Not fit for the cure of souls

Stephen Sizer is the vicar of Christ Church, Virginia Water – a leafy, affluent corner of Surrey in the southeast of England. This is classic commuter country, with bonused to the eyeballs bankers in comfortable residence.

Christ Church is on the evangelical wing of the Church of England, which is itself part of the international and nominally catholic and apostolic Anglican Communion. But there is a twist. Christ Church and its chief priest are not bog-standard evangelicals; they are part of a faction within the CofE that could best be described as crypto-Baptist. You will find such churches in many wealthy parts of Britain, and their pews are filled with bums drawn almost exclusively from the business world, government and academia.

The theology and ecclesiology of crypto-Baptist Christianity is very shallow. Yes, I know this is a bit rich, coming as it does from an atheist, but until my faith evaporated in a puff of logic I was a confessing and active member of the Anglican church. In the case of Sizer’s church and others of its ilk, this deficiency is made up for with hard right political activism combined with a veneer of intellectualism. Church structures are rigid, and leadership absolute. There is something distinctly cult-like about this faction of the Christian religion.

Sizer is a typical crypto-Baptist Anglican priest. He is also an active scribbler, having penned a number of books on theology and politics with a focus on the Middle East. This vicar, or “Senior Pastor” as he prefers to call himself, holds extremist views on Israel, and is an opponent of what he calls “Christian Zionism”. Sizer also associates with known holocaust deniers and other assorted antisemites. This is indisputable fact of the kind that would stand up in a court of law. There is such a thing as guilt by association, and Sizer has some serious charges to answer.

Why, then, does Sizer, who with a doctorate is obviously an intelligent man, think it acceptable to threaten a critical blogger with legal action? For that is what the priest has done in the case of the Christian blogger known as “Seismic Shock”. I shall not repeat the details, but simply explain that Sizer made a complaint to the police about Seismic Shock, following which the boys in blue paid a visit to the blogger’s home in Horsforth, to have an “informal chat”, to use their words.

Libel is a matter for civil and not criminal law, and it is a gross misuse of police resources to have officers intervene as they have in the case of Seismic Shock. I would recommend to the blogger that he make formal complaints to the Chief Constables of West Yorkshire and Surrey, and also discuss the matter with Christopher Hill, the Bishop of Guildford.

Given Stephen Sizer’s outrageous behaviour in (a) engaging in political activity that conflicts with Church of England policies on the Middle East, (b) associating with individuals who are morally depraved, and (c) attempting to silence critics in a legally dubious manner, one must question whether this man is fit to be in Holy Orders, let alone have charge of such a large and active Christian community. He is certainly bringing the church into disrepute.

Photo of Stephen Sizer copyright © 2007 Eileen Fleming.