A "kinder approach" taken by the founder of the controversial, anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., allegedly resulted in his excommunication from the organization last August.
Pastor Fred Phelps, now reportedly on his deathbed at a hospice facility in Kansas, was ousted for advocating a "kinder approach between church members," according to a report published Monday by the Topeka-Capital Journal. When the church's board defeated its long-time spokeswoman, Shirley Phelps-Roper, the founding Phelps requested kinder treatment toward fellow members, the newspaper reported. Consequently, they removed Phelps from his position.
The church has not publicly stated the reason for Phelps's departure. Members typically refuse to disclose internal issues with the public.
The 84-year-old founded the church in 1955, and continuously held signs reading "God hates fags" and "God hates America" at funerals for gay individuals, soldiers, and public officials. The institution is a self-exclaimed "Old School (or, primitive) Baptist Church."
Nate Phelps, one of the pastor's estranged children, wrote in a Facebook post last weekend that his father was "on the edge of death."
"Terribly ironic that his devotion to his god ends this way," wrote his son, who left the church more than 35 years ago. "Destroyed by the monster he made."
A Facebook group in favor of picketing Phelps's funeral has gained 1,150 followers. This week, a former member of the church posted to the social media website to encourage people to find compassion.
"Every man and woman deserves the right to make peace with themselves, their family, and their god on their death bed," wrote Lauren Drain, who was excommunicated eight years ago. "I wish for peace. I wish for change. I wish for families to be reunited in love."