JEFFERSON CITY — Word&Way has been dismissed from Missouri Baptist Convention litigation that has stretched over nearly eight years.
The convention, through its attorneys, filed a document in Cole County Circuit Court on April 23 voluntarily releasing the news journal from all claims against it.
The MBC filed legal action against five formerly affiliated institutions on Aug. 13, 2002, in an effort to force them to rescind changes in their charters. The Baptist Home, the Missouri Baptist Foundation, Word&Way, Windermere Baptist Conference Center and Missouri Baptist University each changed their corporate documents to self-elect trustees — the Home in 2000 and the others in 2001.
“We’re pleased with the dismissal and confident that it will put an end to litigation for Word&Way,” the news journal’s lead attorney Jim Shoemake said by phone April 23.
The MBC dismissed its legal action “without prejudice,” meaning that it would have the option to re-file the case.
Windermere was the first of the five agencies to be released from the Cole County case. Judge Richard Callahan ruled in Windermere’s favor on March 4, 2009, centering on two main aspects of the convention’s contention in the center’s case — corporate membership and a contractual relationship. The judge ruled the MBC is not a member of Windermere’s corporation and that no contract exists between the two.
Until August 2000, the MBC governed Windermere and Word&Way through its Executive Board. Messengers to the 1999 MBC annual meeting approved a reorganization plan that included incorporation of the center and the news journal as separate entities. Drawn up in 2000, the charters for both the conference center and the news journal noted the new corporations would have no members.
In addition, Judge Callahan had ruled that together Windermere’s articles of incorporation and the MBC’s governing documents — its constitution and bylaws, its business and financial plan, and the Executive Board’s articles of incorporation and bylaws — do not create a contract between the two entities.
The MBC lost its appeal of the Windermere case and the state’s Supreme Court refused to review it.
MBC attorneys could not be reached on April 23 for comment regarding the Word&Way dismissal.
Although the case has been dismissed, Word&Way will still be excluded from MBC committee and Executive Board meetings. Board members voted to exclude the news journal at their April 13 session.