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German church distances itself from Jones, its founder

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Pastor: Quran burning will happen
  • A church leader says the congregation regrets what Jones is doing in Florida
  • Jones founded the Christian Community of Cologne
  • The church split with him in 2008, a church leader says
  • Indonesia
  • Islam
  • Gainesville
  • Florida

Cologne, Germany (CNN) -- A German Christian congregation distanced itself Thursday from its former pastor, Terry Jones -- the man now causing global controversy by threatening to burn Qurans at his Florida church.

Stephan Baar is one of the leaders of the Christian Community of Cologne, which split with Jones -- its founder -- in 2008 after differences in the way the church was run.

"We distance ourselves very, very clearly from the actions that are taking place (in Florida) and also from the person himself and, unfortunately, we really regret what is happening there," he said in an interview with CNN affiliate RTL.

Baar said Jones increasingly put his personality ahead of ahead of the Christian focus of the church. Some members of the church came forward and said, "This is not what we want anymore," and Jones left, Baar said.

He said he believes Jones will go through with his plan to burn the Qurans.

"Terry Jones is someone who, when he has a goal in his sights, sees it to the end," Baar said, describing Jones' style as "radicalism."

Jones, he said, is "a very charismatic person who knows how to attract other people and knows how to use other people for his goals."

Jones' evangelical push at the Cologne church was initially met with enthusiasm, particularly from young people who gave tremendous time, effort, and money to spread his message of devotion to Jesus, according to an article published Wednesday in Pro, a German Christian media magazine.

The pastor had great success after founding the church in the 1980s, Pro said, so that by the middle of the 1990s it had between 800 and 1,000 members.

The magazine described Jones' fall from grace as being the result of an insatiable ego: He no longer focused his sights on Cologne but on Germany and then, later, all of Europe.

Jones also didn't accept the critical opinions of church members, instead demanding total devotion to himself and his cause, Pro said. That cause evolved into an ever stronger "concept of the enemy: first the media, then politics, finally Islam," with Jones leading the charge despite feeling personally persecuted.

The German magazine Der Spiegel quoted former members of Jones' congregation who described him as a "hate-monger" who demanded obedience.

CNN's Nadine Schmidt in London, England, and Claudia Otto in Cologne, Germany, contributed to this report.