Moriel Scrubs Article Blaming Stephen Sizer for Church Attacks

Back in January, the Rochdale Observer reported on an unpleasant incident:

THE pastor of Zion Baptist Church has expressed his disappointment after vandals daubed anti-semitic graffiti on the church wall.

An insult aimed at Israeli Jews as well as the words ‘Free Gaza’ were painted in metre high letters on the outside wall of the Milkstone Road church.

Things escalated the following month:

A gang of “20 youths” have launched another vicious attack on the Zion Baptist church, assaulting the pastor and hurling racist abuse.

Pastor Dennis Rigg and his brother Mervyn have been in and out of the church setting up for their dad’s funeral which is set for Saturday.

Yobs attacked the pastor and pelted a series of hard snowballs at their heads, as well as shouting hateful slurs relating to their Christian religion and its apparent [erroneous] relation to attacks on Gaza.

Of course, the word “Zion” in a church’s name does not indicate any connection to Zionism (and even if it did, such harrassment would still be unacceptable). It’s obvious why this is happening now; the only question is whether the “youths” really are ideologically-driven or just yobs looking for an excuse to throw their weight around (or a bit of both) – apparently a gang tag was added to the graffiti.

However, an article recently published online by the Christian Zionist organisation Moriel Ministries (last blogged by me here) blames Stephen Sizer:

It is apparent that the Muslim community, which has lived in the UK for many years, was never before agitated by the many churches called “Zion” scattered around Great Britain. However things have changed, ever since Anglican priest Stephen Sizer launched his crusade against ‘Christian Zionists’, young Muslim youths are angry at even a church building with the word “Zion” on it, just imagine what it is like to be Jewish in Britain now! Sizer’s books Christian Zionism and Zion’s Christian Soldiers, his many articles for Muslim journals and web sites along with his speaking tours in Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Lybia, Egypt and Indonesia have brought Christian supporters of Israel, whether they are Christian Zionists or not, into the sights of many extreme Jihadists around the world and particularly in Britain. The Spectator magazine, 4th May [sic – should be March] 2009, notes that “Last weekend the Revd Stephen Sizer, vicar of Christ Church, Virginia Water appeared at an anti- Israel meeting with an Islamist called Ismail Patel. Patel has not only accused Israel of ‘genocide’ and ‘war crimes’ but considers Disney to be a Jewish plot and supports Hamas, Iran and Syria.”…

The article also notes similar vandalism of a Messianic Synagogue in Northern Ireland.

Now, Sizer’s associations (some of which, as chronicled by the pro-Israel Seismic Shock,  seem to me to be ill-advised) and his studies of Christian Zionism (which I have found useful) can certainly be the subject of critical comment, just as anything else can (I’ll also disclose that I’ve met Sizer and that I’m broadly in sympathy with his efforts on behalf of Palestinian Christians). But the above paragraph is an insult to the intelligence: Christian Zionism is a high-profile religious phenomenon which is hardly shy about making its perspective known to the public. Those who are likely to be moved to violence against it already know that it exists without help from Sizer – and it is highly unlikely that these “youths” in Rochdale have been even indirectly influenced by his writings or talks.

In fact, the attacks on Pastor Rigg highlight a different problem: that many Muslims are under the misapprehension that all Christians must be Christian Zionists. This has caused problems for Palestinian Christians, and in other places where Christians are a minority or where there is inter-communal tension. In these contexts, Christian writings that are critical of Christian Zionism actually offer a corrective.

However, perhaps Moriel realised this article was dubious (which is saying something!), and it has now been removed – although the url remains:

http://moriel.org/MorielArchive/index.php/news/uk/anti-zionist-attacks-on-church-and-messianic-group

The article itself can still be seen re-posted here.

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