Fred Phelps dead at 84, #FredPhelps trends on Twitter: Cheers, sorrow and prayers after the death of the 'God Hates Fags' preacher

Published 20 March 2014
(AP)
Fred Phelps pictured right with members of his family

Fred Phelps, the founder of one of the most hated institutions in America, Westboro Baptist Church, has reportedly died at the age of 84.

His daughter, Shirley Phelps-Roper, confirmed to the Topeka Capital-Journal that he had died at the Midland Care Hospice.

His son, Timothy, told 13 News he died just before midnight. 

It follows reports in recent days that the "God hates fags" advocate was on "the edge of death".

The reports sparked calls for people to picket his funeral just as Phelps and members of the Topeka, Kansas, based church did on a regular basis.

The pickets often targeted the funerals of dead soldiers where members of the church turned up outside brandishing offensive placards with the slogan "Thank God for Dead Soldiers".  The fundamentalist church said dead soldiers were God's judgement on America for its endorsement of homosexuality.

While Phelps founded the church, in the end he was excommunicated by three of his children. 

Since news of his death broke, "Fred Phelps" has been trending on Twitter, where reactions continue to be varied.  Some Twitter users have said the news has inspired them to donate to anti-violence and anti-groups.

Others have taken to Twitter to criticise those who have heaped scorn on Phelps.

Twitter user Pam van Hylckama (@BookaliciousPam) wrote: "Everyone who is all like BUAHAHAHA FRED PHELPS LET'S PICKET HIS FUNERAL are no better a person than he was."

Herr Fauler (@chadfowler) tweeted: "For those celebrating the passing of Fred Phelps, consider practicing compassion (even for him) as your protest against his hatred.

Fadra Nally (@allthingsfadra) tweeted: "Fred Phelps, Sr. died today. Even as a caring, compassionate person, I can say the world is a better place without him in it."

Ryan Nelson (@RyanJohnNelson) couldn't hide his delight at the news: "Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist has died. It really is International Day of Happiness."

Christian leaders have also been responding.  Anglican priest and broadcaster the Reverend Sally Hitchiner tweeted: "Fred Phelps - may God have mercy on your soul."

She followed it with another tweet saying: "Sad #FredPhelps is trending and millions of others who died today are not but I think it's out of pity him more than anything #wasteofalife."

President of LifeWay Research, Ed Stetzer, writing in Christianity Magazine in the US, recalled the time he had been called a "lying whore, false prophet" by the church and experienced one of their pickets at his former church.  He said Christians could best respond by making sure they were not "Pharisaical" and instead doing their utmost to share the real love of God. 

"Show the world that we show and share the love a Jesus to a broken and lost world, a Jesus that most certainly is not the Son of the god the Phelps' claim to follow," he wrote.

Popular Christian blogger Archbishop Cranmer (@His_Grace) tweeted: "Former Westboro Baptist Church leader Fred Phelps has died. Sincere condolences to family @WBCSays (Let us show the meaning of compassion).

In the days before his death, Red Letter Christians reflected on Phelps in an article that described the hate preacher's legacy as "tragic" but urged Christians to reflect on themselves as much as on him in his passing.

"Phelps was a misguided soul for whatever reason, as are all of us to some degree, ever seeking our own ways," the article by Kathy Vestal read.

"May we not forget our own faults as we react to the sometime-in-the-future news of his passing, and may we find the grace to leave all judgment in the hands of God."

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