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 27 July 1953)[1] 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.[2][3][4]

Views and opinions[edit]

Stephen Sizer is a Conservative Evangelical and has aligned with a number of related organisations.[2][3] He is a member of Reform (Anglican) 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?[5] 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.[6]

Sizer argues that Christian Zionism has no biblical foundation or historical precedent. [7] He writes that his motivation lies in the conviction that ignoring or stereotyping Palestinian Christians is a contradiction of faith and immoral before God.[8] He suggests that "it is irresponsible to believe that God will bless Christians materially if they support the largely secular State of Israel."[9]

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.[10]

Some reviews of Christian Zionism - Road Map to Armageddon? have been highly critical.[11][12][13] 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.[14] 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." [15] Pawson publicly debated Sizer on Premier Christian Radio.

Other Christian authors who have criticised Sizer include Barry Horner[16] and Paul Wilkinson,[17] leaders of Christian missions to the Jewish people such as Mike Moore,[18][19] General Secretary of Christian Witness to Israel, and Tony Higton.[20] Later, having met Sizer, Tony Higton largely retracted his view and wrote:

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.[21]

British Journalist Melanie Phillips has criticised Sizer and has condemned him in her writings.[22] The historian Geoffrey Alderman has also criticized Sizer for masking his religious prejudice in "academic guise."[23][24] Jewish Christians and Messianic Jews such as Aaron Abramson[25] and Jacob Prasch[26] 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.[27][28] After a complaint that he had linked to an American site called The Ugly Truth, which explicitly blames Jews for wars and claims they corrupt all public officials, Sizer's Diocesan Bishop, Christopher Hill, defended him.[29][30] Hill believed posting the link could have been an accident, and insisted that Sizer "repudiates anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial" and was just drawing attention to article about potential military action by Israel against Iran.[30] After referring to Sizer's Facebook post, the Rev. Nick Howard asserted in an article for the Standpoint issue of January-February 2012 that given Sizer's statements on Press TV and elsewhere, the link made on his Facebook page is not an isolated, or "uncharacteristic", incident.[29]

However, the British solicitor advocate and academic, Anthony Julius (who became chair of The Jewish Chronicle in 2011 and who is known 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." [31] 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 Aberystwyth University, 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.” [32] The British Member of Parliament Jeremy Corbyn argued that those criticising Sizer were politically motivated and were "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."[32]

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,[33] Third Way,[34][35] Plain Truth[36] and Friends of Al Aqsa.[37] He is a regular contributor to programmes on Premier Radio, and the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB). He has also appeared on Syrian TV and Al Manar TV.

In September 2014, Sizer attended and spoke at the "Second New Horizon Conference" in Tehran where conspiracy theories such as "Zionist Fingerprints on the 9/11 Cover-up" and "9/11 and the Holocaust as pro-Zionist 'Public myths'" were under discussion.[38][39] Sizer said he was present at the conference as an "ambassador for reconciliation". According to him, the conference was anti-zionist rather than anti-semitic, and he disagreed with many of the speeches which were delivered.[38]

Dave Rich of the Community Security Trust, a charity which monitors anti-semitism in Britain, queried whether Sizer was still honouring the conciliation agreement he had made with the Jewish community. A spokesman for the British Board of Deputies said "such a hate-filled event is irreconcilable with his position as a minister in the Church of England".[39]

Censorship incident[edit]

On 29 November 2009, Joseph Weissman, a 23-year-old graduate student 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.[40]

Social media ban[edit]

On 20 January 2015 at 9.17 pm, Sizer posted a link on his Facebook page to a 9/11 conspiracy theory entitled "9/11 Israel did it". He asked in his posting: "Is this anti-Semitic? If so no doubt I’ll be asked to remove it. It raises so many questions."[41] Sizer removed the post at the request of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, but in correspondence with Jewish News online, he asked that evidence be provided to refute the conspiracy theory.[42] After he removed the posting, Sizer continued to insist that it was "encouraging debate."[43]

