Stephen Sizer: Wikis

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Stephen Sizer

The Reverend Dr Stephen Sizer, USA 2007. Image provided courtesy of Eileen Fleming
Born 1953
Lowestoft
United Kingdom
Nationality British
Occupation Pastor
Evangelist
Website
Christchurch Virginia Water
Stephen Sizer
Stephen Sizer's Blog

The Reverend Dr Stephen Robert Sizer (born 1953) is the incumbent at Christ Church, Virginia Water, an Anglican parish in Surrey, England. In addition to his parish ministry, he has a number of external roles and is known internationally as an author and speaker specialising in topics relating to the land of Israel. He has written numerous books and articles on this subject and is regularly invited to teach in churches, seminaries and universities in Europe, the Middle East and USA, as a theologian and evangelist. His views on Zionism and Christian Zionism have proved controversial, attracting both praise and condemnation.

Contents

Background and Education

Born in Lowestoft in 1953, the son of a carpenter, Stephen Sizer showed an early love of Geography. He began his career working for the Department of Health and Social Security (1971-1973) as a Supplementary Benefits Visiting Officer in East London. From there he went on to study Geography (African & Asian Studies) at Sussex University, (1973-1976). It was while at University, that he became a Christian. After graduation Sizer worked as a Campus Director/student counsellor with Agape at the Universities of London, Liverpool and Sussex. In 1980 he was accepted for training as a minister in the Church of England and gained a Diploma in Theology at Trinity College Bristol. In 1983 he was ordained and became an Assistant Curate for St. Leonard's in St Leonards-on-Sea, then was appointed Rector at St. John's, Stoke, Guildford in 1986. He gained a MA in Theology from Oxford University in 1994. After 11 years at St John's, in 1997 he became the Vicar of Christchurch, Virginia Water, where he is now incumbent. He continued to study and was awarded a PhD from Oak Hill Theological College and Middlesex University in 2003.[1][2][3]

General Beliefs

Stephen Sizer is a conservative evangelical and has aligned with a number of related organisations.[1][2] He is a member of Reform (Anglican), Anglican Mainstream, and the Church Society. He has endorsed the Jerusalem Declaration issued by the Global Anglican Future Conference and has joined the resulting Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. He supports the Third Province Movement.

Israel and Zionism

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Sizer's Position

Dr Sizer has spent many years studying the theology, politics and history of the Middle East, and has travelled extensively throughout the region.

He opposes Christian Zionism, as he holds to a Covenantal overview and literal hermeneutic for the Bible. He has received criticism for supporting divestment from western companies profiting from the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and for promoting the view that the New Testament re-interprets or leads to a new understanding of the Old Testament.

In 2004, Sizer adapted his PhD thesis into a book, Christian Zionism - Road Map to Armageddon?[4]. He claims that Christian Zionism fused with the neo-conservative political ideology has led millions of Christians astray and helped to tip the world on its side heavy with military artillery.[5]

Sizer believes that Christian Zionism plays an important part in the politics of the Middle East, shaping US foreign policy. He argues that Christian Zionism has no biblical foundation or historical precedent.

The media present this as a clash between two cultures, Palestinian and Israeli, or Oriental and Western. As I hope to show, the convictions of Christian Zionists have made a significant contribution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Advocates argue that Christian Zionism is born out of the conviction that God has a continuing special relationship with, and covenental purpose for, the Jewish people, apart from the church, and that the Jewish people have a divine right to possess the land of Palestine. This is based on a literal and futurist interpretation of the Bible and the conviction that Old Testament prophecies concerning the Jewish people are being fulfilled in the contemporary State of Israel.[6]

He disputes the latter view in several books and articles on the subject.

My motivation for this book lies in the conviction deeply held, that for Western Christians, especially evangelicals, to ignore or stereotype their Palestinian brothers and sisters, now threatened with extinction, is not only deeply offensive, it is surely a contradiction of our faith, and ultimately immoral before God. It is nothing less than to perpetuate the evil of the Levite in the Parable of the Good Samaritan who walked by on the other side.[7]

He followed this in 2007 with Zion's Christian Soldiers[8], arguing that Christian Zionism has morphed the view of Jesus held by professing Christians in the USA from a man of peace to a militant crusader.

