By now you have likely heard the loud sigh of relief from just about every American other than those of the Westboro Baptist congregation in Kansas. Their founder and pastor Fred Phelps passed away on Wednesday, according to his church and family.
Phelps founded the infamous church in 1955 and pastored there until he died at 84 of a mysterious illness, leaving a legacy of abominable hatred behind him.
His own son, Nathan Phelps, abandoned his father’s heretical congregation thirty years ago and wrote of him: “Destroyed by the monster he made.”
Reports say there will be no funeral, and that’s likely a good idea. The church made itself famous by protesting the funeral of Matthew Shepard who was beaten to death in 1988 because he was homosexual. Since then, they have protested at the funerals of soldiers and celebrities, holding signs plastered in detestable messages, including “God hates soldiers” and “God hates fags," claiming the 9/11 attacks and the deaths of soldiers were God’s just punishment for the “fag-enablers” in America.
Phelps was a civil rights attorney, ran for Kansas governor three times and for the Senate once, and organized for his state’s Democratic Party. If left at that, Phelps would have been remembered as nothing more than an unlucky politician.
Instead, his church took on a severely warped mantra of preaching God’s never-ending wrath to the reprobate masses. His teaching was so volatile, the Baptist World Alliance and the Southern Baptist Convention denounced the church years ago.
Rumors have surfaced that the WBC excommunicated Phelps, but they deny it. In true vengeful-Phelps-style, the church wrote the following to journalists such as myself:
It’s like every journalist in the world simultaneously set aside what little journalistic integrity they have, so that they could wait breathlessly for a rumor to publish: in-fighting, succession plans, and power struggles, oh my! How shameful! You’re like a bunch of little girls on the playground waiting for some gossip!
No, I’m a Christian who has been utterly disgusted by this church’s approach to the Gospel. Reading their website I honestly thought it had to be someone’s sick joke. The hate-injected words cut at my Bible-believing heart.
The church, made up of primary Phelps’s family, including some of his 13 children and 54 grandchildren, will be remembered as a prime example of heretical insanity.
So what is the future of Westboro? We can only hope the church will turn from their wicked ways and stop this shameful approach to the Gospel. We can only hope that Phelps’s death frees his family members from the yoke of his false teaching. Hopefully they take a lesson from the Duggars, a family with 19 children who strongly believe in Scripture’s teachings on sexuality, yet who have managed to gain the respect of Christians and non-Christians alike.
May they realize you don’t have to compromise to preach the truth in love.