Backgrounder: Dove World Outreach Center
Posted: August 5, 2010
Updated: March 28, 2011
The Dove World Outreach Center is a virulently anti-Muslim, anti-gay apostolic church based in Gainesville, Florida. Leaders of the church, particularly Senior Pastor Terry Jones, have made numerous statements denigrating Islam and homosexuality.
In addition to a Web site and blog, the Dove Center posts videos to YouTube that feature episodes from the "The Braveheart Show." This show, created by the Dove Center, generally features Terry Jones expounding on the church's hateful views towards Muslims and the gay and lesbian community. The church believes part of their mission is to "stand up" and spread the word about their beliefs. The Dove Center claims to have about 80 members.
Founding of the Dove World Outreach Center
Donald Northrup and his wife, Dolores founded the Dove World Outreach Center in 1986 in Gainesville, Florida. The couple married in 1946, and both received ministry training in Providence, Rhode Island where they were pastors at several churches. They reportedly spent 17 years in Africa before returning to the United States in 1977.
According to the Dove Center's Web site, Donald Northrup envisioned the congregation as a "total concept church for the rich, the poor, the young and the old." After his death in 1996, the church sought a new leader and eventually turned to Terry Jones.
Terry Jones, Leader of the Dove Center
Terry Jones took the helm of the Dove Center in Gainesville in 2001. Twenty years earlier, in 1981, Donald Northrup sent Jones to Cologne, Germany, to found a sister church. Jones remained pastor of that church until it closed in 2008, allegedly leaving behind about 1,000 members. In addition, Jones reportedly ran another church and charity in New Orleans, which also closed.
In addition to heading the Dove Center, Jones runs a business, TS and Company, which sells vintage furniture on eBay and helps support the church financially.
The Dove Center's beliefs
The Dove Center currently describes itself as a "New Testament, Charismatic, Non-Denominational Church that believes in the whole Bible and that we are to act in response to the word of God in order to change the times we are living in."
Under Jones's leadership, the Dove Center has transformed its view of itself as a local church to an "apostolic church with a world vision." Generally, apostolic churches believe that God is preparing prophets or apostles on earth who will be instrumental in making nations and the world accept the second coming of Christ and in punishing those who do not accept it.
On its Web site, the church states, "We believe that God is calling a new generation to this end time—a generation of believers that are yielded to His Word and his will." To that end, the church declares it is trying to get people to "stand up for righteousness and for the truth of the Bible." It also states that any religion that does not accept Jesus as "the way, the truth and the life" is "of the devil."
The Dove Center has become known for its provocative actions against the Muslim community. In July 2010, Jones declared that the congregation would hold an "International Burn a Koran Day" on the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Jones explained the Dove Center's rationale for the act on his Web site: "We do this to expose Islam for what it is - a violent, oppressive religion that lie [sic] and deceives the people and is leading them to hell." The Dove Center marked the date in previous years with "protests against Islam."
After posting of the event on social networking sites, individuals reportedly mailed Qur'ans to the Dove Center ahead of the burning. Jones reportedly said he and other organizers were inspired, in part, by a posting on Facebook for the controversial "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day." The Facebook posting was in fact originally a response to American Muslim extremist Zachary Chesser's death threats against the creators of the animated show South Park for their depiction of the Prophet.
After garnering significant attention and public condemnation, Jones called off his planned Qur’an burning on September 11, 2010, publically avowing not to burn the holy book. Just before the New Year, however, Jones called for the mobilization of another effort to condemn the Qur’an “to death.”
Stand Up America Now, Jones’ Web site dedicated to galvanizing Americans with his anti-Muslim, anti-abortion and anti-homosexuality agenda, posted an announcement on YouTube on January 1, 2011 that the Dove Center will host “International Judge the Koran Day” in March 2011. Jones invited the public to vote via Facebook on the type of “execution” for the book if it is found guilty of “murder, rape, deception, being responsible for terrorist activities all around the world.” Jones offered the alternatives of burning, drowning, shredding “into little bitty pieces” or execution by firing squad.
On March 20, 2011, Jones and fellow Pastor Wayne Sapp “judged” the Qur’an in a mock trial, and then burned the book, posting pictures of the event on Facebook. The act prompted condemnations from Pakistani and Afghani administrations, as well as calls for retaliation and Jones’ murder by Pakistani extremist groups such as Jamaat Ahl e Sunnat and Jamaat ud Dawah.
