The Church of England has banned one of its vicars from all social media and taking part in any anti-Israel activities after he appeared to question whether Mossad had a role in the 9/11 attacks.
Reverend Stephen Sizer of Christ Church in Virginia Water, Surrey, posted an article entitled "9/11 Israel did it" on his Facebook page, where he has almost 2,500 friends and followers. He captioned the piece: "Is this anti-Semitic? It raises so many questions."
The Church promised to investigate the posting, which happened the week of Holocaust Memorial Day.
Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Revd Andrew Watson, said the Church took the complaints "extremely seriously" and that he did not consider Sizer to be anti-Semitic, but a man of "appallingly poor judgment".
"By associating with or promoting subject matter, which is either ambiguous in its motivation, or (worse still) openly racist, he has crossed a serious line. I regard these actions as indefensible."
Sizer has apologised and recognises the "gross insensitivity of their timing just prior to Holocaust Memorial Day".
But Watson said that Sizer's "strong but increasingly undisciplined commitment to an anti-Zionist agenda has become a liability to his own ministry and that of the wider church".
"Many who more moderately support the Palestinian cause, and share his critique of a particular brand of Christian fundamentalism, themselves find Stephen’s actions to be increasingly unhelpful and counter-productive, a fact he himself now recognises," he continued. "It is therefore my decision that Stephen’s work in this area is no longer compatible with his ministry as a parish priest."
Sizer has committed not to write or speak "on any theme that relates, either directly or indirectly, to the current situation in the Middle East or to its historical backdrop".
In addition, he "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."
Sizer has claimed he will not return to social media for at least the next six months. The promise was made on the undertaking that Sizer would immediately resign were he to break the pledge, Watson said.
The controversial vicar has a long history of provocative Facebook posts and run-ins with the Jewish community in the UK, even holding a mediation meeting with the Board of Deputies in 2013, aimed at healing relations.
Last year, Sizer addressed a conference in the Iranian capital Tehran, which discussed the "influence of the Zionist lobby", where conference panel sessions included "9/11 and the Holocaust as pro-Zionist ‘Public Myths’" and "Mossad’s Role in the 9/11 Coup d’Etat" and several prominent Holocaust deniers were in attendance.
Sizer was also disciplined for linking to an anti-Semitic website called 'The Ugly Truth' where an article declares; "God's people are all those who do His will, who are righteous, who are compassionate and who do not submit themselves to the false gods of voracity, vengeance, vulgarity and viciousness, which pretty much leaves the Jews out."
Watson said he was "hugely sorry for the hurt which has been caused to members of the Jewish Community, and I hope and pray that the storms of the past two weeks will ultimately serve to deepen and strengthen our relationship, one with another."