Stephen Sizer

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Stephen Sizer
Stephen Sizer, USA July 2007.jpg
Born 1953
Lowestoft
United Kingdom
Nationality British
Occupation Pastor
Evangelist
Website
Christchurch Virginia Water
Stephen Sizer
Stephen Sizer's Blog

Stephen Robert Sizer (born 1953) is the incumbent of the Anglican parish of Christ Church, Virginia Water, in Surrey, England. In addition to his parish ministry, he is an author, theologian and evangelist.

Biography[edit]

Stephen Robert 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). It was while at University, that 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 a 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.[1][2][3]

Views and opinions[edit]

Stephen Sizer is a Conservative Evangelical and has aligned with a number of related organisations.[1][2] He is a member of Reform (Anglican), Anglican Mainstream, 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[3].

In 2004, Sizer adapted his PhD thesis into a book, Christian Zionism - Road Map to Armageddon?[4] He claims that Christian Zionism infused with the neoconservative political ideology has led millions of Christians astray and helped to tip the world on its side heavy with military artillery.[5]

Sizer argues that Christian Zionism has no biblical foundation or historical precedent. [6] He writes that his motivation lies in the conviction that ignoring or stereotyping Palestinian Christians is a contradiction of faith and immoral before God.[7] He suggests that "it is irresponsible to believe that God will bless Christians materially if they support the largely secular State of Israel."[8]

On Sept. 27, 2014 Sizer spoke at the "Second New Horizon Conference" in Tehran.[9] The Iranian state-run Press TV described the conference as designed to discuss “the influence of the Zionist lobby.”[10][11]

Christian and Jewish responses[edit]

In the Christian world, some of Sizer's writings have been commended by Christians who embrace Reformed 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.[12]

Some reviews of Christian Zionism - Road Map to Armageddon? have been highly critical.[13][14][15] A prominent Christian opponent of Sizer, Bible teacher David Pawson, wrote a book called Defending Christian Zionism - in response to Stephen Sizer and John Stott.[16] 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." [17] Pawson publicly debated Sizer on Premier Christian Radio.

Other Christian authors who have criticised Sizer include Barry Horner[18] and Paul Wilkinson,[19] leaders of Christian missions to the Jewish people such as Mike Moore,[20][21] General Secretary of Christian Witness to Israel, and Tony Higton.[22] 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 criticize 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.[23]

British Zionist journalist Melanie Phillips has criticised Sizer and has condemned him in her writings.[24] British Jewish Zionist historian Geoffrey Alderman has also criticized Sizer for masking his religious prejudice in "academic guise."[25][26] Jewish Christians and Messianic Jews such as Aaron Abramson[27] and Jacob Prasch[28] 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.[29][30] 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.[31] An American Anglican minister, (British born, but was refused ordination in the Church of England) the Rev. Nick Howard has 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.[32]

However, British lawyer and academic, Anthony Julius (who became chair of the Jewish Chronicle in 2011 and who is famous 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." [33] 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 the University of Wales who 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.” [34] British Parliamentarian and anti-Israel campaigner,[35] Jeremy Corbyn MP argued that those criticising Stephen Sizer were politically motivated and “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."[34]

Sizer's books have been endorsed by Jewish academics such as the Reform Jewish Rabbi Dan Cohn-Sherbok[36] and Middle East historian Norton Mezvinsky.[37]

Public positions[edit]

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,[38] Third Way,[39][40] Plain Truth[41] and Friends of Al Aqsa.[42] He is a regular contributor to programmes on Premier Radio, Press TV;[43] and the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB). He has also appeared on BBC2 Newsnight, Syrian TV and Al Manar TV. He has lectured at the universities of Oxford,[44] Cambridge, London, Glasgow, Manchester, Leicester,[45] SOAS, George Washington, North Park Chicago, Baylor, Palm Beach Atlantic, Tehran, Mashhad, Isfahan, Shahreza, Qom, Jakarta, Petra, Beirut and Cairo. He has also lectured at the Oxford Centre of Mission Studies, Oak Hill College, Wycliffe Hall, Tyndale House, the Cornhill Training Course (CTC), for Tearfund,[46]

Censorship incident[edit]

On 29 November 2009, Joseph Weissman, a 23 year-old graduate student and Messianic Jewish Zionist 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 to a far greater level than it previously had.[47]

Published work[edit]

Author[edit]

