By Vicki Brown, Word&Way Associate Editor
Cape Girardeau — For the fourth straight year, messengers to the Missouri Baptist Convention annual session heard an update from the MBC's legal task force.
This year the report focused on Windermere Baptist Conference Center — now among a host of defendants listed in a new MBC lawsuit that is separate from the ongoing MBC legal action against five institutions.
Task force chairman Gary Taylor showed a 19-minute video that drew from past reports of the ongoing litigation against Word&Way, the Missouri Baptist Foundation, Missouri Baptist University, The Baptist Home and Windermere.
In 2000, board members for The Baptist Home changed its charter to elect their own trustees rather than to continue allowing the convention to elect them. The other four entities took the same action the following year.
The MBC filed litigation against the five in August 2002, seeking to force the institutions to rescind their charter changes.
According to the task force, the convention has spent $2.5 million on legal expenses in the case since 2001. Taylor noted part of the money — $1.49 million — has been recouped from Church Mutual Insurance Co. in a recent court settlement with that firm.
Taylor reported that the MBC also had filed legal action against William R. Jester of Springfield, with convention-appointed Windermere trustees — board members Windermere does not recognize — as plaintiffs in the new case.
As part of a loan restructuring plan to cover the conference center's Wilderness Creek expansion, Windermere Development Company Inc. of Springfield, which Jester started and owns, purchased 941 acres that had been part of the conference center's property from National City Bank of Cincinnati.
Conference center officials sold the property to National City Bank on Nov. 15, 2005, under the terms of a new loan to reduce the center's debt from $21 million to $14 million. The development company bought the land on Feb. 24.
According to court records, the MBC's newest legal action was filed on Nov. 1 in the 26th Judicial Circuit Court, which includes Camden County where Windermere is located.
The Executive Board is listed as a petitioner or plaintiff in the case, along with former MBC president and current pastor of Ballwin Baptist Church Robert Curtis; pastor of First Baptist Church, Buckhorn, Larry Atkins of Laquey; pastor of Liberty Baptist Church, Big Spring, Don Buford of New Florence; James How of Washington; Don Laramore of Caledonia; James Robinson of Branson; and Charles Schrum of Lebanon.
In addition to Jester and Windermere, the law firm that has been representing Windermere in the four-year-old case — Guilfoil, Petzall & Shoemake — and two of its attorneys — Jim Shoemake and Eric Walter — are listed as defendants. Former Windermere chief executive officer Frank Shock also is being sued.
Former MBC executive director James L. Hill as an individual and his company, RDI, are defendants. Jerald "Jerry" Hill is a part of the case as an individual, as well as five Jester companies that Hill heads, including Windermere Development Co., Jester Capital Management, The Estates at Windermere, The Villas at Windermere and Resource Development Inc. The Lodges at Windermere, another Jester firm, is listed.
The convention's legal action also lists several financial institutions among the defendants, including California Plan of Church Finance Inc.; Reliance Trust Co. of Atlanta, Ga.; San Joaquin Bank of Bakersfield, Calif.; First Centennial Bank of Redlands, Calif.; National City Bank of the Midwest, St. Louis; Consolidated Mortgage Inc. of Las Vegas, Nev.; and First American Title Missouri Agency in Fenton. (11-15-06)