JEFFERSON CITY — A Cole County judge has put on hold the effects of an earlier ruling in the ongoing legal battle between the Missouri Baptist Convention and the Missouri Baptist Foundation.
On Wednesday, Cole County Circuit Court Judge Byron Kinder issued a stay of a Dec. 31 order so that outgoing Judge Paul Wilson's decision could be appealed to the Missouri Court of Appeals and possibly to the state Supreme Court.
In December, Judge Wilson ruled in the convention's favor that the Foundation did not have the right to file amendments it made to its charter in October 2001 without MBC approval. Judge Kinder's stay means the Missouri Baptist Foundation can continue to operate as it has since the MBC filed legal action against it in 2002.
The Foundation has 40 days from the December ruling to file an appeal.
"While this routine legal process continues, the Foundation will conduct its business as it always has with a strong commitment to serving the best interests of its clients and all Missouri Baptists," Foundation Interim President Stephen Mathis said in a written statement.
If allowed to stand by the higher courts, Judge Wilson's ruling would require the Foundation to return to its 1994 charter and articles of incorporation, and trustees not elected under its provisions would have to give up their seats.
On Oct. 9, 2001, the Foundation filed amendments to its 1994 charter as a not-for-profit corporation under one Missouri statute. But the entity retained wording that continued to give the MBC the right to elect the Foundation's trustees and to approve any changes or amendments to its articles of incorporation.
The next day, the Foundation filed additional amendments to its articles but filed under a different not-for-profit statute. The second filing excluded the MBC provisions. The Foundation did not seek convention approval for any of the changes, and the MBC filed legal action on Aug. 13, 2002, to regain the rights outlined in the 1994 charter.
Also if allowed to stand, Judge Wilson's December order would void the Foundation's 2001 amendments and require the Foundation to file notice with the Cole County court and with the Secretary of State's office to that effect.
The MBC's 2002 legal action included five formerly affiliated entities — The Baptist Home, Windermere Baptist Conference Center, Missouri Baptist University, Word&Way and the Foundation. The Home changed its charter to elect its own trustees in 2000, with the others doing the same in 2001.
Windermere won in the Cole County action on March 4, 2008, with the ruling upheld by the Missouri Court of Appeals on Feb. 18, 2009. A second lawsuit the convention filed against Windermere in Camden County is ongoing.
The MBC voluntarily dropped its case against Word&Way on April 23 last year. Legal action against the university and The Home is still pending.
In November, Judge Wilson lost his election bid to retain his position on the bench. He had been appointed to the post to replace Judge Richard Callahan, who had been tapped as United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri.
Judge Daniel Green, who captured the circuit court spot and had been given the case, recused himself, citing his membership at Memorial Baptist Church, Columbia, as the reason.