2006 a busy year for Missouri Baptists - Word&Way

2006 a busy year for Missouri Baptists

By Vicki Brown, Word&Way Associate Editor

As we enter a new year, Word&Way takes a brief glimpse at news that affected Baptists in Missouri throughout 2006. Legal issues, single alignment and stem cell research were among the difficult items Baptists in Missouri faced.

Continuing lawsuit

Legal issues top the list of news-making highlights for the fourth consecutive year. In addition to continuing its Cole County legal action against Word&Way, The Baptist Home, Missouri Baptist University, the Missouri Baptist Foundation and Windermere Baptist Conference Center, the convention has filed a separate lawsuit against Windermere in Camden County.

In 2000, The Home changed its corporate charter to elect its own trustees. The other four took the same action the following year. In the past, messengers to the Missouri Baptist Convention annual meetings elected trustees.

In an effort to force the five entities to rescind the changes, the convention filed legal action against them in Cole County on Aug. 13, 2002.

Here's what happened in 2006:

Feb. 28 – Cole County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Brown ruled that the Missouri Baptist Convention had to release additional information regarding its conspiracy allegations against the five institutions and had to release specific documents related to the amount of money the MBC contributed to the Foundation since the MBF's beginning in 1946.

May 9 – Judge Brown ruled that the convention could file a third amended petition to clarify the MBC's conspiracy claim against the five defendant institutions. The judge had directed the convention to clarify the issue at a March 7 hearing.

June 12 – Judge Brown granted Missouri Baptist University's motion for the convention's conspiracy claims against it to be dropped. The judge also directed the convention to produce a fourth amendment to specify which provisions of the MBC's governing documents and contractual relationships the five institutions supposedly have breached. The case was heard on June 5.

June 27 – Judge Brown dismissed conspiracy charges against the other four entities. The four had filed motions similar to that MBU had filed and on which the judge had already ruled.

Aug. 7 – Judge Brown agreed with a Missouri Baptist University request for mediation between the university and the Missouri Baptist Convention in the ongoing legal battle. The judge also allowed the convention to file a fourth amended petition, but only after he struck conspiracy claims and an intent-to-harm claim from it.

Sept. 19 – The convention filed its fifth amended petition to spell out which MBC documents the five entities allegedly breached when each changed its corporate charter. Judge Brown reversed an earlier decision and allowed a prima facie tort – an intent to harm – to be included in the newest petition. The amended version also included conspiracy claims that the judge had dismissed on June 27 and had struck from the fourth amended version on Aug. 7.

Oct. 31 – In his report to the MBC annual meeting, legal task force chairman Gary Taylor noted the convention has spent $2.5 million on legal expenses since 2001, and that insurance will reimburse the convention $1.49 million.

Nov. 7 – Judge Brown was defeated in his bid for reelection to the Cole County Circuit Court. The MBC case had not been assigned to a specific judge as of press time.


Much of the convention's legal efforts seemed to focus on Windermere in 2006. Several hearings centered on Windermere's debt restructuring, and the MBC filed a second lawsuit against the center late in the year.

Feb. 1 – Judge Brown continued a temporary restraining order against Windermere Baptist Conference Center that he had granted at a Dec. 19 hearing. The TRO prohibited Windermere trustees and corporate officers from selling or encumbering the center's real estate. The continuance delayed a hearing on a preliminary injunction on the real estate issue.

Feb. 15 – The MBC again requested and Judge Brown granted a delay of the preliminary injunction hearing.

Feb. 24 – Windermere Development Company Inc. of Springfield purchased 941 acres of land adjacent to Windermere Baptist Conference Center from National City Bank of Cincinnati. Conference center officials sold the acreage to the bank on Nov. 15, 2005, as part of a debt-restructuring plan.

Feb. 28 – Judge Brown again granted a delay in the preliminary injunction hearing at the MBC's request.

April 10 – MBC delays preliminary injunction hearing again in an effort to take the deposition of William R. Jester, owner of Resource Development Inc. and Windermere Development Company Inc.

May 9 – Yet again Judge Brown delayed the hearing on a permanent injunction against Windermere at the MBC's request, pushing the hearing to June 1.

June 1 – Judge Brown granted a preliminary injunction against the conference center to prohibit further sale or transfer of the Windermere's property or timber or of incurring debt without court approval. However, the judge allowed the sale of 941 acres to Jester to stand and allowed the center to sell mortgage bonds as part of its debt-restructuring plan.