"It is...irresponsible to suggest that God will bless us materially if we support the largely secular State of Israel, especially when this invariably means ignoring the plight of the indigenous Christian population of Palestine."[9]

He has appeared on Iranian state television to discuss Christian sympathies towards the modern state of Israel.

"when people like Theodore Herzl began to speculate about a Jewish state, it was the Christian community that assisted him to get a hearing among the governments of Europe".[10]

In his writings, while opposing Christian Zionism, Sizer also repudiates anti-Semitism and other forms of racism:

I affirm the right of the State of Israel to exist within secure and internationally recognized borders. Sadly the evidence shows that Israel is a racist and apartheid state. The UN World Conference on Racism, together with US State Country Report, have highlighted the institutional racism within Israeli society. The South African ruling ANC, the Jewish human rights organisation B’Tselem, as well as leading Jewish academics such as Noam Chomsky..have all made similar comparisons between South African and Israeli apartheid. I do not regard such views as anti-Semitic.[11]

It is true that at various times in the past, churches and church leaders have tolerated or incited anti-Semitism and even attacks on Jewish people. Racism is a sin and without excuse. Anti-Semitism must be repudiated unequivocally. However, we must not confuse apples and oranges. Anti-Zionism is not the same thing as anti-Semitism despite attempts to broaden the definition. Criticising a political system as racist is not necessarily racist. Judaism is a religious system. Israel is a sovereign nation. Zionism is a political system. These three are not synonymous. I respect Judaism, repudiate anti-Semitism, encourage interfaith dialogue and defend Israel's right to exist within borders recognised by the international community and agreed with her neighbours. But like many Jews, I disagree with a political system which gives preference to expatriate Jews born elsewhere in the world, while denying the same rights to the Arab Palestinians born in the country itself." [12]

Sizer's focus on the Holy Land, in particular Jerusalem, The Temple and the future of the world juxtaposed with the current political climate and neo-con ideology aims to change the views of many American Christians who he sees as having been led astray by the "heretical" ideology of John Hagee, Hal Lindsay and Tim LaHaye.

Response

Sizer's views on the Middle East have proved controversial. The Christian response has been varied, and the Jewish response has been both positive and negative.

In the Christian world, Sizer's writings have been commended by many Christians including leaders and academics such as Revd Dr John Stott, Revd R. C. Lucas, Dr Gary Burge, Professor Gilbert Bilezikian, Dr Stephen Travis and Dr Paul Copan[13][14].

However, other Christians have taken the opposite opinion. Some reviews of Christian Zionism - Road Map to Armageddon? have been highly critical[15][16][17]. A prominent Christian opponent is David Pawson, who wrote a book called Defending Christian Zionism - in response to Steven Sizer and John Stott[18], though Pawson has said of Sizer

“I am grateful to Stephen Sizer for drawing attention to the legitimate criticisms of dispensational Zionism. He has rendered a service to the cause of Zionism which was needed.” [19]

Pawson publicly debated Sizer on Premier Christian Radio[20].

Other Christian authors who have criticised Sizer include Barry Horner[21] and Paul Wilkinson[22]. Leaders of Christian missions to the Jewish people such as Rev Mike Moore[23][24], General Secretary of Christian Witness to Israel, and Rev Tony Higton[25] Later, having met Sizer, Tony Higton largely retracted his view and wrote:

“After years of sparring, Stephen Sizer and I met up and found we had wide areas of agreement. Having worked in Jewish ministry for seven years, half of them in Jerusalem, I have seen the best and worst of Christian Zionism. Insofar as it combats anti-Semitism, defends the existence of a safe homeland for Jewish people, promotes evangelism among Jewish people, and supports reconciliation in the Holy Land, it is good. However, Sizer is right to criticize the serious failings of some Christian Zionism. I agree with him in rejecting the following errors which are held by many Christian Zionists: Lack of godly compassion for the Palestinians, and of concern for their human rights and about their legitimate aspirations. A negative attitude toward Palestinians, and Arabs in general, to the point of racism. Uncritical support for Israel (a secular, sinful state like any other), justifying all its actions against the Palestinians. Neglecting or even opposing and forbidding evangelism of Israelis, sometimes believing that Jewish people can experience salvation through Judaism. Being more interested in the fulfilment of prophecy than in application of kingdom principles such as justice and reconciliation. Opposing the peace process. Sometimes advocating the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the Holy Land. Sometimes supporting the rebuilding of the temple regardless of the problematic theological implications and the danger of provoking extreme violence.” [26]

