Appeals Court overrules rehearing motion, denies request to Missouri Supreme Court - Word&Way

Appeals Court overrules rehearing motion, denies request to Missouri Supreme Court

KANSAS CITY — The Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, will not rehear the Missouri Baptist Convention case against Windermere Baptist Conference Center, nor will it transfer the case to the state's highest court.

The MBC had hoped for an opportunity to argue that a three-judge panel erred Feb. 3 when it upheld a lower court's March 4, 2008, ruling that the center had acted legally when trustees changed its articles of incorporation.

In its February ruling, appellate judges upheld Cole County Circuit Court Judge Richard Callahan's ruling that the MBC is not a member of Windermere's corporation and that no contract exists between the two entities.

The MBC may directly petition the Missouri Supreme Court to hear the case, but must do so by April 15. The convention may face a hard sell to the higher court, though. The Supreme Court's procedural rules call an appeal to that body "an extraordinary remedy" in most cases. The court usually will only hear cases of broad general interest or importance or cases which re-examine existing law.

"We urge the MBC to accept these judicial rulings and allow Missouri Baptists to put this sad conflict behind us. We pray no additional money, energy or time will be wasted by further litigation efforts," Windermere chief executive officer Dan Bench said in a written statement March 31. "Lives are being forever changed because of the life-changing ministry of Windermere, and we welcome all Missouri Baptists to join with us."

The appellate court action is the latest in the nearly seven-year legal conflict the convention took against five formerly affiliated institutions in an effort to force the entities to rescind corporate charter changes. The Baptist Home changed its articles of incorporation in 2000 to elect its own trustees. Windermere, Word&Way, the Missouri Baptist Foundation and Missouri Baptist University took the same action in 2001. The convention filed suit on Aug. 13, 2002.

Hearing dates have not yet been set in Cole County in the cases pending against the other four.

A hearing in a separate case against Windermere in Camden County is scheduled for 9 a.m. April 14. The MBC filed that case in 2006 in an effort to stop all land transactions at Windermere pending the outcome of legal action in Cole County.

Vicki Brown is a correspondent for Word&Way.