could not have missed these when searching the site for material to post on his blog,” the board maintained.
In May, four months after removing the controversial link, Sizer acknowledged that the “Ugly Truth” contained offensive material and said that he had “no wish” to be associated with it.
“I have on many occasions condemned all forms of anti-Semitism and will continue so to do because it is abhorrent to me,” Sizer maintained.
However, only a month later, he again linked his blog to another anti-Semitic website. The homepage “Window into Palestine” displays a Nazi flag with a swastika superimposed on a Star of David and carries a copy of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, describing it as an “important tome.”
The charge sheet questions the sincerity of Sizer’s condemnation of anti-Semitism.
“Any visitor to ‘Window into Palestine’ would see immediately that it is racist and anti-Semitic. Rev. Sizer posted a link to this website exactly one month after telling the Council of Christians and Jews that he condemned all forms of anti-Semitism.
Arkush said that Sizer displays an obsession with Israel and opposes its identity as a Jewish state.
“Rev. Sizer displays a deep hostility to Zionism, which he writes about as if it was a term of abuse. It is not difficult to come across his views, as he is an enthusiastic self-publicist who proclaims his preoccupation with Israel on his website, blog and Facebook and Flickr pages.”
He also said that Sizer has few qualms about the company he keeps.
“He has shared a platform with and quoted from Holocaust-deniers; goes on trips to Iran as the guest of the NEDA Institute, which contributes to global efforts to deny the Holocaust and gave an interview with Quds News Agency, a Holocaust- denying website. Sizer is also a speaker at the provocatively named Christ at the Checkpoint conference, which features a theology called supersessionism which has anti-Semitic overtones.”
Writing in March 2011, Sizer said that Saif Gaddafi made a surprise visit to Israel to buy more weapons for his father, the late ruler of Libya.
“He goes to Israel regularly because, according to a senior Middle East Ecclesiastical source, both his mother and aunt are Jewish and live in Israel.
“Blood is indeed thicker than water. Perhaps this is why the US is reluctant to impose a ‘no-fly’ zone over Libya,” Sizer said.
It emerged that Sizer subsequently modified his post and removed the last line.
In June 2011, Sizer gave an interview to a Malaysian television program in which he claimed that “the Zionists” and the Far- Right in Britain were forming an alliance.
“It’s ironic that the very people who favored the work of Hitler are now working with the Zionists against the Muslims because they view them as a threat,” he said.
The complaint will now be considered by Bishop Christopher Hill, the bishop of Guildford, which is the jurisdictional area under which Sizer’s church falls.