July 14 – Judge Brown overruled a convention motion to hold Windermere in contempt of a June 1 court order prohibiting sale of timber. The judge agreed with center officials that Windermere had no control over logging that continued on land the center had sold as part of its debt-restructuring plan. Director of operations Dan Bench explained that he had not realized that contractors had not been contacted about the judge's order and that once he was aware of it, he and Windermere attorneys made sure that they were.

July 26 – Windermere trustees officially named Bench as president and chief executive officer of the center. Bench became director of operations when former president and CEO Frank Shock relinquished oversight of daily operations in November. Shock officially stepped down from leadership positions in May.

Nov. 1 – The MBC filed a new lawsuit against Jester and Windermere in an attempt to recover the 941 acres sold as part of the center's debt-restructuring plan.

Nov. 15 – Windermere reached its $1 million bond reserve by its deadline. The center issued bonds as part of debt restructuring related to its Wilderness Creek expansion project.

Nov. 27 – In the new lawsuit against the center and Jester, Judge Bruce E. Colyer of the 26th Judicial Circuit Court denied an MBC request for a temporary restraining order against Windermere to prohibit center administrators and trustees from selling timber, beginning or continuing construction projects, constructing streets or doing utility work. The judge heard arguments in the case on Nov. 22.

Single alignment

This year the convention implemented new guidelines for cooperating Missouri Baptist churches that messengers to the 2005 annual meeting adopted. As a result, messengers to this year's annual session voted to disenfranchise some convention-affiliated congregations.

Jan. 25 – Members of University Heights Baptist Church, Springfield, released an open letter to MBC officials to officially recognize the possibility that the church would no longer be considered an MBC church in light of single alignment language approved by messengers to the 2005 annual meeting. University Heights had been a cooperating MBC church since its beginning in 1945. It also is aligned with the American Baptist Churches USA and with Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

March 9 – The MBC credentials committee released guidelines and a form for individuals who wish to challenge any church's standing with the MBC. Complainants must specify the action they believe the church has taken that would warrant its removal from convention fellowship and must present evidence of that church's action.

May 21 – Members of Windsor Baptist Church, Imperial, voted to withdraw from the Missouri Baptist Convention but stopped short of aligning with any other body. Members determined they would remain a cooperating Southern Baptist Convention church.

Aug. 24 – Twenty-four churches received a form letter from the MBC credentials committee informing them that they might be in violation of the convention's constitution and bylaws regarding single alignment.

Oct. 31 – Messengers to the MBC annual meeting suspended cooperation with 19 affiliated churches, adopting the credentials committee recommendation. The committee had determined that each congregation no longer meets the qualifications to be a cooperating MBC church.

Missouri Baptist Convention

Leadership rifts, possible relocation and a new partnership were among other MBC's developments in 2006.

April 11 – Missouri Baptist Convention Executive Board members took over supervision of The Pathway, removing the news journal from the executive director's control.

May 6 – Hannibal-LaGrange College trustees passed a motion to "graciously request" that the MBC Executive Board reconsider its plan to continue its financial support of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's undergraduate program. Executive Board members authorized $200,000 from convention reserves for MBTS and voted to include the seminary in the board's 2007 budget.

July 11 – The MBC contracted with former Southwest Baptist University president Jim Sells as an interim development officer to spearhead a capital fundraising program for a new MBC building. The effort would hinge on sale of the MBC's current property in Jefferson City.

Sept. 22 – Following a daylong, special session, Executive Board members affirmed David Clippard as the MBC executive director, its nominating committee and Roger Moran as committee chairman. The closed-door session was billed as a "unity and reconciliation meeting." The meeting was called in response to two open letters that suggested disunity among Executive Board members and other leaders and the possibility that Clippard was in danger of losing his position.

Sept. 30 – Gary Morrow stepped down as longtime director of MBC Disaster Relief. Morrow had directed Missouri Baptist efforts since the 1993 flood prompted a move to coordinate disaster response.

Oct. 30 – MBC executive director David Clippard created a media furor with comments on Islam during his address in the MBC annual meeting's opening session. He sounded an alarm that Islamic adherents plan to take over the U.S. government.

