December 8, 2019

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"A Significant Kairos Moment": Stephen Sizer Breaks Cover

http://daphneanson.blogspot.com/2016/10/a-significant-kairos-moment-stephen.html

By Daphne Anson

 

Our old chum the Anglican Vicar of Virginia Water must be counting the days to Easter Sunday next year.

That’s when this seemingly unabashed defamer of Israel (how can we forget that outrageous 9/11 Facebook post of his, at left, or this exposé of his nonsense, or this and this?) and serial crusader against Christian Zionism relinquishes his parish and becomes free to indulge his political proclivities once more.

The signs are that having been more or less reined in by his bishop following that 9/11 obscenity he can hardly wait.

On 29 February this year the new charity with which our old chum will be centrally involved was registered/incorporated in London.

So far as I can tell, the vicar’s name was absent from the formal documentation, Mrs Joanna Sizer (occupation recorded as ‘administrator”) being listed as one of the four directors, along with Garth Bruce Hewitt, (occupation recorded as “priest”), Michael Charles Lawson (occupation recorded as “composer and film maker”), and John Frank Salter (occupation recorded as “retired”.)  Of the latter three, more below. The registered office address: 25 Gordon Road, Windsor, Berkshire, United Kingdom, SL4 3R.

 Called Peacemaker Mediators, its “Objects and Charitable Purposes” have been defined in the Articles of Association (click on the pdf.file at link) as:

The promotion of Human Rights (as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequent United Nations Conventions and Declarations) by

– educating the public about Human Rights

– raising awareness of Human Rights issues and abuses

– providing technical advice to governments and others on Human Rights

– eliminating infringement of Human Rights

– the promotion of conflict resolution and reconciliation by all appropriate means

– the advancement of the Christian faith particularly in countries where the Christian faith is a minority

– to assist Christian Churches to seek the welfare of their communities and especially those of other faiths

– to promote religious harmony and respect through interfaith dialogue and to reduce discrimination and conflict, especially between Muslims, Jews and Christians

– the advancement of citizenship and community development

On 21 April, on the Christ Church, Virginia Water  website, a truncated version of those officially registered “purposes” appeared:

Click this caption for more eyebrow raisers

 Peacemaker Mediators

 Posted on April 21, 2016 by Annette Ross

 Stephen asks for your prayers

 That the Charity Commissioners will grant charitable status in April.

  For a local launch combined with a Vicarage Garden Party on Saturday 18 June.

  For the national launch at Christ Church on Sunday 25th September.

  For the design of the logo and website.

  For the Patrons as they give leadership – The Most Revd Dr Mouneer Anis, (Primate of Jerusalem and the Middle East and Anglican Bishop of Egypt and North Africa). The Most Revd Henry Orombi, (Retired Primate of Uganda).

 For preliminary discussions with partner charities, mission agencies and Anglican Dioceses, especially in countries where the church is a minority (North Africa, Middle East & SE Asia).

Er, the rights of women and Christians in Saudi Arabia, vicar?

Charitable Purposes

The advancement of the Christian faith particularly in countries where the Christian faith is a minority.

To assist Christian Churches to seek the welfare of their communities and especially those of other faiths.

The promotion of religious harmony and respect through interfaith dialogue and to reduce discrimination and conflict, especially between Muslims, Jews and Christians.

The promotion of religious or racial harmony, equality and diversity.

The promotion of conflict resolution and reconciliation by all appropriate means.

The promotion of Human Rights (as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.)

 Over the past week or so Stephen Sizer has been letting his faithful know of his characteristically busy schedule.

And thus at the end of last week he came to that “significant Kairos moment”:

And soon afterwards unveiled it, and his key connection with it, as “Founder and CEO”. 

As well as extending an invitation (I’d love to be there as a fly on the wall, Your Reverence, but the trip’s a tad too far):

 As will be seen, three of the four directors listed on those registration/incorporation documents of 29 February referred to above are now Trustees.

Let’s remind ourselves who they are.

Garth Hewitt

Due to turn 70 later this year, he needs little introduction to students of the Israel-bashing movement within Christian circles.

