JEFFERSON CITY -- The Missouri Baptist Convention has won its legal action against the Missouri Baptist Foundation in Cole County Circuit Court after nearly nine years of litigation. But the legal wrangling likely is not over.
Outgoing Cole County Circuit Court Judge Paul Wilson ruled on Dec. 31 that the Foundation did not have the right to file amendments it made to its charter in October 2001 without Missouri Baptist Convention approval.
The Foundation must return to its 1994 charter and articles of incorporation, and trustees not elected under its provisions have 30 days in which to give up their seats, according to Judge Wilson's order.
On Oct. 9, 2001, the Foundation filed amendments to its 1994 charter as a not-for-profit corporation under one Missouri statute. But the entity retained wording that continued to give the MBC the right to elect the Foundation's trustees and to approve any changes or amendments to its articles of incorporation.
The next day, the Foundation filed additional amendments to its articles but filed under a different not-for-profit statute. The second filing excluded the MBC provisions.
The Foundation did not seek convention approval for any of the changes. The convention filed legal action on Aug. 13, 2002, to regain the rights outlined in the 1994 charter.
According to the judge's order, the Foundation granted the convention the right to elect trustees and to approve changes when it updated its original 1946 charter in 1957. The Foundation retained those rights when its charter was amended in 1989 and in a 1994 revision.
Judge Wilson's order voids the Foundation's 2001 amendments and requires the Foundation to file notice with the Cole County court and with the Secretary of State's office to that effect.
The judge stopped short of voiding all the Foundation's actions since 2001 "because of the havoc it would create." In a statement released late Monday, Foundation officials called that decision "particularly important."
The Foundation statement also indicated the entity likely would appeal the ruling. "This ruling is just a first step in a longer process by which the matters addressed in the judge's ruling will be reviewed by the Missouri judicial system," the statement read.
"The Foundation looks forward to having the opportunity to address the parts of the judge's ruling with which it disagrees in further proceedings before Missouri's courts."
The MBC's 2002 legal action included five formerly affiliated entities -- The Baptist Home, Windermere Baptist Conference Center, Missouri Baptist University, Word&Way and the Foundation. The Home changed its charter to elect its own trustees in 2000, with the others doing the same in 2001.
Windermere won in the Cole County action on March 4, 2008, with the ruling upheld by the Missouri Court of Appeals on Feb. 18, 2009. A second lawsuit the convention filed against Windermere in Camden County is ongoing.
The MBC voluntarily dropped its case against Word&Way on April 23 last year. Legal action against the university and The Home is still pending.