The depressing irony of Phelps’ life is that he was so effective in poisoning many of those around him, his distinctive brand of unadulterated loathing swallowed even him whole. Two days before Phelps’ death, reports of a power struggle within the WBC preceded news of their patriarch’s imminent demise.
“[Phelps] was excommunicated from the [WBC] after advocating a kinder approach between church members,” reported Steve Fry of the Topeka Capital-Journal on March 17. “The excommunication occurred after the formation of a board of male elders in the church. The board had defeated Shirley Phelps-Roper, the church’s longtime spokeswoman. … The power struggle and excommunication was revealed by Nate Phelps, a son of Fred Phelps Sr. who broke away from the church 37 years ago.”
The same day, the WBC’s Steve Drain sent an angry email to the Topeka Capital-Journal, calling Fry’s story “so inaccurate,” yet maintaining: “Membership issues are private.”
“The church currently has eight male members who have been serving the church in the capacity of ‘elders’ for several years … all of whom minister to the members of the church, preach, and are involved in doctrine and teaching,” wrote Drain on March 17.
In a seeming attempt to prove Drain’s decree that “the church has no singular leader,” the WBC didn’t waste but one day to returning to their abhorrent demonstrations.
“Members of [the WBC] continued their protests without their longtime pastor Fred Phelps outside the Midland Theatre in downtown Kansas City [on Friday],” reported KSHB’s Brendaliss Gonzalez on Saturday.
On a heartening note, the opposition who met them took a higher road than I probably would have.
“More than 20 protesters protested pop star Lorde’s concert, however it was another message that stuck out,” reported Gonzalez. “A group of counter protesters held up a sign that read ‘sorry for your loss.’”