September 9, 2010

'A church doing its own thing'

The Dove World Outreach Center sees Islam as evil and adheres to Pentecostal tradition that Christians are engaged in a spiritual battle.

By RACHEL ZOLL The Associated Press

NEW YORK - The Florida pastor who plans to burn the Quran on the anniversary of 9/11 is rooted in Pentecostal tradition that believes Christians are engaged in a modern-day spiritual battle with evil.

Terry Jones
click image to enlarge

Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center answers questions after a news conference in Gainesville, Fla., Wednesday. Jones said he is going forward with a plan to burn copies of the Quran.

The Associated Press

Quran's sacred role for Muslims

rooted in beginnings as direct word of God

CAIRO - The Quran is the most sacred object in the daily lives of Muslims and burning it would be considered an offense against God.

Islam teaches that the holy book is the direct word of God, received by the Prophet Muhammad through the angel Gabriel, and it defines the belief and conduct for followers of the religion.

The Quran is so important in the faith that Islamic teaching spells out how it should be handled, including directing anyone who touches it to be in a state of ritual purity. To properly dispose of a Quran, Muslims burn it or bury it, so God's word cannot be defiled.

Concern about Muslim sensitivities has prompted the White House, religious leaders and others to call on the leader of a small Florida church that espouses anti-Islam philosophy, the Rev. Terry Jones, to call off a threat to burn copies of the Quran on Sept. 11.

The Quran was considered a miracle because Muhammad - who was illiterate - was chosen by God to convey his final message to humanity over a period of 23 years, according to Islamic beliefs.

Muhammad's companions memorized the Quran and wrote it down. It was only made in its current form in a collection of 114 Surras, or verses, after the prophet's death in 632.

The Quran to Muslims is the final word of God after a series of revelations, starting with Adam, going through Abraham, Moses and Jesus and ending with Muhammad.

"Muslims believe the Quran is the divine word of God, in letter and meaning," Abdel-Moeti Bayoumi, a religious scholar at Cairo's prominent Islamic Al-Azhar University, said. "If a human burns the revealed word of God, this would be considered the gravest crime for all Muslims."

-- The Associated Press

For Terry Jones and his Dove World Outreach Center, Islam is that evil, a world view drawn from his politics and theology - as well as an apparent thirst for publicity for his tiny, independent church.

"Our burning of the Quran is to call the attention that something is wrong," Jones said Wednesday at a brief news conference outside his Gainesville church. "It is possibly time for us in a new way to stand up and confront terrorism."

Jones is under worldwide pressure to drop his plan to burn copies of the Muslim holy book Saturday. Condemnations have poured in from Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan; Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; the Vatican; and elsewhere.

"As of this time, we have no intention of canceling," Jones said.

Conservative Christians have taken pains to distance themselves from the event.

The National Association of Evangelicals, an umbrella group for theologically conservative Christian churches nationwide, issued a statement July 29 urging Jones to cancel the burning "in the name and love of Jesus Christ."

The Rev. Richard Land, head of the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest Protestant group, called the plan abhorrent. George Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, one of the largest and best-established Pentecostal denominations, warned of damage to Christian-Muslim relations.

Yet, there is no sign that Jones will be persuaded by other Christians. He is as critical of them as he is of Islam, calling other pastors failed religious warriors in what he considers a secular world bent on silencing Christians.

"The real problem is not the politicians or even Islam," Jones said, in his YouTube video series called "The Braveheart Show," inspired by the Mel Gibson movie. "The real problem is not our educational system that wants to remove God from every part of our society. The problem is the church has laid down. The church has given up."

Jones' road to notoriety began in 1986 in his living room, where he founded Dove World Outreach Center, which operates out of a sprawling property in Gainesville. Despite its impressive name, the church has only about 50 members.

Its property has served as a sometime storage site for Jones' furniture business, a violation of Dove's tax-exempt status that was punished with a county fine and partial loss of nonprofit standing, The Gainesville (Fla.) Sun reported. Jones previously founded a small church in Germany, the Christian Community of Cologne, and was accused by his daughter and a former church elder of using donations to enrich himself, the Sun reported.

In an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press, a leader of the Cologne church, Stephen Baar, said only that Jones was thrown out over a difference in leadership style. Jones has denied any wrongdoing.

The pastor's troubles extend to his use of the title "doctor."

Jones calls himself "doctor" as do members of his church, but the title comes from an honorary degree that hangs on his office wall. He says he was given the diploma by the California Graduate School of Theology, an obscure school that boasts on its Web site that it's so independent, it has never been accredited. In 2002, Jones was convicted by a Cologne administrative court of falsely using the title and was fined $3,800, German media reported.

Dove's religious beliefs are spelled out in a comparatively brief statement of faith on its website.

(Continued on page 2)

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