Dove World looks to sell property, move from Gainesville
Published: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 4:49 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 4:49 p.m.
The Dove World Outreach Center, the Gainesville-based church that has generated international controversy for its anti-Islam message, is in talks to sell its property and potentially relocate to the Tampa Bay area.
The Spirit of Faith Christian Center, a growing Gainesville congregation that now holds Sunday services at the Phillips Center, is negotiating to purchase the approximately 20-acre property in the 3700 block of Northwest 58th Place.
“It's not 100 percent, but we're moving toward it pretty aggressively,” said Ken Claytor, the senior pastor at Spirit of Faith.
Thursday night, the Gainesville Plan Board is scheduled to vote on an application for a special-use permit that would allow a new church on the property and additional development.
If the permit is approved and the purchase goes through, Claytor said renovation of the church buildings will follow. Spirit of Faith, which has a congregation in the range of 1,000, could begin holding services there by September, he said.
Plans for future phases of development include a day care center and a private school for grades K-12, according to the permit application.
With negotiations ongoing, Claytor and Dove World pastor Terry Jones both declined to comment on a sale price.
“It looks pretty positive right now,” Jones said of the negotiations. “This is looking very favorable.”
The property has been on the market for years. Jones said multiple deals have been in the works only to fall through. In 2011, Cornerstone Academy made an attempt to purchase the site but did not raise enough money.
If this sale goes through, Jones said Dove World likely will relocate to the Tampa area. He said he seeks a larger community and has been traveling to Tampa since the early 1990s.
Dove World first faced public backlash in 2009, when the church erected on the property a sign saying “Islam is of the devil” and children of congregation members went to school wearing shirts with the same message. Negative international attention came the next year, when congregation members organized an event to burn the Quran on the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. That event was called off after pleas from the federal government.
In March 2011, an associate pastor did burn a copy of the Quran during a mock trial of Islam's holy book. The church posted a video of the act on YouTube, and the wire service Agence France-Presse released a news article on the event. Rioting followed in Afghanistan. At least 20 people, including seven United Nations workers, were killed.
The church has also preached an anti-gay message. This year, Dove World received a citation for illegal burning after setting aflame effigies of President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton.
“We're trying to do the exact opposite of what's been going on. It became a negative thing for the city of Gainesville,” Claytor said of Dove World's reputation. “Our message is a message of love. We preach tolerance, peace and love. I think it (the purchase) will be good for the city of Gainesville and good for everyone involved.”
Claytor said he moved from Washington, D.C., to Gainesville in 2007 and started a church. Services began in his house and grew over time to sites such as the Thelma Boltin Senior Activity Center and now the Phillips Center.
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