Britain / 31-10-2012
London - Britain’s Jewish leadership has made a formal complaint to the Church of England about one of its clergymen, accusing him of producing antisemitic material and posting links to antisemitic websites on his blog.
Reverend Stephen Sizer is “an avid reader and publicizer of websites that are openly and virulently antsemitic, and Rev. Sizer has himself descended into making antisemitic statements,” according to the complaint, lodged by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the community’s main representative organization.
The vicar’s behavior “threatens the important relationship between Christians and Jews in the United Kingdom… [and] can no longer go unchallenged,” it said.
The disciplinary complaint, which the Board believes to be “without precedent in modern times,” asks the Church to stop Sizer from publishing antisemitic material.
Sizer, the vicar of a church in Surrey, in southeast England, has clashed with the Jewish community repeatedly over his online activity and interviews in the past. He could not be reached for comment.
In one of the 10 incidents detailed in the complaint, Sizer posted a link on his Facebook page to The Ugly Truth, an openly antisemitic website, in October 2011. Despite the fact that he was allegedly alerted to the content of the website in November and December, he only removed the link in January 2012, after being contacted by the Jewish Chronicle newspaper.
At the time, the Bishop of Manchester, the Right Reverend Nigel McCulloch, who is also the chairman of the Council of Christians and Jews, called Sizer’s behavior “disgraceful and unbecoming for a clergyman of the Church of England.”
In another incident, in March 2010, Sizer posted photographs of Israel Defense Forces soldiers on flickr.com under the title, “Herod’s soldiers operating in Bethlehem today.” The reference to King Herod, who ordered the massacre of all baby boys in Bethlehem in an effort to kill Jesus, insinuates “that Israeli soldiers are therefore both child killers and potential killers of Christ, or that any Jew in uniform becomes these two things,” said the Board of Deputies.
A third incident concerns an interview Sizer gave to Malaysian television in June 2011 in which he alleged that “the Zionists” had formed an alliance with the British far-right - “the very people who favored the work of Hitler” - because “their common enemy are the Muslims.”
“To say of the Jewish community that it is in league with neo-Nazis is as antisemitic as it is untrue,” the Board’s complaint says.
According to Board president Vivian Wineman, “Making such a complaint about a Church of England minister is not a step the Board has taken lightly or without a great deal of consideration. This action sends a clear, strong message from our community that we will not remain quiet in the face of actions and remarks capable of being seen as anti-Semitic even where they are disguised as anti-Zionist attacks on Israel.”
The complaint was signed by Board vice president Jonathan Arkush, who wrote on the organization’s website Tuesday, “We need to be clear about what it is we complain of. We make no complaint about Rev. Sizer’s anti-Israel views, nor of his trips to Iran or his supersessionist theology. While we view all of these with concern and distaste, Rev. Sizer is entitled to his views and may travel where he wants. But we draw the line at making statements that we regard as anti-Semitic and advertising the content of racist and antisemitic websites…
“To anyone who asks what it is that we seek from the complaint, my answer is simple. If it is upheld, it will be a matter for the Church of England what action to take to address Rev. Sizer’s conduct. But I can say that we are not seeking to have him stopped from his ministry or dismissed from his job. We only ask one thing, which is that effective measures are taken to prevent him from publishing or re-publishing material that we find to be not merely offensive, but antisemitic.
“We don’t think that’s too much to ask.”
The complaint will first be considered by Bishop Christopher Hill, the Bishop of Guildford, whose jurisdiction includes Sizer’s church in Virginia Water.
Hill has in the past defended Sizer from charges of antisemitism and Holocaust denial, reportedly saying that he only linked to The Ugly Truth website to direct readers to an article concerning a potential Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear weapons program.