German Church Rejects Founder's Plan to Burn Koran

BERLIN -- A leader at a German evangelical church founded by Terry Jones said Wednesday he has no doubt the Florida-based preacher will carry out plans to burn copies of the Koran on Sept. 11, though his former congregation is "shocked and surprised" at his stance.

Stephan Baar of the Christian Community of Cologne, founded by Jones in the 1980s, said although the congregation has had no contact with the 58-year-old preacher since throwing him out in 2008, he does not expect Jones to cave in to pressure from the White House, religious leaders and others to call it off.

"He was always someone who, when he had set his mind to something, would follow through with it until he had achieved his goal," Baar told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
"But we are surprised and shocked at the extreme radicalism being displayed (by Jones) right now on this issue," Baar said.

Germany's Lutheran Church has condemned the threatened burning of the Koran, considered by Muslims to be the word of God. The president of the country's largest Jewish organization recalled how the Nazis burned books in 1933, only years before they set up crematoria to carry out the Holocaust.

"We can not allow that in certain circles, a subtle and often silent policy of hate and fear is allowed to be carried out and bear fruit," Charlotte Knobloch told the online edition of Focus magazine on Wednesday.

Baar was also quick to distance his small, independent church and its congregation of about 60 members from the ideas of its founder, saying they had severed ties since breaking with him over differences in his leadership style.

"We felt that he was taking the church in a direction that did not conform with what we believe," Baar said. He refused to elaborate.

German media have reported that Jones also ran into legal trouble while here and was convicted by a Cologne administrative court in 2002 of falsely using the title of "doctor" although he had not completed a Ph.D., and fined him euro3000 ($3,800).

Jones calls himself "Dr." on the website of the Dove World Outreach Center, an independent church that he now leads in Gainesville, Florida.