By Vicki Brown, Word&Way Correspondent
A proposal that could at least suspend litigation for one Baptist entity seems to have stalled since a mediator offered it on Dec. 11.
Retired Judge Robert Russell of Sedalia suggested at a mediation hearing that the Missouri Baptist Convention and Missouri Baptist University set up a nine-member committee that would appoint new trustees to MBU's board. The committee would operate for two years.
Five committee members would be convention representatives, with the remaining four from the university. At least six votes would be required for any trustee appointment.
Former Cole County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Brown ordered mediation at the university's request at a hearing on Aug. 7 as a part of a nearly five-year legal battle between the convention and five Baptist entities.
In 2000, The Baptist Home changed its charter to allow the institution to elect its own trustees. The following year, the university, Word&Way, Windermere Baptist Conference Center and the Missouri Baptist Foundation took similar action.
The convention filed legal action against the five in August 2002 to force the entities' trustees to rescind the charter changes.
According to university attorney Clyde Farris, four individuals who represented MBU in mediation were open to the proposal. MBU representatives included trustee chair Bill Houk, trustees Randall Bunch and Randall Fullerton, and university president R. Alton Lacey.
The university attorney said he understood that convention representatives Franklin County Baptist Association director of missions Jim Plymale, a plaintiff in
the current legal battle, and legal task force chair Gary Taylor were to have taken the proposal to the MBC Executive Board on Dec. 12. Farris said Executive Board members apparently took no action.
The university attorney could not speculate whether the Executive Board would consider the proposal later. No additional mediation dates have been set, he said.
If the proposal had been adopted, litigation between the university and the convention would have been suspended for the two-year period.
MBC lead attorney Michael Whitehead could not be reached for comment by press time on Jan. 8.
The case against the five institutions has been assigned to newly elected Cole County Circuit Court Judge Jon Beetem, a Republican who defeated Judge Brown on Nov. 7. Judge Brown, a Democrat, had held the post since 1994 and had heard most of the Missouri Baptist case.
Attorneys in the MBC case are waiting for a date to hear arguments on the latest revision of the petition — the fifth, filed on Sept. 19.
Lawyers have 30 days in which to request a different judge. No request had been made by press time. (01-11-07)