Vicar who shared 9/11 conspiracy slur axed by Church of England
A Church of England vicar who shared anti-Semitic material and “gave encouragement to conspiracy theories” has been barred from ministry for 12 years.
The Reverend Dr Stephen Sizer, 69, the former vicar of Christ Church in Virginia Water, Surrey, was found by a church tribunal to have engaged in conduct “unbecoming to the office and work of a clerk in Holy Orders”.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews made 11 allegations against him, citing examples from between 2005 and 2018. The tribunal upheld the complaint in four instances, including one example from 2015 where Dr Sizer shared an article promoting the idea that Israel was behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The ban, which includes the time he has already served since the complaint was brought in 2018, will last until December 2030.
Following the penalty judgment, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said: “It is clear that the behaviour of Stephen Sizer has undermined Christian-Jewish relations, giving encouragement to conspiracy theories and tropes that have no place in public Christian ministry and the church.
“I renew my call for the highest possible standards among ordained ministers of the Church of England in combating anti-Semitism of all kinds.”
The Acting Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Rev Debbie Sellin, said: “It is the Church of England’s task to lead in the work of enabling mutual understanding and strong, peaceable inter-faith relationships, and its ministers must take seriously their role in initiating positive relationships between communities.”
Dr Sizer admitted the “factual basis” of the allegations but disputed that his conduct was unbecoming or inappropriate and denied provoking and offending the Jewish community and/or engaging in anti-Semitic activity.
He told the tribunal his views have been “routinely misrepresented and distorted” and insisted he has “repeatedly repudiated racism, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial in his lectures, books and website articles”. He served as vicar of the church in Virginia Water for 20 years until his retirement in 2017.