A vicar has been kicked out of the Church of England in an anti-Semitism row after meeting a Hezbollah commander and posting an article entitled: ‘9/11: Israel did it.
Rev Dr Stephen Sizer was investigated by a church tribunal after the Board of Deputies of British Jews made 11 allegations against him between 2005 and 2018.
The tribunal eventually found that Dr Sizer had ‘engaged in anti-Semitic activity’ in respect to four allegations and was given a ‘penalty judgment’ under the Clergy Disciplinary Measure 2003.
This will prohibit the retired vicar from licensed ministry in the Church of England for 12 years – which will take into account time served since the Board of Deputies of British Jews 2018 complaint.
Reverend Dr Stephen Sizer, 68, has been prohibited licensed ministry until 2030
Four out of eleven allegations against the former vicar were upheld by the tribunal
This means he will be free to practise again in 2030.
Throughout the process, the former vicar of Christ Church in Virginia Water, Surrey denied anti-Semitic behaviour but admitted the factual basis of all 11 claims.
In a rare move, Dr Sizer chose to hold his tribunal in public in a bid to clear his name, arguing that his actions were political and aimed at the state of Israel, not Jewish people.
However, the tribunal eventually found that Dr Sizer’s conduct had been ‘unbecoming to the office and work of a clerk in Holy Order’ in that he provoked and offended the Jewish community and/or engaged in anti-Semitic activity with respect to four out of 11 allegations.
In 2006, Dr Sizer met ‘senior Hezbollah commander’ Sheikh Nabil Kaouk in a secret location near Tyre, Lebanon – however he claimed he did not instigate the meeting.
Regardless, the tribunal decided it was ‘unacceptable’ for an ordained minister to make an ‘unauthorised visit’ to a senior commander of the military wing of Hezbollah other than in an official capacity and found Dr Sizer’s conduct unbecoming and inappropriate in that he provoked and offended the Jewish community.
It also concluded, however, that he was not engaging in anti-Semitic activity.
Dr Sizer met the senior Hezbollah commander Sheikh Nabil Kaouk in summer 2006 (pictured together) and is accused of promoting the idea that Israel was behind the September 11 attacks by posting an article entitled: ‘9/11: Israel did it’
Dr Sizer denied his actions were anti-Semitic arguing they were political and aimed at the state of Israel, not Jewish people. (Above, Dr Sizer in Tehran in 2014)
In September 2010, Dr Sizer posted a link to an article entitled The Mother of All Coincidences, which pushed the conspiracy theory that 9/11 was an Israeli plot.
The tribunal said an ordained minister should not have given ‘the oxygen of publicity’ to such an article and found his conduct was unbecoming and inappropriate in that he provoked and offended the Jewish community, although not engaged in anti-Semitic activity.
Dr Sizer was also accused of promoting the idea that Israel was behind the September 11 attacks by posting an article entitled: ‘9/11: Israel did it’ in 2015.
Alongside the article he wrote that it ‘raised so many questions’.
The tribunal rejected the vicar’s assertion that the article raised ‘serious issues’ that needed to be talked about and labelled it ‘virulently anti-Semitic’, fulfilling ‘all the tropes of antisemitism’.
It concluded that Dr Sizer’s conduct was unbecoming on the grounds that he provoked and offended the Jewish community and that by posting the link he was engaging in anti-Semitic activity.
The ex-vicar was also accused of anti-Semitism for attending a range of events in the same period where attendees included Holocaust denier Fred Tobin and anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist Michael Hoffman.
In respect of these seven allegations, the tribunal found it was not proved that Dr Sizer’s conduct was unbecoming or inappropriate for an ordained minister nor that he was engaging in anti-Semitic activity.
Speaking in his defence at his tribunal, Dr Sizer claimed his views had been ‘routinely misrepresented and distorted’ and that he ‘repeatedly and unequivocally repudiated racism, antisemitism and Holocaust denial in his lectures, books and website articles.’
Commenting on the tribunal’s findings, the Archbishop of Canterbury 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.’
MailOnline has reached out to Dr Sizer’s representatives for comment.