For those who don't know, Fred Phelps is pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church. Their theology can be summed up thusly: God Hates Fags - their exact words. Many or perhaps most Westboro members are Phelps' relatives.
Westboro Baptist Church is, not to mince words, evil. They are beyond redemption by all but God. However, they also aren't the problem.
Bartley commented: “It is welcome that a number of churches and evangelical groups have made a public statement and joined the many others who are opposing Westboro Baptist church-style hate speech. But it is relatively easy to issue statements against extremists, distance oneself, and condemn them. It is more challenging, and uncomfortable, to acknowledge what one might have in common with those we find abhorrent. But that is what the message at the heart of the Christian faith requires."
He continued: “This is the real challenge that Westboro Baptist church presents. And among those who have condemned Westboro are some who preach rejection of faithful gay relationships, who deny their baptism and Christian ministry, and who refuse their wisdom. Some have attempted to negotiate opt-outs from equalities legislation so they can themselves discriminate against lesbian and gay people in employment and in the provision of goods and services. The Evangelical Alliance in particular removed the Courage Trust from its membership when the Trust made a Christian commitment to affirming lesbian and gay people.
Concluded Bartley: “The six churches and groups have said with one voice: ‘We believe that God loves all, irrespective of sexual orientation’. We invite them to reflect these words in their actions.”