By Vicki Brown
JEFFERSON CITY — A Missouri Baptist Convention appeal against a formerly affiliated institution could be heard in October or November, with a decision likely to come after the first of next year.
The convention is contesting Cole County Judge Richard Callahan’s March 4 ruling that Windermere Baptist Conference Center acted legally when it changed its articles of incorporation. MBC lead attorney Michael Whitehead filed the convention’s legal brief with the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Western District on July 22.
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.
Last year, Judge Callahan ruled each entity’s case would be tried separately, with Windermere to be first. The judge also determined that each institution had the legal right to change its charter. The MBC case against each now rests on the contention that the entities breached a contract with the convention.
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.
Attorneys representing Windermere must file a legal brief with the appeals court by Aug. 21. The MBC would have an opportunity to file a reply brief, which would be due by Sept. 5.
Judges could choose to hear oral arguments in the case in October or November, but have up to six months in which to issue a ruling.
In 2005, appellate judges sent the initial case back to Cole County after the MBC appealed former Cole County Judge Thomas Brown’s March 11 dismissal of the legal action against the university. Judge Brown ruled the Executive Board and six churches that filed the original lawsuit did not have the legal right to do so, and he applied the ruling to all five institutions.
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 MBC filed separate legal action against the conference center on Nov. 1, 2006, in Camden County for selling property as part of a refinancing plan. A hearing in that case is set for 9 a.m. Aug. 19 at the Camden County Courthouse in Camdenton.