Church of England Finds Leading Critic of Israel Engaged in Antisemitism

By Steve Rabey
stephen sizer antisemitic
Author and clergyman Stephen Sizer is a leading evangelical critic of Israel with a devoted following in the U.S. (Photo via social media)

Stephen Sizer, a leading evangelical critic of Israel with a devoted following in the U.S., was found guilty this week of antisemitic behavior and provoking Jews in a unique Church of England Tribunal. Punishment will be determined later.

Sizer’s many books, articles, and social media posts oppose Christian Zionism—the view that the creation of the nation of Israel in 1948 was prophesied by Scripture and may play a role in the Second Coming of Christ.

Sizer has repudiated antisemitism, but says that’s different from criticizing Israel, which he allegedly does by promoting conspiracy theories. He posted a link to a social media post claiming that Israel was responsible for 9/11. He blamed “Israel’s hidden hand” for the downfall of UK politician Jeremy Corbyn, appeared at conferences with Holocaust deniers, and advised fighters with the Palestinian group Hezbollah.

Some Christian leaders in the U.S. have praised Sizer’s work, including Gary Burge of Calvin Theological Seminary; Paul Copan of Palm Beach Atlantic University; Gary DeMar, president of American Vision; Greg Albrecht of Plain Truth Ministries; Hank Hanegraaff, former president of the Christian Research Institute; and disgraced co-founder of Willow Creek Community Church, Gilbert Bilezikian.

Burge said Sizer has “single handedly done more to change this conversation about Christian Zionism than anyone I know.” Copan praised Sizer’s book, Zion’s Christian Soldiers? saying, “Stephen Sizer deftly exposes the many exegetical missteps of contemporary Christian Zionists.”

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Both Burge and Copan declined to answer questions from The Roys Report (TRR).

A decade of failed discipline and disingenuousness

In 2012, the Board of Deputies, a group that represents the interests of England’s Jews, complained to the Church of England about Sizer’s statements and social media posts. Following a hearing, Sizer entered into a 2013 conciliation agreement in which he agreed to have his online conduct monitored.

He quickly reneged on his promises. His 9/11 post came in 2015, after which church officials banned him from social media for six months. He was later banned from writing or speaking about Middle Eastern political themes. He was dismissed from the clergy in 2018, but claims he resigned the year before.

arafat sizer antisemitic
British vicar Stephen Sizer pictured with Yasser Arafat, a Palestinian political leader. (Photo via social media)

Sizer repeatedly flouted restrictions and evaded accountability, according to Tuesday’s determination, which can be found here.

Over the years, Sizer has offered a variety of defenses for his behavior. He says he didn’t read the entire 9/11 post he linked to; didn’t know he would be speaking at an event alongside a Holocaust denier or that a scholar he cites was also a denier; and didn’t realize his comments offended Jews. Sizer claims he has been misquoted and misunderstood and is the target of a decade-long campaign of intimidation and harassment.

The Board of Deputies continued to press their complaints, leading the church to hold a May hearing on 11 separate incidents. Sizer’s attorney denied any wrongdoing. “The Respondent admits the factual basis of the outstanding eleven allegations but disputes that his conduct was unbecoming or inappropriate.”

On Tuesday, the Church rendered its determination on the 11 incidents:

  • In most of the 11 incidents, Sizer “did provoke and offend the Jewish community.”
  • Some of the incidents “amounted to conduct unbecoming” a vicar, revealing “a pattern of behaviour…to push the boundaries of acceptable conduct by an ordained minister as far as he could.”
  • And the 9/11 post was antisemitic behavior, even though “the Tribunal does not conclude that the Respondent is antisemitic by nature.”

The determination criticized Sizer’s behavior during the hearing. “Despite repeatedly saying that he was contrite, he showed scant evidence of being so.” The Tribunal expressed “great concern” about his lack of apology and “disingenuous . . . answers.”

Sizer “believes passionately in the rights of Christian Palestinians, and other Palestinians, sometimes to the exclusion of values that he knows or should have known that he is required to uphold as an ordained minister,” said the Tribunal’s determination.

This time, Sizer finally acknowledged his guilt in a statement.

“I accept those conclusions and the criticisms of my conduct, and apologise unreservedly for the hurt and offence caused. . . . I do not propose to say any more at this juncture as I pray and reflect further.”

