The reason for the excommunication of Fred Phelps, the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, has been revealed. A power struggle within the church brought about its founder and leader to be kicked out. According to a March 17 report by the Topeka Capital-Journal, Fred Phelps changed his mind about the approach the church had been taking for decades.
It appears that Fred Phelps wanted to use a “kinder approach.” This was made clear after a power struggle within the Westboro Baptist Church members and Shirley Phelps-Ropers, the daughter of Fred Phelps and, now, former spokesperson.
The power struggle began when the church elected an all-male board of elders. This vote left Shirley Phelps-Roper on the outside. Fred Phelps' daughter had once been “clearly and leader and an influence” in the Westboro Baptist Church. After the board had been put into power, Shirley Phelps-Roper was no longer the spokesperson for the church. She was replaced by Steve Drain.
Once the board was in place, Fred Phelps announced that he wanted to take a “kinder approach” between church members. The board was against this and the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church was ousted.
The Westboro Baptist Church consists mostly of Phelps family members, either related by birth or marriage. This can be seen by the names of the members of the board of elders. Only Steve Drain and Charles Hockenbarger do not have the Phelps' name. Samuel Phelps-Roper married Jennifer Hockernbarger so there is a family connection there. At the time of publication, it was unknown if Steve Drain was married to a member of the Phelps' family.
Not only was Fred Phelps out of the church, he was also out of his home. He and his wife, Margie Marie Phelps, had been living in the church for several years. He moved out the church and into a house. At the time of publication, it was unknown if his wife moved out as well and if his new home was in the Phelps' family compound.
Fred Phelps is dying and currently living at the Midland Hospice House in Shawnee County, Kansas. Information on the exact reason he was admitted to the hospice has yet to be released. Because hospices only admit patients who have six months or less to live, Fred Phelps is not expected to live much longer.
At the time of publication, it was unknown what had become of Margie Phelps-Roper. Other than the fact that Steve Drain is now the Westboro Baptist Church spokesperson, the position that Phelps-Roper holds in the church is not known at this time. It is also unknown if she is still associated with the Westboro Baptist Church or her family.
The power struggle has certainly changed the Westboro Baptist Church. It is unlikely they will stop picketing and protesting, now that Fred Phelps has been excommunicated due to his change of heart.