Founder of the anti-Israel Amos Trust with which he’s still associated, and credited with the leftward slant of the Greenbelt Festival, of which he was for many years an executive member, this “troubadour” and author of Occupied Territories: the revolution of love from Bethlehem to the ends of the earth (2014)  is a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.  In 2007 he received an award from the controversial body Interpal for his “longstanding commitment to the Palestinian people through both the relief and awareness work done by his charity, the Amos Trust, and also for his personal commitment through songs and telling the stories of ordinary Palestinians and their daily struggles”. Formerly guild vicar of All Hallows on the Wall in the City of London,  he’s an associate priest at St Clement’s Eastcheap, and an honorary canon of St George’s Cathedral, Jerusalem, as well as a regular contributor to BBC Radio 2’s slot Pause for Thought.

Further information is available on his website here.

In 2012 Garth Hewitt defended Stephen Sizer against allegations of antisemitism, in a letter to Sizer’s diocesan boss, the then Bishop of Guildford, Christopher Hill; here’s some of it: 

2012; ready to renounce that vile slur, Rev Sizer?

 “….  I am afraid these sort of charges are being levelled at people in order to silence them, and we have seen similar things happen to President Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and particularly Judge Richard Goldstone who chaired the report on Gaza – he suffered particularly unpleasant attacks.

I have known Stephen since he was at University, and took him on his first visit to the Holy Land when we were both on the staff of St Saviour’s in Guildford. Since then as you know he has become recognised as an expert on Christian pilgrimage in the Holy Land and also Christian Zionism. Stephen’s motivation is working for peace and strangely those who are truly dedicated to a peace for both communities …. But I believe, as do so many others who are working in this area, that peace cannot come if we ignore what is happening on the ground. So the latest UN report on Israel from the UN Human Rights Panel has caused Israel to sever ties with it and yet it is a call to address human rights, international law, and the Fourth Geneva Convention, particularly as it relates to the impact of settlements on the West Bank. In other words it is an attempt to call for a way forward that would bring equality and dignity to both communities….

In the end Stephen is a gentle but firm peacemaker, who lives out the Biblical mandate that all are made in the image of God, and I have never in anything he has done seen a hint of anti-Semitism. He has worked with Jewish peace activists …”

 (This episode predated the 9/11 post of 20 January 2015, of course)

Hewitt’s songs to be featured at the launch of Peacemaker Mediators can be sampled below:

(Incidentally, as seen here, the Amos Trust’s Annual Bethlehem Carol Service featuring Garth Hewitt among others, is scheduled for 28 November this year at St James’s Piccadilly, when the theme will be “Women of Palestine.)

Michael Lawson

Despite his occupation on the official documentation appearing as “composer and film maker” (which indeed he is) he too is a man of the cloth.  Or, rather, a retired one.  Now 64, he’s the Venerable Michael Lawson, Archdeacon Emeritus of Hampstead, Chairman of the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC).

In an interview in 2009 he said:

‘“I grew up an agnostic Jew…. But I felt drawn again to that part of my heritage when I start learning and playing music.”

Michael started playing the piano when he was 11. By the age of 12 he was grade 8, by 14 he played his first recital on the BBC. He went on to train as a composer and conductor, in London and in France . At university, aged 22, he met a group of Christians, and life changed.

….Such was the power of Michael’s conversion, that six months later his mother had converted. Six months after her, his father also announced he’d become Christian after Michael gave him Oliver Barclay’s Reason for Faith, and his sister too became a Methodist preacher….’

Here’s part of what he wrote to the former Bishop of Guildford and another bishop in 2012, absolving our old chum of accusations of antisemitism.

“I was born into an orthodox Jewish home (my original family name is Levi,) and all through my childhood and teenage years was made conscious of the evils of the holocaust and of anti-Semitism. On my mother’s side many of our (Polish) family from Lodz perished in Auschwitz, and I grew up with, and have retained, an abhorrence of all anti Jewish attitudes and action. When I became a Christian at Sussex University, I did not throw off my Jewish identity and values at all, but rather absorbed my heritage into my new Christian commitment. Perhaps this is why today I have so many Jewish friends, and for these reasons of friendship and promoting understanding of Jewish Christian relations of I was made an honorary life member of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain in 2002….

 May I say I don’t agree at all with everything Stephen Sizer writes. We approach things in a different way, though both of us are very concerned for the rights of Palestinians. Nonetheless, I have not read any statement in any of his books, articles, or teaching or any other place where Stephen could ever be said to be anti-Semitic. Pre-programmed as I am from my upbringing and its unquenched flow into my present convictions, I would pick up any nuance of this kind like a shot, and I would have done so at any point over the forty years we have been friends. He simply is not ant-Semitic and it is very wrong indeed to suggest that he is so….

