Bonfire pastor

2010-09-11 00:00

THE Florida pentecostal pastor who threatened to burn a pile of Qur’ans this weekend to commemorate the September 11 terror attack runs a church that has established a variety of cult-like rules for individuals studying to become ministers, reports the Smoking Gun.

The Dove World Outreach Centre (DWOC) headed by Reverend Terry Jones has been widely denounced for its September 11 bonfire plans. The tiny Gainesville church is headed by Jones and his wife Sylvia, a co-pastor.

The DWOC’s “Academy Rulebook” was created in November 2007 by Sylvia Jones. The document, which details the standards to which a prospective DWOC minister must adhere, addresses topics such as behaviour, study, and communication. It is also filled with directions that are often associated with cults.

For instance, students are directed to cut off most contact with family members.

“Family occasions like wedding, funerals or birthdays are no exception to this rule,” the rulebook notes. “No phone calls. Exceptions can be made under certain circumstances but only after receiving permission.”

The Joneses also bar “singles” from having “romantic relationships to the opposite sex … Except work things, there is no need to talk at all, or even flirt!”

Students are barred from “eating out in restaurants” and warned that they would be weighed “once a week to follow the tendency”, an apparent reference to a weight goal established by the Joneses.

The rulebook notes that students must “wash or shower at least once a day but not more then two a day,” and make sure to cleanse “mouth, sweat areas, hair, feet hands”.

The Guardian reports, meanwhile, that Jones was dismissed from the board of a church he founded in Germany after allegations he mistreated his followers.

The current leaders of the Christian Community of Cologne church in west Germany, which Jones founded in the 1980s, have distanced themselves from his plans to destroy hundreds of Qur’ans.

It has emerged that Jones established the Cologne church, a charismatic community of Bible fundamentalists, in 1982, after saying he had “received a sign from God”.

He had hoped to use Cologne as a base from which to spread his message throughout Europe and had voiced his desire to establish similar communities elsewhere on the continent.

At its height the group had 800 to 1 000 members, many of them recruited at mass prayer rallies on the outskirts of Cologne and at events held in shopping centres and on the street.

But a former member of the group said Jones exerted a “commander-like” hand over the “sect-like” group. The former follower, speaking anonymously to Stern magazine, said Jones used “psychological pressure” to keep members in line.

Friction between the pastor and the group grew steadily, culminating in his departure in 2008, he said. Since then the community has shrunk to between 60 and 80 members.

Jones was at odds with the German authorities over his claim to hold a doctorate, and in 2002 he was fined €3 000 by a Cologne court for falsely assuming the title.

After Jones’s dismissal, a new dispute broke out over allegations that he owed the community a five-figure sum of money, said Thomas Müller, a community member.

Jones eventually repaid the money, Müller said.

The paper said Jones arrived in Cologne at the behest of the U.S. businessman Donald Northrup, the founder of the Dove World Outreach Centre that Jones now leads, in order to establish a branch of the Community of Gainesville.

“Even back then he was very radical in his beliefs,” one of the current pastors of the Christian Community of Cologne Stephen Baar said.

“But the Qur’an was never a topic for him in those days.”

The fallout had much to do with Jones’s dictatorial stance towards the church’s beliefs and his desire for fame, said the current members.

Now, said Baar, the parish is considering changing its name. “The publicity has been very negative for us,” he said, adding he is fearful that the “wrong type of worshipper” might now be drawn to the church, namely those who “like the Qur’an-bashing words” of its founder.

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