If you won’t pay people what they’re worth, you’ll get people worth what you pay »« [Thunderdome]

The Phelps power struggle takes a familiar turn

Fred Phelps is out at Westboro Baptist. He’s off dying in a hospice. Apparently his sin was asking for more kindness. The former big voice of WBC, Shirley Phelps-Roper, has fallen out of favor. She has been replaced by a Council of Elders…all men, of course.

Pastor Fred Waldron Phelps Sr. was excommunicated from the Westboro Baptist Church after advocating a kinder approach between church members.

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, in a power struggle, and Fred Phelps Sr. called for kinder treatment of fellow church members.

The board then ejected Fred Phelps Sr., who founded the church in the 1950s.

Amazing. Yet, somehow, entirely unexpected. How could a woman be expected to run a Bible-based organization? How could kindness be tolerated in a church supposedly built around the teachings of Jesus? That goes against the entire history of Christianity!

Comments

  1. jamessweet says

    Who exactly are these “male elders”? WBC is basically a big extended family, AFAIK… Are they outsiders? Or is it like, Phelps’ nephews or something?

  2. Doug Little says

    Dammit, I was hoping that Fred would stick around long enough to see the inevitable legalization of gay marriage and the inevitable non-destruction of life as we know it or traditional marriage.

  3. anteprepro says

    Who exactly are these “male elders”?

    The article says:

    On Sunday, church spokesman Steve Drain refused to talk about the excommunication of Fred Phelps Sr.

    “We don’t discuss our internal church dealings with anybody,” he said….

    In the past, decisions in the church were made by votes of the members, but now the elders issue the decisions, Nate Phelps said.

    Among the all-male board of elders are Drain, Timothy Phelps, Jonathan Phelps, Samuel Phelps-Roper, Charles Hockenbarger and Fred Phelps Jr.

    Long live the patriarchy.

  4. dhall says

    Is being excommunicated by these church elders as effective as being excommunicated by the pope? Y’know, is eternal damnation assured now? And how ironic is it that it’s supposedly because he asked the church members to be nicer to each other??

  5. godlesspanther says

    A group of people who are too mean for Fred Phelps’ taste.

    It’s a shame they don’t allow converts so the rest of us can only imagine what joy we are missing out on.

  6. bbgunn says

    Among the all-male board of elders are Drain, Timothy Phelps, Jonathan Phelps, Samuel Phelps-Roper, Charles Hockenbarger and Fred Phelps Jr.

    If ever the term “Confederacy of Dunces” should be applied…

  7. Erp says

    The new spokesperson for the church is Steve Drain, a former film director, who joined with his family from outside in 2001. Most of the other elders are probably Phelps family (barring those who’ve been excommunicated).

  8. Alexander says

    Anyone else here think 1,000-to-1 odds on Pastor Phelps Sr. learning the value of compassion from this experience sounds about right?

    I’d say there’s a window of opportunity there, but given his history it’s sized more like a transom…

  9. says

    They kicked out their own founder for asking them to be kinder to each other?

    A guy whose only joy and purpose in life was vindictive mindless hate, and who cultivated the same in his own family, is now tasting the fruits of his hobby. What goes around comes around.

  10. carlie says

    All I can think of is Galations 6:7 – “for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.”

  11. hexidecima says

    what a nest of rattlesnakes, and that is a disservice to rattlesnakes.

    Odds on them committing mass murder or suicide when it becomes obvious that their delusions aren’t coming true? High, I think.

  12. Thumper: Token Breeder says

    OK, when Fred Phelps is telling you you might want to be a bit nicer to others, you must be a right fucking arsehole.

  13. Brother Yam says

    I can’t see this lasting much longer, the internal stresses will rend the church asunder.

    Not that’s a bad thing…

  14. brucegee1962 says

    This reminds me of a Garrison Keillor quote: “Our church split so many times that our congregation was down to just my dad and my uncle Charlie, and the last time I saw them they were out on the porch arguing about predestination.”

  15. Trebuchet says

    First rule of investigation: Follow the money. I’m guessing it’s the root of this particular evil.

  16. says

    Fun fact: the Samuel Phelps-Roper who voted with the rest of the Board of Elders to dismiss Shirley as spokesperson is her oldest son. Family values indeed.

  17. Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human. says

    The church seems to be on the verge of full communist purge mode.

    Interesting.

  18. ck says

    carlie wrote:

    All I can think of is Galations 6:7 – “for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.”

    I don’t know. Matthew 26:52 comes to mind, too – “all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.”

  19. Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human. says

    Ogvorbis, 4:14: “What a bunch of heartless assholes!”

