By Vicki Brown
JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Baptist Convention has filed notice that it will appeal a judge’s ruling in its case against a formerly affiliated institution and will ask that legal action pending against four others be delayed.
Convention attorneys filed a notice of appeal with the Cole County Circuit Court on April 9 to contest Judge Richard Callahan’s March 4 ruling that Windermere Baptist Conference Center acted legally when it changed its articles of incorporation.
The appeal is the latest round in legal action the MBC took against Windermere, The Baptist Home, Missouri Baptist University, Word&Way and the Missouri Baptist Foundation in an effort to force the entities to rescind changes they had made in their corporate charters. The Home changed its articles of incorporation in 2000 to elect its own trustees. The other four took the same action in 2001. The convention filed suit on Aug. 13, 2002.
The March 4 ruling centered on two main aspects of the convention’s contention —corporate membership and a contractual relationship with Windermere. The judge ruled the MBC is not a member of Windermere’s corporation and that no contract exists between the two entities.
The Circuit Court will send the notice to the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Western District based in Kansas City. The legal file for the case must be given to the appeals court within 30 days. MBC attorneys must file their brief 60 days later.
Windermere will have 30 days in which to respond to the MBC appeal, and the convention will have an additional 15 days to reply. Most likely, the case will not be heard until sometime this fall.
The MBC plans to ask the appellate court to offer a ruling rather than to return the case to the circuit court.
In 2005, appellate judges sent the case back to Cole County after the MBC appealed Judge Thomas Brown’s March 11 dismissal of the legal action against the university. Judge Brown had ruled the Executive Board and six individuals who filed the original lawsuit did not have the legal right to do so. The appeals court overruled the Cole County judge on the Executive Board’s standing and upheld Judge Brown’s decision regarding the six churches.
The Windermere case does not directly affect the other four institutions because the five are listed as individual defendants. MBC attorneys filed a motion to stay, or delay, proceedings — except for two motions — against the other four pending the appeal outcome.
Convention attorneys will request Judge Callahan to go ahead with a motion against the Foundation. The MBC contends the Foundation changed the nature of its corporate status under Missouri statutes without convention approval. The two sides argued that motion on Nov. 20, 2007, but the judge did not rule.
The MBC also has a motion for summary judgment pending against The Baptist Home.
A hearing on the motion to stay is slated for 1:30 p.m. April 14 at the Cole County Courthouse in Jefferson City