Some of the Dove Center's leaders, such as Luke Jones (the son of Terry Jones), have issued disclaimers that their aim is not to target Muslims, or in their words, "the followers of Islam." He has said, "They [Muslims] may be your neighbors, your friends, part of your family. Great. Great people. Nice people. I know many of 'em. But that doesn't mean you know Islam."
Despite these attempts at disclaimers, the Dove Center's agenda is rife with bigotry. In a video on the church's Web site, Luke Jones clearly enjoins his congregants in his call, "How to Stop Islam in America." In the clip, he urges a "stop [to] all Islamic immigration," a stop to "the building of all mosques in America," and the closing of all Islamic schools.
Terry Jones, who has also authored a book titled Islam Is of the Devil, insists that the Bible is the world's only legitimate religious text. On the book's Web site, Jones sells other paraphernalia, including hats and mugs, with the same offensive phrase. Also via the site, Jones advertises the scheduled day of the Qur'an burning, asking his followers to "stand against the evils of Islam" with him and the Dove Center.
In one video summoning worshippers to participate in the act, Pastor Wayne Sapp of the Dove Center portrays the burning of the holy book as a Christian religious duty: "Because if you call yourself Christian, this is something you should be doing…so if you call yourself Christian, than you should be burning a Qur'an because it is of the devil."
The Dove Center has also organized protests against specific mosques. On July 5, 2010, members and supporters of the church stood outside the Islamic Center in Gainesville, Florida. Protesters wore "Islam is of the Devil" T-Shirts and carried signs that read, "Obama is a Moslem," "30 Terrorist Training Camps in the U.S." "Shariah Law is Evil," "Jesus Saves," and "Repent."
One year earlier, in July 2009, the Dove Center erected a series of hand-painted signs that claimed, "Islam is of the devil." Jones reportedly called the creation of the signs "a great act of love." Some young students were sent to local Gainesville schools in T-shirts sporting the same message. The church claims they have now been "protesting Islam," carrying signage and donning T-shirts, over the last year in public settings.
The Dove Center promotes virulently anti-gay beliefs. On August 2, 2010, the church protested against the town's openly gay mayor at Gainesville's City Hall. On its blog, the church describes homosexuality as "detestable, indecent, wicked, offensive, perverted, shameful, unnatural, degrading, impure, futile, foolish, godless, dishonorable, a lie."
Earlier, in April 2010, during the mayoral run-off, the church erected an anti-gay sign, "No homo mayor" on its property. In a video posted that same month, Terry Jones declares, "We've got us a homo mayor, with of course a homo agenda. He would like to teach your kids that homosexuality is correct, ok, proper, good. That cross-dressers are not perverts." In the same show, he later states, "Homosexuality is of the devil! Homosexuality is a sin. Homosexuality leads to hell."
In another Dove Center video about the mayoral race, Wayne Sapp reportedly says that homosexuality "is a sin that leads to hell," adding, "[A] public office such as mayor, governor, president, should not be held by such people, because they're perverts, they're sexually perverted.... They cannot restrain themselves."
In a video posted to YouTube in April, Terry Jones attacks President Obama for "agree[ing] with homosexuality." In the video, Jones states, "Homosexuality in the Bible is an abomination. An abomination is something that makes God throw up."
In March 2010, a blog entry on the Dove Center's Web site quotes liberally from "The Cult of Homosexuality," a chapter in the book And the Dead Shall Walk the Earth by another apostolic church leader Dr. P. Bradley Carey. In the book, Carey asserts that "according to God's own Word, the act of homosexuality is an abomination, and one that will result in death."
Terry Jones expresses a similar view that homosexuality is against God in an October 2009 article on the Dove Center's Web site. He writes, "First we went to immorality, which is somewhat normal-abnormal, then we went to sexual relationships outside of marriage, then from immorality to homosexuality, sexual relationships with your own kind, which is perverted, weird, anti-God…."
Supporting the Westboro Baptist Church
The Dove Center's views on homosexuality are similar to those of the Westboro Baptist Church, a virulently anti-gay and anti-Semitic hate group based in Topeka, Kansas. About 30 members of the Dove Center joined Westboro at a protest against a church in Gainesville in April 2010. Sylvia Jones, senior pastor at the Dove Center and the wife of Terry Jones, said that even though her church does "not agree with all of Westboro's methods, it admires "their determination to find radical ways to preach the truth of the Bible, as we do."