In November 2011, The Kansas City Star implied that then-25-year-old Megan Phelps-Roper, granddaughter of Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church, may one day take over the leadership duties of her mother, Shirley, for the hate-filled group. The Star noted the apprehension of Megan Phelps-Roper as some of those close to her had left the church in recent years and months:
Megan has watched with unease as some of those closest to her have defected and then been cut off completely from the family. The older brother who left in the middle of the night the day before her high school graduation. The cousin and best friend who decided three years ago that the church’s practices had grown too extreme. Each departure forcing her to confront the same frightening possibility: That she, too, could succumb to the same temptations. Source
At the time that article was written, Megan Phelps-Roper nevertheless was an eager and willing participant in the activities of her church and family. One year later, in November 2012, Megan, along with her 19-year-old sister, left Westboro Baptist, the only “church” she ever had known.
In an article published on Medium entitled, “Head Full of Doubt / Road Full of Promise,” Megan Phelps-Roper briefly shares how she grew disillusioned with the church and teachings that had been built and perpetuated by her own family.
In a city in a state in the center of a country lives a group of people who believe they are the center of the universe; they know Right and Wrong, and they are Right….
This is my framework.
Until very recently, this is what I lived, breathed, studied, believed, preached – loudly, daily, and for nearly 27 years.
I never thought it would change. I never wanted it to.
Then suddenly: it did.
And I left.
Where do you go from there?
I don’t know, exactly. My sister Grace is with me, though. We’re trying to figure it out together.
The congregation of Westboro Baptist largely is comprised of the extended Phelps-Roper family. The group is known for its demonstrations at military funerals, as they claim that the recent wars are God’s punishment for America’s tolerance of homosexuality. They protest at sporting events and march with picket signs in the wake of devastating tragedies. Their name has become synonymous with their provocative slogans. Westboro Baptist has loudly condemned sin, but has failed to offer the good news of salvation available through Jesus Christ.
For her participation in these things, Megan offers apologies and yet stresses her continued love for her family:
We know that we’ve done and said things that hurt people. Inflicting pain on others wasn’t the goal, but it was one of the outcomes. We wish it weren’t so, and regret that hurt.
We know that we dearly love our family. They now consider us betrayers, and we are cut off from their lives, but we know they are well-intentioned. We will never not love them.
Also posting at Medium, writer Jeff Chu shares more of Megan’s story and quotes her as saying,
I don’t feel confident at all in my beliefs about God. That’s definitely scary. But I don’t believe anymore that God hates almost all of mankind. I don’t think that, if you do everything else in your life right and you happen to be gay, you’re automatically going to hell. I don’t believe anymore that WBC has a monopoly on truth. Source
Here lies the tragedy of Megan’s story. In escaping a false, legalistic expression of Christianity, Megan Phelps-Roper finds herself without the saving truth of the gospel. Here it sounds as if she rapidly is wandering into a softer version of the common, yet damning, gospel of good works and a “right life.” And just as Westboro Baptist removed Jesus Christ from their message, so too is Megan Phelps-Roper, now separated from WBC, in danger of proclaiming a gentler message that is just as erroneous if it does not proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus Christ alone. May Christians be in prayer that God would guide this young woman to an understanding of the only truth that can save.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Eph. 2:8–9