General Director of the Church's Ministry Among Jewish People, have also rejected Sizer's approach.

Some members of the Jewish community have regarded Sizer's works as examples of Christian antisemitism[27][28][29]. Journalist Melanie Phillips is a notable Jewish critic of Sizer and has condemned him in her writings[30][31][32], though Phillips has also condemned the Archbishop of Canterbury in similar terms. Jewish historian Geoffrey Alderman has also warned against Sizer[33][34].

Sizer's books have been endorsed by more notable Jewish academics such as Rabbi Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok and Professor Norton Mezvinsky. As a Christian minister who believes that all people are equal in God's eyes, Sizer has shared a platform with Neturei Karta[35], a Jewish anti-Zionist organisation, but they are a tiny group that has been denounced by the mainstream Jewish world[36].

Jewish Christians and Messianic Jews such as Aaron Abramson[37] and Jacob Prasch[38] have also expressed their strong disagreement with Sizer's views.

External Roles

Dr Sizer is a member of the Executive of the Guildford Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship and a member of Guildford Diocesan Synod. He is a trustee and former chairman of the International Bible Society UK, publishers of the New International Version, the most widely read English Bible. He has served as an external examiner for post-graduate degrees (MPhil and PhD) awarded by the University of Wales through the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies (OCMS), and Tyndale-Carey Graduate School, Bible College of New Zealand. He is a trainer for the Christianity Explored course and has visited Uganda and Kenya in this regard.

Sizer's other external positions relate to his interest in Peace in the Middle East and to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is a founding member of the Institute for the Study of Christian Zionism, a member of the Advisory Council of Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding, a Trustee of the Amos Trust and on the UK Board of Reference for the Mar Elias Educational Institutions in Ibillin, Galilee. He is also on the editorial board of Living Stones Magazine.

Additional information

Sizer regularly contributes articles for newspapers and journals including Evangelicals Now[39], Third Way[40], The Christian Research Journal[41], Living Stones, Sojourners[42], Plain Truth[43] and Friends of Al Aqsa [44]. He is a regular contributor to programmes on Premier Radio, Press TV[45]; and the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB). He has also appeared on BBC2 Newsnight, Syrian TV and Al Manar TV. In recent years he has lectured at the universities of Oxford[46], Cambridge, London, Glasgow, Manchester, Leicester[47], SOAS, George Washington, North Park Chicago, Baylor, Palm Beach Atlantic, Tehran, Mashhad, Isfahan, Shahreza, Qom, Jakarta, Petra, Beirut and Cairo. He has also lectured at the Oxford Centre of Mission Studies, Oak Hill College, Wycliffe Hall, Tyndale House, the Cornhill Training Course (CTC), for Tearfund[48], the Islamic Human Rights Commission, Cornerstone and Greenbelt.

Dr Sizer is also a photographer and has contributed to two large format books of the Holy Land.

