JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (ABP) — Missouri Baptist Convention leaders voted Dec. 10 to move the group’s headquarters building to a small town west of the state capital — but the effort may run into trouble due to complications over a tenant formerly affiliated with the convention.
The MBC Executive Board approved a committee’s recommendation to accept developer Kenny Vaughan’s donation of six acres of land in California, Mo. The town of less than 10,000 residents is located about 20 miles west of Jefferson City, where the convention has been headquartered for decades.
MBC president Gerald Davidson said approximately 60 percent of the 43 committee members who attended the session — abbreviated due to impending wintry weather — approved the proposal. The land offer was apparently the primary consideration. “We were just offered a piece of land. That was probably the main emphasis,” Davidson, pastor emeritus of First Baptist Church of Arnold, Mo., said.
Some opposed the move to California primarily because Jefferson City is larger, with more facilities to accommodate meetings, and is seen as more influential, Davidson noted.
At their October session prior to the MBC’s annual meeting, board members voted to accept a contract for the sale of the Baptist Building in Jefferson City to the Gardner Group Inc. of Springfield, Mo., for $1.7 million. “I understand there is a contract on the building…but that it is not finalized,” Davidson said.
A possible hindrance to that sale could be the Missouri Baptist Foundation’s 20-year lease of the Baptist Building’s fifth floor. The Foundation negotiated the lease in 1999 in exchange for extensive improvements to the building.
James Smith, the foundation’s president indicated his board has not yet dealt with its options in the situation. “Those issues are addressed in the lease and those will be under review,” he said Dec. 13. “We have not received any kind of official notice from the convention.”
The foundation is one of five formerly MBC-affiliated agencies currently involved in litigation with the convention. MBC officials filed suit against the foundation; Missouri Baptist University near St. Louis; Windermere Baptist Conference Center; The Baptist Home, which provides retirement and care facilities; and the news journal Word & Way, after each of those agencies removed themselves from MBC control. The first jury trial in the five-year-old litigation is set for Feb. 1, 2008. It will deal with the Windermere case.
MBC interim executive director David Tolliver refused to speak to Associated Baptist Press for this story. But, according to other news reports, he has cited the six-acre gift as the primary reason for the move. The concern that some have over moving to a small town would be mitigated by the broadening of the main highway between the two cities from two lanes to four, he said. He also said the new highway also would “accelerate growth” between the two cities.