 I can assure you that if there were even a whiff of ant-Semitism about him, our friendship would have ended years ago.” 

A friend indeed.

John Salter

Of 79-year-old Canon Salter, president of the Garden Tomb Association, we read here:

“John is a Kentish man – born and brought up in Sevenoaks. He worked in insurance and did national service in the RAF before attending university and ordination as priest. John then worked for Inter Varsity Fellowship (now UCCF) in universities, before spending over 32 years as vicar of Emmanuel Church, Guildford, Surrey. His focus now is on preaching, teaching, evangelism and training people for ministry. John and his wife, Bridget first visited Israel in 1963 – since when they have visited frequently and led many pilgrimage groups there…”

Early in 2013 he assured the then Bishop of Guildford that Stephen Sizer is not antisemitic.  Inter alia:

“Until recently I had thought (quite wrongly it seems) that the unjust accusations of anti-Semitism made against Stephen Sizer had run their course, that the saga had come to an end with the judgement by Surrey Police that there is no case to answer and that Stephen himself had been exonerated.

I discover, however, that the matter is still being pursued by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and that a formal complaint has been made under the Clergy Discipline Measure. I fully accept (as Stephen himself does) that it was an error of judgement on his part to quote from a website which, unbeknown to him, also contained anti-semitic material. This is something which he himself corrected and for which he apologised, but to accuse him of “spending time trawling dark and extreme corners of the internet in order to re-publish items to support the target of his polemical writing” is nothing other than a defamation of his character…. 

I sincerely hope that this whole issue can be dealt with speedily and that the Board of Deputies can also accept that their charges are unjustified.”

Now for the Patrons 

Mouneer Anis 

A qualified physician, the Most Revd Dr Mouneer Anis has been Bishop of Egypt since 2000 and Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East since 2007.   More here

Why, look y’all, I do believe there’s a bit of a pattern developing!

Henry Orombi

The Most Revd Henry Orombi served as Archbishop of Uganda and Bishop of Kampala from 2004 until his retirement in December 2012.  More here

And now for those members of the International Board of Reference whose names have been so far given:

Riah Abu El Amal 

A native of Nazareth, about to turn 79, he served as vicar of Christ Church there and from 1998 until his retirement in 2007 was Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem and head of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem.   More here

We read inter alia  in an anti-Israel propaganda piece  by British journalist Anne Gwynne here

‘From 1986 to 1990, Bishop Riah was subjected to one of the longest travel bans in Israeli history, during which time he also was banned by the U.S. State Department. The reason? He had dared to meet with the late Yasser Arafat, and thus was regarded as a threat to the security of Israel. More recently, it was Bishop Riah who first gave sanctuary in St. George’s Anglican Church to nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu upon the latter’s release from prison. Since then armed Israeli soldiers have invaded the Bishop’s church in East Jerusalem several times….

“We are prepared to share this land with the others,” Bishop Riah emphasized. It is the Jews, he insisted, who are not prepared to share…’.

Here’s a manifestation of that pattern again:

“I write to you today in regard to the unwarranted and groundless attacks on the good name of one of your committed and faithful priests, the Rev. Dr. Stephen Sizer, who has powerfully and consistently raised awareness of the plight of our fellow Palestinian and Israeli brothers and sisters, as have many others. He continues to remind us of our Christian duty, to uphold Human Rights, a vital step if, Israel and Palestine are to take committed steps towards a lasting peace….

2014; for shame, vicar, for shame.

It is right for democratic and public debate to bring to light and criticize Israel’s politics which daily violate the basic rights of all Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. It is equally right to speak of Palestinian breaches of international law.

You’ve seen it now, Bishop Riah!

I have known Stephen for over thirty years. I know him as a man of integrity and forthright views with the courage to express those views. He has always been measured , and his message is, and has been, one of Christian faith and the love of truth. His books and his articles are suffused  with objective discipline. There is nothing in them, or him, that could be remotely construed as anti-Jewish, anti-Jew, anti-Semite or even anti Israel as a state….[Emphasis added; see screenshot above!]

