CDM: Revd Dr Stephen Sizer

On 6 December 2022, the Church of England published the Decision of the Winchester Diocese Bishop’s Disciplinary Tribunal that the Revd Dr Stephen Sizer had committed misconduct under the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003. The Tribunal was held following a complaint made to the Diocese in 2018 by Mrs Marie van der Zyl, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, alleging that Dr Sizer’s conduct was “unbecoming or inappropriate to the office and work of a clerk in Holy Orders within section 8(1)(d) of the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 in that he provoked and offended the Jewish community and/or engaged in antisemitic activity”.

Extracts from the 36-page judgments are reproduced below.


Background

[1]. The proceedings brought against the Reverend Stephen Sizer (“the Respondent”) under the Clergy Disciplinary Measure 2003 (“CDM”) arise out of a complaint made by Ms Marie van der Zyl, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews (“the Board”) on 15 October 2018.

[2]. The nature of the complaint is that between 2005 and 2018 the Respondent’s conduct was unbecoming or inappropriate to the office and work of a clerk in Holy Orders within section 8(1)(d) of the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 in that he provoked and offended the Jewish community and/or engaged in antisemitic activity. Twelve instances of the Respondent’s conduct were relied upon. Alternatively, the Respondent’s conduct was in breach of Canon C 26.2 contrary to the laws ecclesiastical within section 8(1)(a) of the CDM. Details of the charge referred to the Tribunal are set out at In  Annex A to the Decision.

[6]. The Respondent admits the factual basis of the outstanding eleven allegations but disputes that his conduct was unbecoming or inappropriate. He denies that he provoked and offended the Jewish community by his actions and/or that he engaged in antisemitic activity. Further he relies upon section 8(3) of the CDM that no proceedings in respect of unbecoming conduct shall be taken in respect of the lawful political opinions or activities of any priest.

The Allegations

“[119]. …For reasons that never became clear, the numbered allegations in the charge at Appendix A were not taken in chronological order. For ease of understanding, the Tribunal has lettered the allegations in chronological order, in the following paragraphs”.

(A) Participating in a conference run by the Islamic Human Rights Commission entitled “Towards a New Liberation Theology” in 2005;  Paragraphs [120] to [123].

(B) Meeting Sheikh Nabil Kaouk, a senior commander of Hezbollah forces in about summer 2006. Paragraphs [124] to [126].

(C) Speaking at a conference in Indonesia in May 2008 alongside Fred Tobin, a Holocaust Denier. Paragraphs [127] to [128].

(D) In June 2008, promoting Michael Hoffman, a Holocaust denier and anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist. Paragraphs [129] to [131].

(E) Citing Holocaust deniers and far-right figures, in particular Dale Crowley in about January 2009. Paragraphs [132] to [133].

(F) In September 2010, he posted a link to an article entitled “The Mother of All Coincidences”. Paragraphs [134] to [135].

(G) Accompanying and defending an Islamic Movement leader Raed Salah in June 2011. Paragraphs [136] to [137].

(H) Promoting the idea that Israel was behind the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001 by posting a link in January 2015 to the article entitled “9-11/Israel did it” that blamed Israel for the attacks. Paragraphs [138] to [141].

(I) Attending an event in October 2016 chaired by Baroness Tonge in breach of an agreement with the Bishop of Guildford which required him to refrain from writing or speaking on any theme that related directly or indirectly, to the current situation in the Middle East or its historical backdrop. [142] to [144].

(J) In an interview on 30 March 2018 on Australian radio, by defending the link he posted to the article blaming Israel for the 11 September 2011 terrorist attacks. Paragraphs [145] to [147].

(K) Posting an item on his Facebook page in August 2018 in relation to Jeremy Corbyn being a victim of the hidden hands of Zionists. Paragraphs [148] to [149].

Conclusions

[150]. The Tribunal is satisfied that in respect of allegations (B), (F), (H), and (J),  one member dissenting as to allegations (F) and (J), the Respondent’s conduct was  unbecoming to the office and work of a clerk in Holy Orders, in that he provoked and  offended the Jewish community, and, in the case of allegation (H), his conduct was unbecoming, in that he engaged in antisemitic activity, all within section 8(1)(d) of  the Clergy Discipline Measure. It finds allegations (A), (C), (D), (E), (G), (I) and (K) not proved.

[151]. It follows that the Tribunal considers that it is unnecessary to go on to consider  the alternative charge, as to whether the Respondent’s conduct set out above was in  breach of Canon C 26.2 and, therefore, contrary to the laws ecclesiastical within  section 8(1)(a) of the Clergy Discipline Measure.


Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "CDM: Revd Dr Stephen Sizer" in Law & Religion UK, 7 December 2022, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2022/12/07/cdm-revd-dr-stephen-sizer/

 

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