Most Floridians will remember Dove World Outreach in Gainesville as the church that put a “No Homo Mayor” sign in front of their church earlier this year to protest the election of Mayor Craig Lowe. But more notably, Dove World Outreach is the church who is sponsoring the much-talked-about “Burn the Koran [sic]” demonstration on the 9th anniversary of the 9/11 World Trade Center attack.
But the pastor of Dove, Terry Jones, has a record of scandal in the nation of Germany that got him ousted from practicing there, according to an article in Spiegel – a German news magazine. “US fundamentalist pastor Terry Jones, who wants to burn copies of the Koran on Sept. 11, ran a church in the western German city of Cologne until last year when members of the congregation expelled him,” reports Spiegel, “Former members have spoken of his hate-filled sermons and insistence on "blind obedience."
“At one point he wanted to help a homosexual member to pray away his sins," report the former members. This may not sound shocking or even strange to Americans because we have become accustomed to such religious schemes. In Germany however, civil unions have been the law of the land since 2001 and gays are allowed to openly serve in the military. Even the mayor of Berlin is openly gay. It is in this context that congregants found Jones behavior to be “radical” and that he suffered from a “delusional personality”.
But Jones also began his crusade against Islam in Germany. It was his actions in this regard which lead to a severe loss of congregants, forcing the preacher to try his luck in the United States instead. Jones had initially been quite successful in Cologne. His church there would have comparatively been considered a mega-church by our standards with over 800 (possibly 1000) congregants.
It is important to note that Jones own flock ousted him from their church. After that, the church never really recovered and they only have 80 members today – similar to the number (estimated at 50) of church-goers at Dove World Outreach. “He couldn't cope with the immense loss of power and significance [over here]," says Andrew Schafer, a Protestant leader in Germany who is charged with the oversight of smaller denominations.
Although, the words used to describe Jones by German religious authorities seem to indicate a fall from grace, they also carry an ominous warning to America. In a statement issued last Wednesday, Charlotte Knobloch, president of the Germany’s Central Council of Jews, said Jones’ recent stunt planned for 9/11 was "a terrible and repulsive" idea and that it reminded her of the Nazis' infamous book-burning in 1933. "Where they burn books, they will end up burning people," she said, quoting the 19th-century German author Heinrich Heine.