A British man whose views were labeled "clearly anti-Semitic" by the Church of England is scheduled to speak this week to an evangelical group working to erode support for Israel within the Christian community.
Christ at the Checkpoint, which promotes the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, is holding its conference this week in Oklahoma City. One of its featured speakers is Stephen Sizer, whose stated views on Israel include suggesting they were behind the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 in the United States.
Sizer, a vicar who was banned by the Church of England from discussing the Middle East due to his frequent anti-Semitic social media postings, is a leading critic of "Christian Zionism." Sizer was later ordered to "cease all preaching, teaching and leading of services" for good in 2017 after breaking his pledge to refrain from commenting on Israel, and is now retired from the church.
Sizer has long been spotlighted by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which celebrated his removal from the church, calling him a "repeat offender in the trafficking of antisemitic slurs." The straw that broke the camel's back for the church was his participation, after already being ordered to refrain from commenting on Israel, at an event where the Holocaust was blamed on the Jewish people.
Critics of the conference say Sizer's participation is further evidence of the disruptive influence the group has on the relationship between Christians and Jews.
"Christ at the Checkpoint seeks to drive Christians away from supporting Israel," said Luke Moon of the Philos Project, which aims to build support for Israel in the Christian community. "To do that, they invited Stephen Sizer, who authored the definitive work against Christian Zionism. Unsurprisingly, he is also an anti-Semite who cozies up with the Syrian regime and traffics in conspiracy theories that the Jews are responsible for 9/11."
"It's unfortunate that people like Sizer are given a platform to undermine the important work of Christian and Jewish relations," Moon said.
The conference has been criticized by watchdogs of anti-Semitism such as Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, which was critical of the attempt by the conference to "wrap the church in the Palestinian flag."
Sizer has defended himself from anti-Semitism charges, arguing, for example, that his suggestion that Israel may be to blame for 9/11 was just an attempt to encourage debate.
"I was encouraging debate, I was neither saying Israel did it or that they didn't," Sizer said.
The top testimonial featured on Sizer's website defending him from anti-Semitism comes from British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who is also widely viewed as an anti-Semite and is currently under fire for his dealings with terrorist group Hamas.
A representative for Christ at the Checkpoint said in an email sent after this article was initially published that Sizer's past comments were reviewed prior to his invitation.
"We know there is a level of controversy and suspicion in his participation but we do not hear any presenter uncritically," said Darrell Cates. "The view of most planners is Dr Sizer's work regarding dispensational interpretation of scripture and the development of Christian Zionism is relevant and valid for the conference to hear."
"We have had a lot of conversations locally and with a number of international leaders in the conference. We have sought to do our own investigation of the complaints leveled toward Dr. Sizer and the individuals and groups making the accusations. We have sought explanations corroboration or evidence of bias or slant in the reports."
UPDATE 4:53 p.m.: This piece was updated with comment from a Christ at the Checkpoint spokesperson.