Church Mutual drops three entities from suit - Word&Way

Church Mutual drops three entities from suit

The company that insures three Missouri Baptist Convention institutions embroiled in legal action with the MBC has dropped its own lawsuit against the three.

Church Mutual voluntarily requested the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri to dismiss its case against the Missouri Baptist Foundation, Word&Way and Windermere Baptist Conference Center on Sept. 7.

Last November, the Merrill, Wisc.,-based insurance company sought a ruling from the district court to determine whether Church Mutual should be required to pay for legal fees under terms of policies in force for the MBC Executive Board, the three agencies and three of six churches that joined the convention's legal action. The three churches include First Baptist, Bethany; Oakwood Baptist, Kansas City; and Springhill Baptist, Springfield.

The case continues against the Executive Board and the three churches.

In 2001, Word&Way, Missouri Baptist University, Windermere and the Foundation changed their charters to allow the agencies to elect their own trustees rather than to allow the convention to elect them. The Baptist Home trustees took the same action a year earlier.

In an effort to get the five institutions to rescind their new charters, the convention filed legal action against the entities on Aug. 13, 2002. In addition to those covered by Church Mutual, Concord Baptist, Jefferson City; First Baptist, Arnold; and First Baptist, Branson, joined the MBC action.

Later, the five institutions each filed counterclaims against the MBC.

Insurance companies for the five entities have been paying a percentage of their legal costs. The convention insists that the counterclaims triggered its insurance policy. The executive board and the three churches are not covered for attorneys' fees to answer the agencies' counterclaims, Church Mutual noted in its November action.

Attorneys are tentatively scheduled to question a Church Mutual corporate representative for a deposition on Sept. 21 in the continuing action against the executive board.

The dismissal against the three agencies was granted "without prejudice," which means that Church Mutual retains the legal right to re-file a claim against the three at a later date.

The insurance firm included The Baptist Home and MBU in its original action. Attorneys for both entities filed motions to dismiss their clients from the lawsuit because neither institution carries Church Mutual policies. The Home was dismissed on March 31, and MBU's motion was granted on Aug. 26.