  20. spamamander, internet amphibian says

    @ 19

    Normally I would agree with you 100%, but there really is some legitimate speculation based on Fred’s past. How he went to the Air Force Academy for a weekend and then suddenly the anti-gay started spewing and he turned down the opportunity to go there in order to pursue the ministry. (I think that’s how it went- it’s been a while since I read the story.) Nothing definite but enough there to make one wonder.

  21. anuran says

    @4dhall

    Is being excommunicated by these church elders as effective as being excommunicated by the pope? Y’know, is eternal damnation assured now? And how ironic is it that it’s supposedly because he asked the church members to be nicer to each other??

    According to the Blood Drinkers the Pope is God’s Vicar on Earth. That means he can say “You are out of the Communion. No sacraments. No forgiveness of sins. The Big Guy will back me up on this” on his personal authority.

    The WBC are chiroptera-scat crazy Calvinists which means if God chose you as one of the Elect at the beginning of time you always were and always will be saved. All they can do is say “You can’t be in our clubhouse, and we don’t think you were ever one of the Elect anyhow. Neener-neener.”

  22. anuran says

    @21 Johnny Pez

    Fun fact: the Samuel Phelps-Roper who voted with the rest of the Board of Elders to dismiss Shirley as spokesperson is her oldest son. Family values indeed.

    Hmmm. Guess his days won’t be long upon the land which the LORD gave him

    Exodus 20:12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

  23. Rey Fox says

    Note his appeal to kindness came when he was no longer in power and thus at the mercy of others

    Noted.

  24. robro says

    What’s happening in the WBC sounds a lot like Mormonism. Just before Smith and his brother were killed, there was a major schism in the leadership (finances naturally being one of the reasons for the dispute and claims of Smith’s philandering). It was probably these dissidents who were responsible for the Smiths’s deaths.

  25. says

    @spamamander:

    Yes, but it does no good to speculate that the reason someone really is hateful is because they’re closeted.

    Seriously, the dude is an asshole. Leave it at that. No need to go prying into the possibility that he’s also closeted. Wait for him to either slip up or ship out.

  26. Rich Woods says

    @Ogvorbis #22:

    The church seems to be on the verge of full communist purge mode.

    ‘Post-Stalinist’ rather than simply ‘communist’, but yeah.

    So when their church splits, who gets to keep the barbed-wire compound? The splitters with the best lawyers or the splitters with the most guns? (The barbed-wire reference may be more ideological than factual, but still.)

    Really, WWJD? And how much will they agonise over that?

  27. noxiousnan says

    (Sili, are you sure #37 needed correcting, because it gave me a chuckle?)

    I think Fred Sr and Shirley P-R are the proverbial frogs in the classic scorpion/frog story. Both relished the hatred for years, but I don’t see how such prolific hatred can be contained and managed. What’s more, Shirley knew that women were second class citizens to WBC, she just didn’t think that applied to her. And it didn’t until her one ally was too weakened to protect her any longer (Listen up chill girls).

    With regard to Fred Sr, I think it should also be noted as relevant that he did not ask his church to be kinder to the outside world, but only to each other.

  28. says

    And how ironic is it that it’s supposedly because he asked the church members to be nicer to each other??

    Read between the lines. The “kinder treatment” bit was Fred’s way of signaling that he didn’t approve of Shirley being sidelined. It was basically him trying to still exert influence over the church.
    The board clearly didn’t appreciate that. It’s always annoying for the new boss when the old boss keeps hanging around, with people still listening to him. You don’t need a formal position to be important, if people respect you.

    One of the biggest concerns in a group with a strong central leader is the transition when the leader dies (or becomes to weak to lead). Often groups faction and break apart. Given how small the Westboro Baptist church is, that would likely spell the end.
    The excommunication is a way for the board to clearly signal who’s in charge now. By showing willingness to excommunicate even Old Fred himself, they’re sending a strong message about how tolerant they’ll be of dissent. I imagine that the congregation got the message, loud and clear.

    The “kinder treatment”, the theological reasons; it’s all just a smoke screen for a common-as-dirt generational power struggle. The really interesting question is what will happen to Fred when he dies? Will they attempt to rehabilitate him to work as a founder figure or will they try to move away from him entirely?

    I find the power struggles and transitions in religious groups fascinating. Can you tell?

  29. Emrysmyrddin says

    I really think you’ve hit the nail on the head there, LykeX. When you play the game of thrones…

  30. Nick Gotts says

    robro@34,
    Do you have a link for that Mormon history?

    Additionally or alternatively, is Lynna around?