Verdict welcomed

The verdict was hailed by some, including Michael Brown, an American Messianic Jew and apologist. Brown debated Sizer in 2013 on Up for Debate, the former Moody Radio program hosted by Julie Roys.

In that debate, Brown attacked Sizer for criticizing pro-Zionist churches in the Middle East, saying “they’ve repudiated Jesus, they’ve repudiated the Bible, and that they are an abomination.” Sizer claimed he hadn’t made the comment until Brown offered proof.

michael brown
Michael Brown

“I’m thrilled to see that the Church of England has found Rev. Sizer guilty of antisemitic rhetoric, and I do hope his statement of apology is genuine,” said Brown. Brown added that Sizer had embraced a “dangerously extreme anti-Zionism, which clearly bleeds into antisemitism.”

“On a theological level, he ignores large swaths of Scripture in order to disenfranchise the Jewish people, leaving them bereft of divine promises,” said Brown. “On an ethical level, he goes beyond fair criticism of Israel to demonize them, which is certainly antisemitic. And when his social media posts are more sympathetic to Hamas terrorists than to the people of Israel, you know that something is amiss. May the Lord grant him real and deep repentance.”

Two Jewish believers in Jesus who have long tracked Sizer’s work said it was about time for the Church of England’s verdict. 

“At long last, the Church of England has found Stephen Sizer guilty of engaging in antisemitic activity,” wrote American pastor Rev. Bernard Howard and British scholar James Mendelsohn. “Nevertheless, it grieves us greatly that evangelical leaders have known for more than a decade about his antisemitic conduct and yet time after time have looked the other way.”

The two men spelled out their concerns about Sizer in a 2021 article entitled, “A Lesser Bigotry: The UK Conservative Evangelical Response to Stephen Sizer’s Antisemitism.”

In comments to TRR, Mendelsohn, a Jewish follower of Jesus and a senior lecturer in law at the University of the West of England, said Sizer’s criticisms of Israel were often antisemitic.

“It would have been perfectly possible for Rev. Sizer to make strong criticisms of certain aspects of Israeli policy and of Christian Zionist theology without, for example, promoting antisemitic conspiracy theories or attempting to divert church funds to an organisation with links to Hamas,” said Mendelsohn.

Mendelsohn, a Jewish believer, criticized those who have reportedly failed to hold Sizer accountable including the Rev. William Taylor of the prominent London church, St. Helen’s Bishopsgate. According to Howard and Mendelsohn, Taylor declined to discipline Sizer because he saw “no justifiable grounds for breaking gospel partnership with Stephen. “

TRR reached out to Taylor at St. Helen’s Bishopsgate for comment but received no response.

One American pro-Palestinian Group, Friends of Sabeel North America, appears to support Sizer, despite the tribunal’s finding. A page still posted on its website at time of publication claims Sizer was “facing spurious accusations” at the church tribunal. “The following persons #StandWithStephen in solidarity,” says the web page, which lists only people’s initials, not their full names.

Steve RabeySteve Rabey is a veteran author and journalist who has published more than 50 books and 2,000 articles about religion, spirituality, and culture. He was an instructor at Fuller and Denver seminaries and the U.S. Air Force Academy.

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8 thoughts on “Church of England Finds Leading Critic of Israel Engaged in Antisemitism”

  1. “Sizer “believes passionately in the rights of Christian Palestinians, and other Palestinians, sometimes to the exclusion of values that he knows or should have known that he is required to uphold as an ordained minister,” said the Tribunal’s determination.”
    This is a complex judgement. Leaving open the understanding that, if Sizer was not an “ordained minister”, then his actions and commentary need not be considered antisemitic.
    Regards the argument that claims of antisemitism were crucial to the bringing down of Jeremy Corbyn, that did not directly involve Zionism and Israel. Rather it was non-Jewish Labour and Conservative and media opponents exploiting those claims of antisemitism; so Sizer here goes too far.
    Politically and academically and legally, fairly criticising the Zionist aspect of the State of Israel, should not be considered antiSemitic, likewise any fair commentary on the circumstance and fate of Palestinians within Israel.