Bibliography

Author

Contributor

Gallery

See also

External links

References

  1. ^ a b "About Stepher Sizer". http://www.stephensizer.com/about. Retrieved 2009-04-06.  
  2. ^ a b "Stephen Sizer". http://www.cc-vw.org/index.php?id=924&level=2. Retrieved 2009-04-06.  
  3. ^ Additional biographical information from Dr Sizer's CV
  4. ^ Sizer, Rev Dr Stephen (2004-11-26). Christian Zionism - Road Map to Armageddon?. Inter-Varsity Press. ISBN 9781844740505. http://www.ivpbooks.com/9781844740505. Retrieved 2009-04-04.  
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon?, p.17 and 20
  7. ^ Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon?, p.13
  8. ^ Sizer, Rev Dr Stephen (2007-10-19). Zion's Christian Soldiers. Inter-Varsity Press. ISBN 9781844742141. http://www.ivpbooks.com/9781844742141. Retrieved 2009-04-04.  
  9. ^ Zion's Christian Soldiers, p.46
  10. ^ [2]YouTube video of Sizer on Iranian TV
  11. ^ [3] Letter to The Spectator from Sizer
  12. ^ Zion’s Christian Soldiers, p. 15
  13. ^ "Reviews of Christian Zionism - Road Map to Armageddon?". http://www.stephensizer.com/books/christian-zionism/reviews. Retrieved 2009-04-04.  
  14. ^ "Reviews of Zion's Christian Soldiers". http://www.stephensizer.com/books/zions-christian-soldiers/zion%e2%80%99s-christian-soldiers-reviews. Retrieved 2009-04-04.  
  15. ^ Macaulay, Ian; Parker, Rev Keith (Summer 2005). "Christian Zionism "A Road Map to Armageddon?"". Christians for Israel. Archived from the original on 2005-12-01. http://web.archive.org/web/20051201030714/http://www.c4israel.org/articles/summer2005/html/christian_zionism.html. Retrieved 2009-04-04. "We are therefore disappointed at the writer’s failure to engage in enough questions in sufficient depth"  
  16. ^ Smith, Dr Calvin L (2007-11-26). "Book Review of Christian Zionism". Midlands Bible College. http://www.midbible.ac.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=105&Itemid=91. Retrieved 2009-04-04.  
  17. ^ Merkley, Paul (2007-01-01). "Was Israel a Mistake?". Christianity Today. http://www.christianitytoday.com/bc/2007/001/12.36.html. Retrieved 2009-04-04. "major misrepresentations of historical fact too numerous to list"  
  18. ^ Pawson, David (2008). Defending Christian Zionism - a response to Stephen Sizer and John Stott. Terra Nova Publications International Ltd. ISBN 9781901949629.  
  19. ^ David Pawson, Defending Christian Zionism, p. 39
  20. ^ Recording of the Pawson/Sizer debate
  21. ^ Horner, Barry (2008-10-15). Future Israel - Why Christian Anti-Judaism must be challenged. B&H Academic. ISBN 0805446273.  
  22. ^ Wilkinson, Paul (2008-04-15). For Zion's Sake: Christian Zionism and the Role of John Nelson Darby. Paternoster. ISBN 1842275690.  
  23. ^ Moore, Rev Mike (2008). "Stephen Sizer and Anti-Zionism". Mishkan (Caspari Centre) (55). http://mishkanstore.org/store/product_info.php?products_id=114.  
  24. ^ Moore, Rev Mike (08 2007). "The impact of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism on the story about Jesus". Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism International Conference 2007. http://www.lcje.net/papers/2007/intl/Moore.doc. Retrieved 2009-04-07. "(Christian Zionism: Road Map to Armageddon?) ... presents a perspective on Israel that is opposite in the extreme to the view held by those with whom Stephen Sizer takes issue ... is replete with historical inaccuracies, misrepresentations, libels and citations from Holocaust-deniers, neo-Nazis and anti-Semites."  
  25. ^ Higton, Rev Tony. "A Response to Stephen Sizer's criticisms of CMJ and ITAC". Church's Ministry Among Jewish People. Archived from the original on 2006-03-07. http://web.archive.org/web/20060307144018/http://www.cmj.org.uk/articles/sizer.html. Retrieved 2009-04-07. "I have to conclude that Stephen's paper is ill-researched, rather unscholarly and very prejudiced. As such it should not really be taken too seriously."  
  26. ^ Tony Higton, A Critique of Christian Zionism, p. 18
  27. ^ The Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism names Sizer, in the section Christian Antisemitism and subsection Replacement Theology, as an anti-Zionist who has revived & popularised Replacement Theology.