Oct. 31 – The rift among MBC leaders surfaced at the annual meeting when a move was made to substitute former MBC president Gerald Davidson for outgoing president Ralph Sawyer as a member of the Executive Board. The nominating committee's 2007 nominee list included Sawyer. Before the matter came to a vote, Davidson removed his name from consideration. In the annual sermon later that day, Davidson called for an end to the Missouri Baptist Laymen's Association and the use of politics in the convention.

Oct. 31 – Messengers approved a three-year partnership between the MBC and the Baptist Association of El Salvador.

Nov. 1 – U.S. Sen. Jim Talent appeared for less than five minutes in the closing session of the MBC annual meeting to thank Missouri Baptists for opposing the stem cell amendment and for standing for marriage. Sen. Talent lost his bid for reelection on Nov. 7.

Baptist General Convention of Missouri

Missions efforts have been the Baptist General Convention of Missouri's focus this year.

March 4 – The BGCM and the Baptist General Convention of Texas inked a three-year partnership agreement to develop joint strategic initiatives. BGCM directors also adopted three-year partnerships with the Guatemalan Baptist Convention and WorldconneX.

March 31-April 1 – Messengers to the BGCM annual meeting elected Harlan Spurgeon of Springfield as president, Bruce Hadley of Windsor as vice president and Sondra Allen of Jefferson City as secretary. Messengers also adopted a $598,000 budget. Author and speaker Anne Graham Lotz and Baptist University of the Americas president Albert Reyes were among the speakers.

July 3-7 – Baptist World Alliance leaders accepted the BGCM as a member of the world body. BCGM was accepted as a member of the North American Baptist Fellowship, a BWA arm, in January, a condition of membership in the full organization.

Sept. 9 – BGCM directors approved a partnership agreement with the Guatemala Baptist Convention.

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Missouri

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Missouri also pursued ways to assist people in 2006.

April 28-29 – Missions to Africa and to America's poor was the focus of the CBF of Missouri's General Assembly at Kirkwood Baptist Church.

June 21-23 – The youth group from Kirkwood Baptist Church, St. Louis, led a breakout session at the national Cooperative Baptist Fellowship 2006 General Assembly in Atlanta, Ga.

Stem cell research

On Nov. 7, Missourians faced a proposed constitutional amendment to allow stem cell research in the state, including controversial somatic cell nuclear transfer research. The issue divided people of faith, including Baptists.

Jan. 19 – Cole County Circuit Court Senior Judge Byron Kinder ruled that the ballot summary wording of a proposed state constitutional amendment to allow somatic cell nuclear transfer research was "sufficient, fair, accurate and impartial." In December 2005, the Missouri Baptist Convention joined a legal battle seeking to change the summary wording to clarify that the SCNT procedure is a cloning process. The MBC also committed $137,000 to support the defeat of the proposed amendment.

July 11 – The MBC Executive Board approved $100,000 donation from reserves to Missourians Against Human Cloning to help defeat the amendment.

Nov. 7 – Missouri voters passed the proposed amendment by a narrow margin.

Various issues

God was at work in Missouri in many ways in 2006 – from celebrations to presidential visits.

March 7 – The Baptist Home trustees announced plans to seek associate membership in the Baptist World Alliance.

March 19 – First Baptist Church, Hollister, was destroyed by fire, the result of an apparent arson.

March 20 – Patrick O'Neil Copley, former president of Missouri Baptist University, passed away.

April 11 – Some Missouri Baptist seniors were among guests invited to hear President George W. Bush speak about his Medicare prescription drug program. Jefferson City was among citiesincluded on the tour.

May 4 – Trustees, staff and supporters of the Missouri Bap-tist Foundation celebrated the institution's 60th year of ministry, with guest Gracia Burnham, who survived more than a year of captivity at the hands of Filipino terrorists, as guest speaker.

May 10 – The North American Mission Board recognized Southwest Baptist University as first among 119 colleges and universities in the number of students who participated in some form of mission endeavor in the previous year. Hannibal-LaGrange College was third.

May 12 – Central Baptist Theological Seminary trustees approved purchase of 10 acres and a building on the eastern edge of Shawnee, Kan., for the seminary's new home, its third facility in its 105-year-old history.

Sept. 12 – The Baptist Home trustees agreed to a five-year commitment to the Baptist House of Mercy, a home for the aged in Belarus, and expanded The Baptist Home's admission policy and guidelines to include all Baptists in Missouri.