(Photo: Reuters/ Rebecca Cook)
Terry Jones, the Florida pastor criticized worldwide for burning the Quran, wants to retire as pastor of Dove World Outreach Center as he prepares to move the church from the “closed-minded” city of Gainesville to Fort Myers, where he hopes to find acceptance.
Gainesville is “a small town with a small town, closed minded mentality,” Terry Jones told News Press this week.
Jones is selling the 20-acre property of his church, Dove World Outreach Center, and his son will replace him when they move out, according to the Fort Myers-based news organization.
“Fort Myers is 100 percent,” Pastor Jones was quoted as saying Wednesday. “We are pretty sure we are going to do that. It should be in October or November.”
He said he planned to rent or buy in Fort Myers, where he and his wife went for their honeymoon.
Cornerstone Academy, a 250-student Christian school in Gainesville, is negotiating to buy the Dove World property for $1.1 million, nearly a quarter of the $4 million asking price when it went on the market in 2009, according to The Gainesville Sun.
Cornerstone is reported to have filed an application with the city for a special-use permit to run a school at the property, and the City Plan Board is to give the authorization, The Gainesville Sun quoted city spokesman Bob Woods as saying.
Jones told News Press that about 20 of the church’s 30 members were also expected to move to Fort Myers.
While Jones will remain a member of the church, which will change its name, the controversial pastor will focus on organizing rallies, as reported by News Press, and his organization Stand Up America, which he established after the Quran burning incident to further protest Islam as well as same-sex marriage and abortion.
“We hope people will listen to the message we have and not listen to how the media has labeled us,” Jones was quoted as saying.
Evan Pitts, vice president of the school’s board of directors, is concerned about the reputation of the Dove World church. “When we’re talking about children, that’s a risk,” he told News Press. The school would use a different address and remove all mentions of Dove World, he indicated.
Terry Jones first announced he would burn the Quran on the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks via Twitter on July 12, 2010. After public backlash, including protests from the Christian community, he agreed not to proceed. But on March 20, 2011, Jones oversaw the burning of the holy book of Muslims. Before burning the book, a "jury" declared it “guilty of causing murder, rape and terrorism” in a mock trial.
President Barack Obama, U.S. defense secretary Robert Gates, and NATO commander in Afghanistan General David Petraeus had urged Jones not to proceed with his plans. Jones’ act sparked violent demonstrations in several parts of the world, including in Afghanistan, where UN workers were killed, and in India, where churches and Christian schools were burned.
An unrepentant Jones said he was "not responsible" for the killings in Afghanistan and said Afghan demonstrators used "the Quran burning as an excuse to promote their violent activities."