A Church of England vicar is to keep his job after he posted a link to an internet article blaming Israel for the September 11 terror attacks – but he faces a ban from using social media and commenting on Middle East issues.
Reverend Stephen Sizer used Facebook to promote the article entitled “9/11 Israel did it” and reportedly wrote: “Is this anti-Semitic? It raises so many questions.”
Dr Sizer, vicar at Christ Church in Virginia Water, Surrey, faced an investigation from the Diocese of Guildford where he is licensed.
He later issued a statement through the diocese expressing regret and admitting that sharing the article was “ill-considered and misguided”.
The Right Reverend Andrew Watson, the newly-appointed Bishop of Guildford, told a Press conference at Guildford that Dr Sizer had agreed to a prohibition from using social media for six months and from commenting on Middle Eastern issues while he remains in the employment of the diocese.
He said: “It is my view that Stephen’s strong but increasingly undisciplined commitment to an anti-Zionist agenda has become a liability to his own ministry and that of the wider church.
“Many who more moderately support the Palestinian cause and share his critique of a particular brand of Christian fundamentalism, themselves find Stephen’s actions to be increasingly unhelpful and counter-productive, a fact he himself now recognises.
“It is therefore my decision that Stephen’s work in this area is no longer compatible with his ministry as a parish priest.
“In order for Stephen to remain in parish ministry, I have therefore asked for and received from him a solemn undertaking, in writing, that he is to refrain entirely from writing or speaking on any themes that relate, either directly or indirectly, to the current situation in the Middle East or to its historical backdrop.”
The Council of Christians and Jews said they welcome the statement by the Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Revd Andrew Watson. They said “We are grateful for the seriousness and clarity with which the Diocese of Guildford has addressed this case, since this sends a clear message that Christians have a duty to identify and challenge antisemitism in all its forms,” said CCJ’s Director Jane Clements. ” We are working on guidelines to enable Christians and others to be very clear on what constitutes antisemitism and what is legitimate criticism of Israeli government policies. “