Contributor[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "About Stepher Sizer". Retrieved 2009-04-06. 
  2. ^ a b "Stephen Sizer". Retrieved 2009-04-06. 
  3. ^ Additional biographical information from Dr Sizer's CV
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ "Christian Zionism: The New Heresy that Undermines Middle East Peace". Middle East Monitor. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  6. ^ Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon?, p.17 and 20
  7. ^ Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon?, p.13
  8. ^ Zion's Christian Soldiers, p.46
  9. ^ NewHorizons. "Conference Itinerary". New Horizons. Retrieved 2 October 2014. 
  10. ^ PressTV (30 Sep 2014). "Iran hosts 2nd International New Horizon conference". Press TV. Retrieved 2 October 2014. 
  11. ^ Grossman, Michelle (2 October 2014). "ADLSlams "hatefest" promoting anti-Semitism". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2 October 2014. 
  12. ^ "Commendations of Zion's Christian Soldiers". Inter-Varsity Press. Retrieved 2010-02-02. 
  13. ^ 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" 
  14. ^ Smith, Dr Calvin L. (2007-11-26). "Book Review of Christian Zionism". Midlands Bible College. Retrieved 2009-04-04. 
  15. ^ Merkley, Paul (2007-01-01). "Was Israel a Mistake?". Christianity Today. Retrieved 2009-04-04. "major misrepresentations of historical fact too numerous to list" 
  16. ^ 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. 
  17. ^ David Pawson, Defending Christian Zionism, p. 39
  18. ^ Horner, Barry (2008-10-15). Future Israel - Why Christian Anti-Judaism must be challenged. B&H Academic. ISBN 0-8054-4627-3. 
  19. ^ Wilkinson, Paul (2008-04-15). For Zion's Sake: Christian Zionism and the Role of John Nelson Darby. Paternoster. ISBN 1-84227-569-0. 
  20. ^ Moore, Mike (2008). "Stephen Sizer and Anti-Zionism". Mishkan (Caspari Centre) (55). 
  21. ^ Moore, Mike (August 2007). "The impact of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism on the story about Jesus". Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism International Conference 2007. Retrieved 2009-04-07. "(Christian Zionism: Road Map to Armageddon?) ... presents a perspective on Israel that is opposite in the extreme to the view held by those with whom Stephen Sizer takes issue ... is replete with historical inaccuracies, misrepresentations, libels and citations from Holocaust-deniers, neo-Nazis and anti-Semites." 
  22. ^ 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." 
  23. ^ Tony Higton, A Critique of Christian Zionism, p. 18
  24. ^ Phillips, Melanie (2009-03-04). "Beware the new axis of evangelicals and Islamists". The Spectator. Retrieved 2009-04-06. 
  25. ^ Alderman, Geoffrey. "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."
  26. ^ 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.'" 
  27. ^ Abramson, Aaron. "Aaron Abramson's dissertation critiquing Sizer's book Christian Zionism - Road Map To Armageddon?". Jews for Jesus. Retrieved 2009-04-07. 
  28. ^ Prasch, Jacob. "Stephen Sizer & The Sons of Menelaus". Moriel Ministries. Retrieved 2009-04-07. 
  29. ^ Complaint by the Board of Deputies of British Jews under the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 [2]
  30. ^ Marcus Dysch "'Antisemite' vicar in Board of Deputies complaint", The Jewish Chronicle, 1 November 2012
  31. ^ Marcus Dysch "Bishop: anti-Zionist vicar 'no antisemite'", The Jewish Chronicle, 5 January 2012
  32. ^ Nick Howard "Web Only: The Asymmetry of Racism Awareness", Standpoint, January–February 2012
  33. ^ Julius, Anthony (2010). Trials of the Diaspora. Oxford University Press. p. 517. ISBN 9780199297054. 
  34. ^ a b http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/66609/sizer-i-am-ready-meet-board-deputies-any-time
  35. ^ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeremy_Corbyn
  36. ^ "Christian Zionism: Roadmap to Armageddon published by IVP author: Stephen Sizer, Vicar of Virginia Water, England". Cc-vw.org. 2005-09-30. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  37. ^ "Zion's Christian Soldiers? | Reviews & Endorsements- InterVarsity Press". Ivpress.com. 2008-10-13. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  38. ^ 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)
  39. ^ Benny Morris for Third Way. "Israel: The Revised Version. A Review of 'Righteous Victims, A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict 1881-1999'". 
  40. ^ "Annapolis: Optimism Vs. Pessimism An article for Sojourners Magazine". Sizers.org. January 2008. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  41. ^ American Apocalypse. Why are some Christian's anxious for Armagfeddon? Published in Plain Truth May–June 2007
  42. ^ Travelling through the Holy Land: by Donald Bridge Book review published in Al Aqsa Journal, Vol 1, No. 2, April (1999)
  43. ^ The First Palestinian Intifada (watch the programme here), Press TV Programme Middle East Today with Chris Gelken, Saturday 8 December 2007
  44. ^ Approaching Prophecy Today - The Hermeneutics of Dispensationalism Lecture delivered at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, March 2003
  45. ^ The Future of Christianity in the Holy Land? Paper given at Leicester University, Septepmber 2001; Manchester University and Imperial College, London University, February 2002 & University of Keele, April 2002
  46. ^ Ethical Tourism and Christian Responsibility: A Case Study Paper given at Tourism Conference organised by Tear Fund, 31 October 2000 at the Friends House, Euston Road, London
  47. ^ "dot.Rory: Seismic Shock: When blogging meets policing". BBC. 2010-01-26. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 

External links[edit]