On 29 January 2015, the Church of England said in a statement that the comments made by Sizer were unacceptable and that the Diocese of Guildford would launch an investigation.[44] On 30 January 2015, Sizer issued a statement of apology[45] and announced that the diocese had suspended him from all social media and blogs.[46] The Board of Deputies also published a statement condemning Sizer's behaviour.[47]

On 9 February it emerged that Sizer has been banned from social media by the new Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Rev Andrew Watson, for at least six months for the Facebook post alleging Israeli responsibility for the 9/11 atrocities.[48] He is also banned from commenting on issues relating to the middle east and will not attend further conferences on this subject.[49] In his letter to the bishop, Sizer accepted that he would have to resign his ministry if he were to break the undertaking he has made.[50]

The Church Times reported that the bishop as saying that disciplinary action against Sizer had been considered, but an alternative approach was taken in order to resolve the matter quickly.[51] The Board of Deputies praised the church for taking swift action and hoped that good relations could now be restored.[52]

Published work[edit]

Author[edit]

Contributor[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.stephensizer.com/2013/11/remembrance-sunday-how-to-love-your-enemies/
  2. ^ a b "About Stepher Sizer". Retrieved 6 April 2009. 
  3. ^ a b "Stephen Sizer". Retrieved 6 April 2009. 
  4. ^ Additional biographical information from Dr Sizer's CV
  5. ^ Sizer, Rev Dr Stephen (26 November 2004). Christian Zionism - Road Map to Armageddon?. Inter-Varsity Press. ISBN 978-1-84474-050-5. Retrieved 4 April 2009. 
  6. ^ "Christian Zionism: The New Heresy that Undermines Middle East Peace". Middle East Monitor. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  7. ^ Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon?, p.17 and 20
  8. ^ Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon?, p.13
  9. ^ Zion's Christian Soldiers, p.46
  10. ^ "Commendations of Zion's Christian Soldiers". Inter-Varsity Press. Retrieved 2010-02-02. 
  11. ^ Macaulay, Ian; Parker, Rev Keith (Summer 2005). "Christian Zionism "A Road Map to Armageddon?"". Christians for Israel. Archived from the original on 1 December 2005. Retrieved 4 April 2009. We are therefore disappointed at the writer’s failure to engage in enough questions in sufficient depth 
  12. ^ Smith, Dr Calvin L. (26 November 2007). "Book Review of Christian Zionism". Midlands Bible College. Retrieved 4 April 2009. 
  13. ^ Merkley, Paul (1 January 2007). "Was Israel a Mistake?". Christianity Today. Retrieved 4 April 2009. major misrepresentations of historical fact too numerous to list 
  14. ^ 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. 
  15. ^ David Pawson, Defending Christian Zionism, p. 39
  16. ^ Horner, Barry (15 October 2008). Future Israel - Why Christian Anti-Judaism must be challenged. B&H Academic. ISBN 0-8054-4627-3. 
  17. ^ Wilkinson, Paul (15 April 2008). For Zion's Sake: Christian Zionism and the Role of John Nelson Darby. Paternoster. ISBN 1-84227-569-0. 
  18. ^ Moore, Mike (2008). "Stephen Sizer and Anti-Zionism". Mishkan (Caspari Centre) (55). 
  19. ^ 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 7 April 2009. (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. 
  20. ^ Higton, Tony. "A Response to Stephen Sizer's criticisms of CMJ and ITAC". Church's Ministry Among Jewish People. Archived from the original on 7 March 2006. Retrieved 7 April 2009. 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. 
  21. ^ Tony Higton, A Critique of Christian Zionism, p. 18
