Dove World sold, soon moving to Tampa Bay area

In this Sept. 9, 2010 file photo, Pastor Terry Jones tells the media about his plans to burn the Quran at Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville. The church is moving from Gainesville.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Monday, July 15, 2013 at 11:09 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, July 15, 2013 at 11:09 a.m.

The Dove World name was off the sign out front. Gone too were the displays proclaiming anti-Islamic messages. The parking lot was empty. The grounds appeared deserted. A roll-off trash bin stood to the side of a church building.

After years passed with its site on the market, the controversial Dove World Outreach Center, which gained national and international attention for activities that included a Quran burning, has sold its northwest Gainesville property to a local church and plans to move to the Tampa Bay area.

The Spirit of Faith Christian Center, a growing Gainesville congregation, purchased the 20-acre property last week for $1.25 million.

Spirit of Faith had eyed the property along the 5800 block of Northwest 37th Street for several months and received city Plan Board approval in March for a permit to locate and expand there.

Since 2009, Dove World and its congregation of less than 50, has drawn attention to Gainesville for anti-Muslim messages and activities that other local clergy often stepped forward to publicly reject.

In 2009, the church erected a sign reading "Islam is of the devil" and sent children of congregation members to school wearing shirts with the same message. Negative international attention and heightened local security 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 — placing a "no homo mayor" sign on the property when former Mayor Craig Lowe, who is gay, was running for the office in 2010.

This year, Dove World received a citation for illegal burning after setting aflame effigies of President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton.

Current Mayor Ed Braddy said the departure of Dove World would be good for the city as a whole and the adjacent Mile Run neighborhood in particular.

"I think the city of Gainesville and particularly the residents of the Mile Run community are grateful to be receiving some much needed relief from the propaganda that came from the church," Braddy said. "We recognize and respect First Amendment rights in this community. But people also want peace and quiet."

Terry Jones, the senior pastor at Dove World, said the church is in the process of moving to the Tampa Bay area. He said they are close to finalizing the purchase of a property in an area south of Tampa. He declined to give further details on the location at this time.

He expected it would take Dove World about a month to complete the move.

Jones said he has owned a condominium in the Tampa area for some 20 years and wants to move Dove World to a larger metropolitan area.

The Dove World property has been on the market for the last few 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 for a church and school but did not raise enough money.

In a prior interview, Spirit of Faith's Ken Claytor said his congregation began with services at his home and grew over time to sites such as the Thelma Boltin Senior Activity Center and now the Phillips Center.

With a congregation in the range of 1,000, Spirit of Faith's plans for future phases of development at the Dove World site include a day-care center and a private school for grades K-12.

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