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Sizer Tribunal Finally Issues Verdict

By Susie Leafe

The Revd Dr Stephen Sizer was found guilty of conduct unbecoming a clerk in Holy Orders by a Church of England Tribunal convened to try charges brought under a Clerical Disciplinary Measure (CDM) by the President of the Board  of Deputies of British Jews.

The Tribunal determined the following about Sizer.

1. The conduct of the respondent, THE REVD. DR STEPHEN SIZER, was unbecoming or inappropriate to the office and work of a clerk in Holy Orders within section 8(1)(d) of the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 in that he provoked and offended the Jewish community and/or engaged in anti-Semitic activity by: 

“Participating in a conference run by the Islamic Human Rights Commission entitled “Towards a New Liberation Theology” in 2005;
Accompanying and defending an Islamic Movement leader Raed Salah in June 2011; Meeting Sheikh Nabil Kaouk, a senior commander of Hezbollah forces in about summer 2006; 

“Speaking at a conference in Indonesia in May 2008 alongside Fred Tobin, a holocaust denier;
Citing Holocaust deniers and far-right figures, in particular Dale Crowley in about January 2009; 

“In June 2008, promoting Michael Hoffman, a Holocaust denier and anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist;
Promoting 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; 

“Attending an event in October 2016 chaired by Baroness Tonge in breach of an agreement with the Bishop of Guildford which required him to refrain from writing or speaking on any theme that related, directly or indirectly, to the current situation in the Middle East or its historical backdrop; 

“In an interview on 30 March 2018 on Australian radio, by defending the link he posted to the article blaming Israel for the 11 September 2011 terrorist attacks;
Posting an item on his Facebook page in August 2018 in relation to Jeremy Corbyn being a victim of the hidden hands of Zionists; 

“Posting a link in September 2010 to an article entitled “The Mother of All Coincidences” promoting the idea that Israel was behind the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001.” 

More than four years ago, Ms Marie van der Zyl, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, brought a complaint against Revd Stephen Sizer under the Clergy Discipline Measure.  . Ms Van der Zyl was not disappointed, she stated after the verdict:

 “I commend the Tribunal’s decision in the case of Stephen Sizer. In an unprecedented judgement, it has been found that Reverend Sizer has engaged in “antisemitic activity”, repeated “conduct unbecoming” of a Church of England Minister and engaged in conduct that “provoked and offended” the Jewish community over a sustained period. He was also criticised for being “disingenuous in his answers”.”

The Tribunal considered eleven allegations, which included meeting with a senior commander of Hezbollah forces and posting links to antisemitic articles on Facebook, including one, entitled “9-11/ Israel did it”, which promoted the idea that Israel was behind the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers.  In this case the Tribunal found the Revd Sizer’s, “evidence that he had not read the article in full before he posted the link to be implausible and untrue,” and were satisfied that he had “reposted the article in the knowledge that it would provoke and offend the Jewish community”.  They described the content as “deeply abhorrent” and considered that in this instance Revd Sizer had engaged in antisemitic activity and his “conduct was unbecoming for an ordained minister.”

This is not the first time that a complaint has been made about the Revd Sizer.  In 2012, the Bishop of Guildford referred a similar complaint to conciliation and Revd Sizer agreed to have his blog monitored in future, after posting the article mentioned above he then agreed to stop all writing, speaking, blogging and social media on the Middle East.  The Tribunal were clear that they needed to be “astute to the difference between forms of prejudice against Jews and legitimate criticism of the policies of the State of Israel,” however, they found “there was a pattern of behaviour… to push the boundaries of acceptable conduct by an ordained minister as far as he could do, and to breach both the conciliation agreement made in 2012 and the agreement with Bishop Watson in 2015.”

On a statement on his website, the Revd Stephen Sizer has said, “I accept those conclusions and the criticisms of my conduct, and apologise unreservedly for the hurt and offence caused.” However, this  apology should perhaps be placed in the context of the findings of the Tribunal who “formed the view that despite repeatedly saying that he was contrite, he showed scant evidence of being so.”

The Tribunal will impose a penalty in the New Year.

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