  22. ^ Phillips, Melanie (4 March 2009). "Beware the new axis of evangelicals and Islamists". The Spectator. Retrieved 6 April 2009. 
  23. ^ 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."
  24. ^ Baty, Phil (6 August 2004). "Zionism thesis stirs up a storm". Times Higher Education Supplement (London). Retrieved 7 April 2009. Professor Alderman told The Times Higher: 'Middlesex has permitted its highest research degree to be awarded in respect of a work of propaganda. 
  25. ^ Abramson, Aaron. "Aaron Abramson's dissertation critiquing Sizer's book Christian Zionism - Road Map To Armageddon?". Jews for Jesus. Retrieved 7 April 2009. 
  26. ^ Prasch, Jacob. "Stephen Sizer & The Sons of Menelaus". Moriel Ministries. Retrieved 7 April 2009. 
  27. ^ Complaint by the Board of Deputies of British Jews under the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 [2]
  28. ^ Marcus Dysch "'Antisemite' vicar in Board of Deputies complaint", The Jewish Chronicle, 1 November 2012
  29. ^ a b Nick Howard "Web Only: The Asymmetry of Racism Awareness", Standpoint, January–February 2012
  30. ^ a b Marcus Dysch "Bishop: anti-Zionist vicar 'no antisemite'", The Jewish Chronicle, 5 January 2012
  31. ^ Julius, Anthony (2010). Trials of the Diaspora. Oxford University Press. p. 517. ISBN 9780199297054. 
  32. ^ a b http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/66609/sizer-i-am-ready-meet-board-deputies-any-time
  33. ^ 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)
  34. ^ Benny Morris for Third Way. "Israel: The Revised Version. A Review of 'Righteous Victims, A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict 1881-1999'". 
  35. ^ "Annapolis: Optimism Vs. Pessimism An article for Sojourners Magazine" (PDF). Sizers.org. January 2008. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  36. ^ American Apocalypse. Why are some Christian's anxious for Armagfeddon? Published in Plain Truth May–June 2007
  37. ^ Travelling through the Holy Land: by Donald Bridge Book review published in Al Aqsa Journal, Vol 1, No. 2, April (1999)
  38. ^ a b Bingham, Nick (6 October 2014). "Church of England vicar denies backing ‘anti-Semitic hate-fest’ in Iran". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 9 February 2015. 
  39. ^ a b Jerry Lewis "Long-time Israel critic Rev. Dr. Stephen Sizer appears to have landed himself in hot water", Jerusalem Post, 6 October 2014
  40. ^ "dot.Rory: Seismic Shock: When blogging meets policing". BBC. 2010-01-26. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  41. ^ Lizzie Dearden "", The Independent, 30 January 2015
  42. ^ "'Show me evidence Israel wasn’t behind 9/11’, asks vicar Stephen Sizer'", Jewish News, 29 January 2015, retrieved 29 January 2015
  43. ^ John Bingham "Vicar investigated over ‘9/11 Israel did it’ posting", Daily Telegraph, 29 January 2015
  44. ^ "Statement on Rev. Stephen Sizer" retrieved 29 January 2015
  45. ^ "Vicar 'sorry' for 9/11 Israel Facebook post". BBC News. 31 January 2015. Retrieved 31 January 2015. 
  46. ^ "A statement of apology from The Revd Dr Stephen Sizer" retrieved 30 January 2015
  47. ^ "Board condemns Sizer for 9/11 posting", Board of Deputies of British Jews, 30 January 2015
  48. ^ John Bingham "Church bans 9/11 Israel conspiracy priest from using social media", Daily Telegraph, 9 February 2015
  49. ^ Jessica Elgot "Vicar Stephen Sizer Banned From Social Media After Israel 9/11 Conspiracy Post", The Huffington Post, 9 February 2015
  50. ^ "Vicar faces social media ban over Facebook post linking 9/11 to Israel", The Guardian (PA), 9 February 2015
  51. ^ Tim Wyatt "‘Not anti-Semitic, just stupid’: Stephen Sizer ordered offline to save his job", Church Times, 9 February 2015
  52. ^ "Board welcomes Church’s swift action over Sizer", Board of Deputies of British Jews, 9 February 2015/

External links[edit]