The estranged son of Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps says his father was ex-communicated from the church last year after attempting to advocate for a kindler approach between church members.
Nathan Phelps, who left the church 37 years ago, told the Topeka Capital Journal that the excommunication occurred after the formation of a board of male elders in the church. The board had defeated Shirley Phelps-Roger, the church’s longtime spokeswoman, in a power struggle, and Fred Phelps Sr. called for kinder treatment of fellow church members.
The board then ejected Fred Phelps Sr., who founded the church in 1955.
Late Saturday, Nathan Phelps said his father is near death and being cared for at Midland Hospice House in Tokeka, Kan.
Church spokesman Steve Drain confirmed the the Associated Press on Sunday that the senior Phelps was being cared for in a Shawnee County, Kan., facility, but declined to comment on his health.
In a statement posted to its website on Sunday, the church said, “Fred Phelps is a person of advanced age, and such people sometimes have health issues. Fred Phelps has health issues, but the idea that someone would suggest that he is near death, is not only highly speculative, but foolish considering that all such matters are the sole prerogative of God.”
On reports that Phelps was “ex-communicated” from the church last year, and inquiries about who is leading the church, the church responded:
Membership issues are private. […]
“The church has no singular human leader – our head is the Lord Jesus Christ. The church currently has 8 male members who have been serving the church in the capacity of ‘elders’ for several years (this word is synonymous with ‘bishop,’ ‘pastor,’ and ‘overseer’) – all of whom minister to the members of the church, preach, and are involved in doctrine and teaching. These men were unanimously chosen by the members of the church to serve in this capacity, having evidenced the proper scriptural qualifications. […]
The church of the Lord Jesus Christ does not rise or fall with any man – in fact, the Lord doesn’t need ANY of us. This is still a nation and world awash in sin. We will still warn you of this condition, out of our love and fear of the Lord, and out of our love for our neighbors.
Here is the message of Westboro Baptist Church: God still hates fags, God still hates fag enablers and any nation that embraces that sin as an ‘innocent’ lifestyle can expect to incur the wrath of God. Repent or Perish.”
Fred Phelps, 84, founded the Westboro church in 1955. Since at least 1991, Westboro has been actively involved in actions against gays. The church is reported to comprise fewer than 50 members, almost all of which are members of Phelps’ extended family.