  28. ^ Sizer is named as one of those involved in a revival of theological anti-Semitism in the Church of England.
  29. ^ http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=259 Dr David Hirsh of the Sociology Department of Goldsmiths College, London, criticises Sizer for using the anti-Semitic language of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
  30. ^ Phillips, Melanie (2002-02-16). "Christians who hate the Jews". The Spectator. http://www.melaniephillips.com/articles-new/?p=21. Retrieved 2009-04-06.  
  31. ^ Phillips, Melanie (2009-03-04). "Beware the new axis of evangelicals and Islamists". The Spectator. http://www.melaniephillips.com/articles-new/?p=649. Retrieved 2009-04-06.  
  32. ^ Phillips, Melanie (2009-03-04). "Beware the new axis of evangelicals and Islamists". The Spectator. http://www.spectator.co.uk/the-magazine/features/3409686/beware-the-new-axis-of-evangelicals-and-islamists.thtml. Retrieved 2009-04-06.  
  33. ^ Alderman, Geoffrey, Disturbing Turns in Pulpits and Theses, The Jewish Chronicle, 2004-07-09, p. 23. Not available online without subscription but quoted at http://english.daralhayat.com/opinion/OPED/01-2005/Article-20050108-541b10c8-c0a8-10ed-0060-14f77f79ed48/story.html. "Dr Sizer's thesis struck me as little more than his own religious prejudices dressed up in academic guise."
  34. ^ Baty, Phil (2004-08-06). "Zionism thesis stirs up a storm". Times Higher Education Supplement. http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=190483. Retrieved 2009-04-07. "Professor Alderman told The Times Higher: 'Middlesex has permitted its highest research degree to be awarded in respect of a work of propaganda.'".  
  35. ^ http://www.israel-academia-monitor.com/index.php?type=large_advic&advice_id=1440
  36. ^ Rocker, Simon (2002-11-25). "In a state over Israel". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/religion/Story/0,2763,846993,00.html. Retrieved 2009-04-07. "...even among Charedi, or ultra-Orthodox circles, the Neturei Karta are regarded as a wild fringe".  
  37. ^ Abramson, Aaron. "Aaron Abramson's dissertation critiquing Sizer's book Christian Zionism - Road Map To Armageddon?". Jews for Jesus. http://www.jfjonline.org/Sizer.doc. Retrieved 2009-04-07.  
  38. ^ Prasch, Jacob. "Stephen Sizer & The Sons of Menelaus". Moriel Ministries. http://www.moriel.org/articles/discernment/church_issues/stephen_sizer_and_sons_of_menelaus.htm. Retrieved 2009-04-07.  
  39. ^ Israel : The Mystery of Peace by Julia Fisher A Book Review for Evangelicals Now, May 2004
    See also Barak and the Bulldozers of Bethlehem A series of interviews with Christians in Palestine with an evaluation of the recent Israeli elections, published in Evangelicals Now, August (1999)
  40. ^ Israel: The Revised Version. A Review of 'Righteous Victims, A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict 1881-1999' by Benny Morris for Third Way
  41. ^ Articles contributed by Stephen Sizer
  42. ^ Annapolis: Optimism Vs. Pessimism An article for Sojourners Magazine January 2008
  43. ^ American Apocalypse. Why are some Christian's anxious for Armagfeddon? Published in Plain Truth May-June 2007
  44. ^ Travelling through the Holy Land: by Donald Bridge Book review published in Al Aqsa Journal, Vol 1, No. 2, April (1999)
  45. ^ The First Palestinian Intifada (watch the programme here), Press TV Programme Middle East Today with Chris Gelken, Saturday 8th December 2007
  46. ^ Approaching Prophecy Today - The Hermeneutics of Dispensationalism Lecture delivered at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, March 2003
  47. ^ The Future of Christianity in the Holy Land? Paper given at Leicester University, Septepmber 2001; Manchester University and Imperial College, London University, February 2002 & University of Keele, April 2002
  48. ^ Ethical Tourism and Christian Responsibility: A Case Study Paper given at Tourism Conference organised by Tear Fund, 31st October 2000 at the Friends House, Euston Road, London

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