Fred Phelps is dying in a hospice. He has also be excommunicated from the church he founded and led for decades. According to a March 17 report by the Christian Science Monitor, the 84 year-old man is not dead yet, but the Westboro Baptist Church could have his replacement chosen.
Phelps was admitted to the Midland Hospice House in Shawnee County, Kansas last week. The exact cause for this remains unknown. However, because hospices rarely admit patients who have more than six months to live, Fred Phelps is not expected to live long. Already the Westboro Baptist Church is looking for a replacement.
A possible replacement for Fred Phelps is his son, Tim Phelps. Tim Phelps is currently one of the newly-elected members of the all-male board of elders. This new board of elders is, in part, cause of Fred Phelps' excommunication and the ousting of his daughter, Margie Phelps-Roper, the former spokesperson for the Westboro Baptist Church.
Before the board took over, the Westboro Baptist Church made decisions by the church voting. The members, consisting mostly of family members related by birth or marriage, voted to give that power to a board. Once that was done, Fred Phelps let it be known that he wanted to take on a “kinder approach.” The board of elders did not approve of that and removed Phelps from the church.
There was also a power struggle between the board and then-spokesperson, Margie Phelps-Roper, the daughter of Fred Phelps. She has since “fallen from grace” within the church. Steve Drain, a member of the board, replaced her as the Westboro Baptist Church spokesperson. At the time of publication, it was unknown if Shirley Phelps-Roper was still associated with the church or even her family.
Another possible replacement for Fred Phelps is the new spokesperson, Steve Drain. Little is known about Drain. At the time of publication, it was unknown if he is related to the Phelps family.
It is unlikely that even with new church leadership anything will change. Seeing that the change of heart Fred Phelps had got him excommunicated, it appears that the Westboro Baptist Church will continue to spread hate as they picket and protest at funerals around the country.