  2. stephen sizer is a great christian and teacher. he has stood for christ for many decades, I have listened to many of his debates, he is NOT anti semitic. his “sin” was not worshipping the current state of israel where 99.66% of the population hate and reject the Lord Jesus Christ as well as the new testiment, where its illegal to preach the gospel in crusades or to those under 18. they also persecute palastianian christian with roads where only jews are allowed on. shame on those who persecute true christians like sizer and support those who hate christ.

    1. Mr. Buckley, can you link for me the basis to your statement that 99.66% of the population of Israel hate the Lord Jesus Christ? That seems quite erroneous to me.
      Also, can you please state the basis for your belief that Israel persecutes palestinian Christians? Most, if not all, Israeli hospitals will treat the palestinians and there are many NPOs that support them as well. Some palestinans have work visas to hold employment in Israel.
      Many nations besides Israel do not allow the Gospel to be preached in public crusades and that, of course, is somewhat the point of international evangelism.

  3. Anti-Zionist types usually try to draw a distinction between their anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, but the one often seems to shade into the other. Caveat lector.

    1. Gordon, it is likely to be true that some who harbour antisemitism in their hearts and minds, do camouflage themselves as simply being critical of Zionism in its principle and practice. Always remembering that not all Jews subscribe to Zionism as either theology or politics.
      Anti-Zionist principle and practice, tend to be shaded into being seen as anti-Semitic by very strong tendencies involved in collective support for Zionism and the Zionist aspect of modern Israel-Palestine. Where sometimes this is brought about cynically, as was the case with the bringing down of Jeremy Corbyn.
      If we are to really debate and discuss these matters, we really need much more respect for all perspectives and positions, Zionist and ant-Zionist and intermediate positions. For anti-Semitism to be debated fruitfully, our thinking about Zionism probably has to be laid to one side for a moment.

  4. I had been contacted by Steve Rabey to comment on the Stephen Sizer trial—and to do so in short order. Now, I had been (and still am) in the throes of grading end-of-semester assignments and exams, and I had never heard of Rabey, and he did not identify himself as working for the Roys Report. Thus the claim that I “declined to answer questions from The Roys Report” is not accurate.

    As for Stephen Sizer, I endorsed his book fifteen years ago largely because of my agreement with its theological stance—with exegetical support—that the present nation of Israel is not the chosen people of God. Rather, Jews and Gentiles in Christ are the true people of God (e.g., Romans 2:28-29; 9:6; Ephesians 2:11-3:12). That said, I have a great appreciation for the current nation of Israel and its strategic presence in the Middle East, though I am not always in agreement with its policies. Furthermore, I had been utterly unaware of and indeed reject Sizer’s strident language and his actions involving poor judgment concerning Israel and various Jewish communities, which are mentioned in the trial proceedings against him, which he has acknowledged, and for which he has apologized.

    Paul Copan, Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics, Palm Beach Atlantic University

    1. Hi Dr. Copan,

      Thank you for your comments. I reached out to Steve and asked him for his response, which I’ve copied below. It appears he did identify himself and The Roys Report, but misidentified you by copying the e-mail he had sent to Burge. Here’s Steve’s response to me:

      1) This is the e-mail I sent to Paul through his college contact form on 12.6.

      Media inquiry
      Dear Dr. Burge:

      I’ve been asked to do an article about Rev. Stephen Sizer for The Roys Report. An Anglican tribunal found him guilty of antisemitism, at least in some incidents. I understand that you have reviewed Rev. Sizer’s books and supported some of his work and ideas.

      Have you had a chance to read the tribunal’s determination?
      https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2022-12/Tribunal%20Determination%20%28Sizer%29%206%20December%202022.pdf

      Do you accept the tribunal’s conclusion, or do you think Rev. SIzer has been treated unfairly? Explain?

      Thank you, Steve

      Glad to talk (719/640-XXXX) or receive your answers via e-mail.

      2) Paul responded that evening

      Dear Steve,

      Thank you for sending this to me. I’ll have a look at this document and also forward this on to IVP in the UK, although I would imagine that they are aware of these proceedings.

      Advent blessings,

      Paul

      3) I replied next morning, 12/7

      Thank you, Paul. Sorry for name mix-up on e-mail! Please let me know your thoughts on verdict, Sizer’s work, etc. best, Steve

  5. A thousand pardons, Julie and Steve. Thanks for the correction. I thought I had read the email thoroughly. Somehow I missed it. A blessed Advent to you both. Warmly in Christ, Paul

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