Anti-Israel vicar may face axe for attending Baroness Tonge event

Anti-Israel vicar may face axe for attending Baroness Tonge event

Controversial reverend Stephen Sizer may be removed from his parish for breaching his employment terms

Stephen is the Jewish News' Foreign Editor

Reverend Stephen Sizer
Reverend Stephen Sizer

Anti-Israel priest Dr Stephen Sizer has been told that he may be removed from his parish post before his planned leaving date next year, after he breached his employment terms by attending an event with Baroness Jenny Tonge last week.

Bishop of Guildford Andrew Watson said he was “disappointed” at Sizer’s appearance at the controversial House of Lords event and subsequent social media commentary, adding that the vicar was now walking a tightrope.

Both actions breached the terms of an agreement between Sizer and the Diocese of Guildford, under which he undertook to refrain from writing or speaking on themes relating to the Middle East.

Sizer said he did not believe the terms of the agreement still applied, since he had already given notice of his resignation as vicar of Virginia Water from Easter 2017.

However, following their meeting this week, the bishop said: “I have spoken with Dr Sizer to make clear that I am disappointed by his actions and to clarify that our agreement categorically must run until the end of his tenure of office.”

Watson added: “Dr Sizer has been warned that any further breach of the agreement must result in his tenure of office ending with immediate effect.”

The Board of Deputies welcomed the bishop’s statement. Vice-president Marie van der Zyl said Sizer was “a repeat offender in the trafficking of anti-Semitic slurs” who had “spectacularly flouted his written undertaking to the Church of England by attending an event filled with toe-curling anti-Semitism”.

She added: “If he had any shred of decency, Sizer would have fulfilled the terms and tendered his resignation with immediate effect. He now guarantees that he will end his clerical career under a cloud. The sad irony that this divisive figure is moving on to a charity called ‘Peacemaker Mediators’ is not lost on us.”

In February 2015, Sizer was reprimanded by Bishop Watson for “demonstrating appallingly poor judgment in the material he has chosen to disseminate, particularly via social media, some of which is clearly anti-Semitic”. Among the articles he shared was one suggesting Jews were behind the 9/11 attacks.

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