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Cleric denies anti-Semitism in disciplinary hearing

27 May 2022

Alamy

The Revd Dr Stephen Sizer leaves a Bishop’s Disciplinary Tribunal at St Andrew’s Church Centre in Holborn, central London, on Monday

The Revd Dr Stephen Sizer leaves a Bishop’s Disciplinary Tribunal at St Andrew’s Church Centre in Holborn, central London, o...

A RETIRED priest, the Revd Dr Stephen Sizer, appeared before a Bishop’s Disciplinary Tribunal this week, after a complaint was made by the Board of Deputy of British Jews about his conduct between 2005 and 2018.

Dr Sizer was Vicar of Christ Church, Virginia Water, in Surrey, for 20 years, until his retirement in 2017, and now lives in Southampton, in the diocese of Winchester. He appeared at a tribunal in St Andrew’s Church Centre in Holborn, central London, on Monday. The tribunal was, unusually, held in public, at Dr Sizer’s request.

The Times reported on Tuesday that court documents listed allegations that Dr Sizer attended a conference in London, in 2005, at which a Hezbollah politician spoke; that he met a “senior commander of Hezbollah forces” in 2006; that he spoke at a conference in Indonesia, in 2008, at which a Holocaust-denier spoke; and that he “promoted the idea that Israel was behind the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001 by posting a link in January 2015 to an article entitled ‘9/11: Israel did it’ that blamed Israel for the attacks” (News, 13 February 2015). He was also accused of posting on Facebook, in 2018, that the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was “a victim of the hidden hands of Zionists”.

Nicholas Leviseur, counsel for the Board of Deputies, told the tribunal that Dr Sizer had engaged in “conduct unbecoming and inappropriate for a clerk in holy orders”, The Times reported. “There appears to have been an unusual amount of behaviour . . . promoting the views of others which are bluntly anti-Semitic in character.”

Stephen Hofmeyr QC, counsel for Dr Sizer, said that Dr Sizer had said “repeatedly, unreservedly and very publicly that . . . anti-Semitism must be repudiated unequivocally”, and had written: “Legitimate criticism of Israeli policies towards the Palestinians must not be used as an excuse for racism or attacks against Jewish people.”

Mr Hofmeyr said that Dr Sizer’s case was “that he is not anti-Semitic and that his words or conduct never have been anti-Semitic”.

In 2015, the Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Revd Andrew Watson, ordered Dr Sizer to stop writing or speaking about the Middle East, or risk losing his job, after Dr Sizer posted the link on his Facebook page to the article “9/11: Israel did it” (News, 6 February), thus breaching an undertaking that he had made the previous year to have his online activism moderated. Dr Sizer apologised and retracted the suggestion that Israel was involved in 9/11, and apologised for the “distress” caused to the Jewish community.

Dr Sizer wrote on Facebook this month that he would not be commenting on the tribunal until it had concluded. It is due to conclude on Friday.

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