KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Legal wrangling between the Missouri Baptist Convention and four formerly affiliated agencies will continue. But in a report to messengers to the convention’s annual meeting, officials said they believe that “at long last…it seems clear the courts are siding with the MBC.”
Now after more than 11 years of litigation, annual meeting attendees learned they face yet another lawsuit. Windermere Baptist Conference Center filed legal action on Oct. 25 to move ahead with utility improvements it claims the MBC has been blocking.
Convention spokesman Rob Phillips reassured messengers in an Agency Restoration Group video presentation to the annual meeting Oct. 29 at the Sheraton Hotel at Crown Plaza in Kansas City.
He gave a brief history of litigation the convention filed against The Baptist Home, Windermere, the Missouri Baptist Foundation, Missouri Baptist University and Word&Way on Aug. 13, 2002 in Cole County.
In 2000 and 2001, the entities changed their governing documents to elect their own trustees. The convention filed legal action to regain control.
Following the video, ARG Chairman Randy Comer informed messengers that Windermere had filed legal action, calling it “perfectly timed” for the annual meeting. “You can be the judge of the motives” of Windermere, he said.
Comer noted that in a press release Oct. 25, Windermere officials said they wanted to settle issues without consorting to the legal system. But, Comer added, he couldn’t remember “a single time” Windermere had tried to settle out of court.
Messengers approved the ARG report that included a plan to allow an attempt at mediation called for by Church Mutual Insurance, the MBC’s carrier. “It’s always been our desire to settle out of court,” Phillips said on the video.
Apparently, all parties have agreed and have met individually with the Church Mutual chosen mediators. Meetings of the entities will take place later this year, according to Comer.
The litigation “could end today” if the leaders of the “self-perpetuating boards” would exhibit “integrity and contrition” as Missouri Baptists “expect their leaders to do,” Phillips said in the video.
However, he failed to note that in a story in the Oct. 8 issue of MBC’s news journal, The Pathway, Phillips said the Executive Board would only be willing to settle if the agreement meets the MBC’s “fundamental objectives,” which includes restoring the agencies to their former relationship with the convention.
The center won in Cole County and through the appellate court. The Missouri Supreme Court turned down a request to examine the district court ruling.
In 2006, the convention filed another lawsuit against Windermere in Camden County, where the center is located, in a second effort to reclaim the property. The Camden County Circuit Court dismissed that case earlier this year, and the MBC is currently appealing.
An appeal continues in the convention’s case against the Foundation. The MBC voluntarily dropped Word&Way from the litigation.