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A challenge for Bishop Andrew Watson

This is a guest post by John Bevan.

You may recall that, back in February 2015, Revd Stephen Sizer was banned by the Bishop of Guildford, Revd Andrew Watson, from any campaigning on the Middle East, after he had posted an article alleging Israeli involvement in 9/11 on his Facebook page.

The Bishop of Guildford released this statement at the time. It included the following words:

“In order for Stephen to remain in parish ministry, I have therefore asked for – and received from him – a solemn undertaking, in writing, that he is to refrain entirely from writing or speaking on any theme that relates, either directly or indirectly, to the current situation in the Middle East or to its historical backdrop

He has promised to refrain, with no exceptions, from attendance at or participation in any conferences which promote or are linked to this agenda; from all writing, tweeting, blogging, emailing, preaching and teaching on these themes, whether formally or informally – a prohibition which of course includes posting links to other sites; and from all background work in this area which may resource others to act as spokespeople in Stephen’s stead.

Should Stephen be deemed by the Diocese to have broken this agreement, in letter or in spirit, he has pledged to offer me his immediate resignation, which I will duly accept…”

As Daphne Anson notes, Stephen Sizer this week attended the now-notorious launch meeting of the “Balfour Apology Campaign” in the House of Lords, organised by the Palestine Return Centre and hosted by Jenny Tonge. He also wrote about it on his Facebook page:

Hmmm.

It would seem that Revd Sizer has broken his February 2015 undertaking in two ways:

(1) He has attended a conference linked to Middle East campaigning; and
(2) he has informally written about the “historic backdrop” to the current situation in the Middle East (“It is time to say sorry for Britain’s historic duplicity to both Jews and Arabs”).

Revd Sizer has recently announced that he will be retiring from his role as vicar of Christ Church, Virginia Water, next Easter. It seems he will be taking on a new role as CEO of a new charity, “Peacemaker Mediators”.

If the words of his 2015 undertaking mean anything, Revd Sizer should surely be offering his resignation to his bishop immediately. However, the real question, surely, is how Bishop Andrew Watson will react to this development. Will he follow up on his strong warning, or meekly retract it now the time has come for enforcement?