Dear Bishop Christopher
I write as Chief Executive of the Christian development charity BibleLands, established in 1854, which supports Christian social ministry in the Middle East. I have known Stephen Sizer since I took up my post in 2009, and indeed was with him in Bethlehem recently at the 'Christ at the Checkpoint' (CATC) conference which he co-organised.
I have been saddened to see the campaign which has been waged against Stephen by various parties. I want to state unequivocally that I do not believe for one second that Stephen is anti-Semitic. I attended a seminar which he gave at CATC on the topic of Christian Zionism. I see from my notes of his talk that he was at pains to say that there should be no place for anti-Semitism in the church, and that God loves the Jewish people just like any other nation. His handout for the talk, which I still have, states clearly: "Of course God has not rejected the Jewish people. His covenant purpose for them, as with every other race, has always been ‘that they may be saved’ (Romans 10:1)" Stephen also chaired a panel session which included a prominent Messianic Jewish leader, Wayne Hilsden. I would be utterly astonished if Wayne or any of the other Messianic believers who joined us at CATC would agree with the claim that Stephen is anti-Semitic.
A key part of the alleged case against Stephen relates to his delay in removing a link to an article which, while not anti-Semitic itself, was however posted on an anti-Semitic website, The Ugly Truth. I am a regular blogger and tweeter on the Middle East and Zionism and know how easy it is to link to websites which are not as innocent as they at first appear from their home page (which I always check). When alerted to any inappropriate content, I remove the link. Had the nature of The Ugly Truth been brought to Stephen's attention sooner. I am sure he would have removed the link straightaway. As it was, given his regular travels and his heavy parish duties, and the fact that he (understandably) rarely reads much of the abusive and threatening correspondence which comes his way, I understand that there was a time delay between the highlighting of the issue and the removal of the link. This is regrettable, with the benefit of hindsight, but certainly not an offence that is so grave that it warrants a national campaign of intimidation and a reference to the Surrey police.
I have no hesitation in expressing my support for Stephen, and hope you will continue to support him as a much-loved parish priest in Virginia Water and as a prophetic voice on the issues of Christian Zionism and justice in the land of the Holy One.
Yours in Christ
Permission to publish this letter was obtained from the author and recipient.
See also letters from:
Dr Mark Braverman, Author of the Fatal Embrace
Rabbi Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok, Lampeter University
Jeremy Corbyn MP, Islington North
Professor Scott Elias, Royal Holloway, University of London
Tony Greenstein, Founding Member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Professor Mary Grey, Patron, Friends of Sabeel UK
Dr Jeff Halper, Co-founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
Canon Garth Hewitt, Founder of the Amos Trust
Dr Ghada Karmi, Exeter University
Venerable Michael Lawson, Rector of St Saviour’s, Guildford
Jeremy Moodey, Chief Executive, Biblelands
Professor Ilan Pappe, Exeter University
Rabbi Dr Stanley Howard Schwartz, Hospice Chaplain and retired Army Chaplain
Church Times: Vicar is not Anti-Semitic
Church Times: Rabbi Clears Vicar of Anti-Semitism
Jewish Chronicle: Bishop: anti-Zionist vicar ‘no antisemite’