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Westboro Baptist Church: Fred Phelps excommunication explained

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The founder of the hate-spewing Westboro Baptist Church, Fred Phelps, was excommunicated. This was revealed when Fred Phelps was admitted to a hospice in his home state of Kansas. According to a March 17 report by the Topeka Capital-Journal, the reasoning behind his excommunication from the Westboro Baptist Church was finally revealed.

It turns out that Fred Phelps decided to take a “kinder approach to church members.” It appears that he was beginning to soften. This “kinder approach” was mentioned after a power struggle within the Westboro Baptist Church.

The power struggle occurred when the church voted to create a board of male elders. Until this point, the church had voted on decisions needing to be made. This board then “defeated” Shirley Phelps-Roper, the daughter of Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church's spokesperson. The board replaced Shirley Phelps-Roper with her father.

Once in power, Fred Phelps suggested the “kinder approach.” This did not sit well with members of the church, particularly the board members who could know make decisions without the backing of the church. That was when Phelps was excommunicated.

Despite this shake-up, Shirley Phelps-Roper remained on the outside. She was replaced by Steve Drain as the Westboro Baptist Church spokesperson. Until then, she had clearly been a “leader and influence” in the church.

The board of elders at the Westboro Baptist Church consists of Steve Drain, Timothy Phelps, Jonathan Phelps, Fred Phelps, Jr., Charles Hockenbarger and Samuel Phelps-Roper. Samuel Phelps-Roper married Jennifer Hockenbarger in 2002. According the Westboro Baptist Church's website, Hockenbarger was given away in marriage by Karl Hockenbarger. At the time of public, the relationship between Jennifer Hockenbarger and Karl Hockenbarger was unknown. It was also unknown if Karl Hockenbarger and Charles Hockenbarger are the same person. Despite that, most members of the Westboro Baptist Church are members of the Phelps family by either birth or marriage.

Samuel Phelps-Roper is the son of Margie Phelps-Roper. With the power struggle within the church, the status of the relationship between mother and son is unclear. At the time of publication, it was unknown if the vote by the Westboro Baptist Church was unanimous.

When Fred Phelps was excommunicated, he moved out of the upper floor of the church where he and his wife, Margie Marie Phelps had live for several years. It was unknown if Phelps wife also moved out with her husband.

Fred Phelps is dying and now living at the Midland Hospice House in Shawnee, Kansas. Because he has been admitted to a hospice, it appears that he is not expected to live much longer. Most hospices do not admit patients unless they have six months or less to live.

Despite the Westboro Baptist Church's founder's change of heart, it appears that the policies and practices of the church will change. With Fred Phelps excommunicated, the church is expected to continue protesting and picketing funerals.

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