Former Westboro Baptist Church member Lauren Drain, who wrote a book about her time in the WBC after being excommunicated, is urging compassion for the controversial group's founder, Fred Waldron Phelps, Sr., who is reportedly on his deathbed and was thrown out last year.
Phelps, who started the WBC that is known for picketing funerals and the slogan "God Hates Fags" about six decades ago, is reportedly on the edge of death at Midland Hospice house in Topeka, Kansas.
"This news to me is incredibly devastating," wrote Drain, author of Banished, A Memoir Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church, on her Facebook page Sunday. The ex-member added that she prays the many families and people affected by Westboro "will not have vengeance in their heart, but rather pity."
"As a nurse I can say that every man & woman deserves the right to make peace with themselves, their family & their God on their death bed. I wish for peace," Drain wrote. "I wish for change. I wish for families to be reunited in love."
Drain was excommunicated in 2008. And she wasn't the only one. "When I was back in the church 8 years ago, I witnessed various members get ex-communicated & watched in horror & fear as families were ripped apart at the seams," the former church member stated.
She recalled that one summer the membership of "our very own pastor, who supposedly was guided by God & helped guide our ministry" was called into question. "It was hypocritical that we weren't more focused on how to treat one another!" she wrote. "How to forgive! How to leave God's judgments in His hands! Did we really reach the point where we thought we owned salvation to discard people like trash?"
The pastor was later forgiven. "I saw a glimmer of humility in his eyes that day, that all of us are human & subject to feeling vulnerable & hopeless," Drain described. "I believe this church & many other churches start off right. I believe churches can & often do go terribly off track. The end result is so much confusion."
Drain said she still loves Westboro members as her family although they may not recognize her as part of their family "because of the extreme beliefs propagated even until this day."
"I hope & pray that change can & will be the result of so many years of heartache & confusion. I pray that Pastor Phelps has a change of heart even if it is his last days. I pray that the remaining family members see what generations of judgment & banishment can do."
Drain concluded, "Consider this, there are members still there, like my younger siblings, who can and will learn from experiencing compassion from others, not polarizing hate."
On Sunday, the WBC founder's son, Nathan Phelps, wrote on his Facebook page: "I've learned that my father, Fred Phelps, Sr., pastor of the 'God Hates Fags' Westboro Baptist Church, was ex-communicated from the 'church' back in August of 2013. He is now on the edge of death … I'm not sure how I feel about this. Terribly ironic that his devotion to his god ends this way. Destroyed by the monster he made."
Nathan broke away from the religious group years ago.