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The Controversial Ministry of Stephen Sizer

The Church of England figure has used theology to justify antisemitic narratives and sympathy for radical Islamists

Stephen Sizer (screenshot YouTube, Dec. 10, 2023)

Stephen Robert Sizer, 70, is a prominent Church of England cleric known for his staunch opposition to Christian Zionism, his anti-Israel views and antisemitic conspiracy theories, and his sympathy for Islamist radicals from terrorist groups including Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran’s Mullahs. His tenure as vicar of Christ Church, Virginia Water, Surrey, from 1997 to 2017, was characterized by active engagement in theological debates, which, while initially academic, increasingly veered into public controversy, drawing criticism from within and outside the Church of England.

Sizer's journey towards turning against Christian Zionism began with his Ph.D. from Oak Hill Theological College in 2003, leading to his critique of the theological support for Israel in "Christian Zionism: Road Map to Armageddon?" (2004). He argues that Christian Zionism lacks biblical and historical basis and that its implications for Palestinian Christians are both theologically and morally flawed. Transitioning from academic theory to active engagement, Sizer's dissent took a pivotal turn between 2005 and 2006, marking the start of his collaboration with the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC), an organization known for its proximity to radical Islamists, including Hamas and supporters ofIran's Ayatollah Khomeini.

This period saw him establishing connections with figures such as Sheikh Nabil Kaouk, a senior Hezbollah commander, during the summer of 2006. His active involvement extended to contributing to the IHRC's anthology, “Towards a New Liberation Theology”, in 2009, sharing pages with Ilan Papé—an ardent anti-Zionist and supporter of Palestinians groups, including Hamas. Notably, in 2007, Ilan Pappé openly described his friendship with Ismail Haniyeh, who was then the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority and affiliated with Hamas (currently, Haniyeh is recognized as one of the leaders of Hamas). The anthology also featured contributions from members of Neturei Karta, such as Rabbi Yisroel Weiss and Rabbi Cohen—radical anti-Zionists who participated in a Holocaust denial conference in Iran in 2006.

Antisemitism and conspiracy theories

Sizer's anti-Zionism thinly veils his antisemitism and conspiracy theories. In his 2004 work, "Christian Zionism: Road Map to Armageddon?", Sizer unreservedly directs his readers to a footnote on page 251, referencing an article that alleges Israeli involvement in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the USA. Additionally, on page 243, Dr. Sizer falsely asserts that Zionist leaders in the 1930s cooperated with the Nazis, a narrative frequently employed by antisemites and Holocaust deniers to argue that the Nazis' intent was not to exterminate Jews but to encourage their emigration. Furthermore, in 2008, Sizer joined Holocaust denier Fredrick Toben at a conference in Indonesia and endorsed the conspiracy theorist and Holocaust denier Michael A Hoffman II on the "Palestinian Orthodoxy" blog, amplifying his controversial positions.

Source: Stephen Sizer/Facebook, Jan., 2015.

Lastly, Sizer argued in a 2010 lecture that only followers of Jesus fulfil biblical promises, excluding Jews who reject Jesus from the covenant, intensifying debate around his views. And in 2011, Sizer defended Raed Salah, an Islamic Movement leader barred from the UK for antisemitic remarks, notably claiming Jews used children's blood in matzah. Despite a ban, Salah entered Britain and was arrested, leading Sizer to label him a "political prisoner" and hint at the Israel Lobby's influence, without condemning Salah's antisemitic comments.

In 2012, the Board of Deputies of British Jews filed a formal complaint against Sizer, documenting his antisemitic statements and his sharing of links to antisemitic websites. The compiled evidence against him included an interview with the Qods News Agency, which is notorious for denying the Holocaust, and referencing an article from the "Window into Palestine" website that hailed the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a significant document. In January 2015, Dr. Sizer escalated the situation by posting a link on his Facebook page to an article that accused Israel of being involved in the 9/11 attacks, prompting a renewed complaint by the Board of Deputies.

The Church of England's reaction to Sizer's conduct was quick and unequivocal. Following the formal complaints from the Board of Deputies in 2012 and 2015, the Church took disciplinary action against Sizer, including prohibiting his use of social media and instructing him to abstain from commenting on Middle Eastern politics. These measures led to a 2022 tribunal where Sizer was confronted with eleven charges of antisemitism and deeply offending Jews from 2005 to 2017. He was subsequently handed a prohibition until December 2030, with the tribunal citing his endorsement of conspiracy theories and antisemitic tropes as unfit for public Christian ministry and church leadership, thus effectively terminating his clerical career.

Continued Advocacy

Sizer, though “retired”, actively continues his anti-Zionist conspiracy-mongering through directing the Peacemaker Trust, a charity founded in 2017. Sizer frequently shares posts advocating against Israel, presenting a complex viewpoint that oscillates between calling for Israel's destruction and promoting a vision of "One Democratic State from the river to the sea with equal rights for all."(7. Oct. 2023)

His engagement extends to sharing anti-Zionist narratives, such as allegations of land theft by Israel from Palestinians and suggesting religious figures like the Virgin Mary would side with the Palestinians.

Additionally, Sizer expresses his support for controversial figures like Ilan Pappé, whose ideological views resonate with his own, and Jeremy Corbyn, the former British Labour leader removed for his unwillingness to address deep-seated antisemitism within his political party. Sizer has also made public declarations on Facebook about his personal friendship with Corbyn, further emphasizing his connections with figures facing similar scrutiny. A highlight of his engagements was his participation in a virtual conference on January 27, 2024, with Saied Reza Ameli, a professor of communication at the University of Tehran and partisan of Ayatollah Khamenei. Sizer's involvement with Iran, evident from his active participation in Tehran-based conferences in 2007 and 2014, underscore his connections and influence within extreme Islamist regimes and movements.

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Stephanie Share
Stephanie Share
Dr. Stephanie Courouble Share is a historian and an expert on Holocaust denial. She was a post-doctoral researcher at the Institut d’histoire du temps présent/CNRS, (Paris, France) then an associate researcher at the Arnold and Leona Finkler Institute of Holocaust Research at Bar Ilan University and later, at the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism at Tel Aviv University. She is currently a research Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy (ISGAP-New York) & at The London Centre for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism (LCSCA, London). As a historian specializing on Holocaust denial, Stephanie authored many articles on the topic in mainstream media around the world and on her blog. She often lectures at the International School for Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem and consults for international organizations on the topic. She is the author of two books (in French), “Les idées fausses ne meurent jamais…” (2021) and “Le négationnisme. Histoire, concepts et enjeux internationaux” (2023).
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