Richard Bewes

Rev. Bewes has a potted biography on the website of Christ Church, Virginia Water (Sizer’s church), whose team Bewes, a distinguished evangelical,  joined in 2014.  Born in Kenya in 1934 to Christian missionaries, he was educated at Marlborough School and Emmanuel College Cambridge, qualifying for ordination at Ridley Hall Theological College.  From 1983 until 2004 he was Rector of All Souls, Langham Place, in London’s West End, and was awarded the OBE in 2005.  He blogs here

Michael Butterworth is a former academic registrar of Oak Hill Theological College, London.

Canon Dr Butterworth is yet another of those who in 2012 wrote to the then Bishop of Guildford in Sizer’s defence:

“…. I was his supervisor when he began his research into Christian Zionism for a degree with Middlesex University (beginning as a Master’s Degree and transferring to a Doctorate, as required by the University’s regulations) via Oak Hill College. When I left Oak Hill in 1997, Stephen was supervised by Martin Davie and then Alan Storkey, both of whom are excellent scholars and well aware of the need to avoid anti-Semitism. I have kept in touch with Stephen since that time and have read a good deal of what he has written.

At no time has he shown any signs of anti-Semitism …”

Gary Burge

Gary M. Burge is an ordained Presbyterian and professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, Illinois, where, if my memory serves me correctly, our old chum spoke a few years ago.  A prominent “supersessionist” or “replacement theologian,” Burge has authored Whose Land, Whose Promise: What Christians Aren’t Being Told About Israel and the Palestinians (2003, revised ed. 2013) and Jesus and the Land: The New Testament Challenge to Holy Land Theology (2010).  There is a devastating critique of his standpoint here  His website is here.

In 2012 he defended Sizer to the then Bishop of Guildford against perceptions of antisemitism.

 Oh, and ugh, so did that ex-pat Israeli directly above!

Issa Chaer
Dr Chaer iss a Syrian-born London-based academic.

In several videos online he talks about what IS has done to his homeland.

John Gladwin

Now 74, he was Bishop of Guildford from 1994-2004 and of Chelmsford from 2004-9.  He is involved with Christian Aid, which has been accused of bias against Israel (see, for example, NGO Monitor here)   In 2012 Gladwin wrote to his immediate successor at Guildford, Christopher Hill:

 For his hostility towards Israel see  Hal Colebatch, writing in 2006 (extract from full article here): 

‘With impeccable timing, the British Anglican General Synod the Anglican Church’s highest governing body has voted for a campaign of economic attacks on Israel just as Hamas is settling into power. The General Synod resolved to disinvest in “all companies profiting from the illegal occupation.” Singled out is Caterpillar tractors, whose machinery has been used to build Israel’s security wall and to level buildings suspected of being used by terrorists. (It apparently escaped the General Synod’s notice that Caterpillar machinery is also used by the Palestinians.)  The Church Commissioners hold about $3.65 million in Caterpillar.

 The subtext behind this is that it is illegitimate for Israelis or, let us be frank, Jews to try to defend themselves from terrorism. Dr. Irene Lancaster, of the Centre for Jewish Studies at Manchester University, said the vote marked “a very black day for Anglo-Jewish relations… The writing is on the wall for the Jews of Great Britain, 350 years after they settled here.”  Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, normally the most gentle and diplomatic of men, told the Jerusalem Post that the vote made him “ashamed to be an Anglican.” Lord Carey previously warned that such a policy would “disastrous” for peace efforts in the region. He said Israelis already felt traumatized by attacks on them and this would be “another knife in the back.” The chairman of the Council of Christians and Jews, the Rt. Rev. Christopher Herbert, Bishop of St. Albans, also attacked the vote as “unbalanced.”

 A counter-motion by pro-Israeli Anglicans was not allowed to be put. The present Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, supported the vote, but the second most senior Archbishop, John Sentamu of York, abstained. Bewilderingly, Williams then apologized to the British Chief Rabbi, regretting the vote which he had supported as “specially unfortunate… at a time when, as we are well aware, anti-Semitism in a growing menace and the State of Israel faces some very particular challenges.” That, I suppose, is Anglicanism for you.  The Bishop of Chelmsford, the Right Rev. John Gladwin, said Christians in Palestine were in despair. Although recent reports have indicated a high level of Muslim persecution of Christians in Israel, Bishop Gladwin blamed the Israeli government for their plight…. [Emphasis added]’   And see also  here

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