The Missouri Baptist Convention has lost its final bid to reclaim Windermere Baptist Conference Center. But a high court ruling does not end legal entanglements between the two entities.
On May 27, the Missouri Supreme Court denied an MBC request for the high court to examine an appellate court ruling in Windermere’s favor on March 25.
The MBC lost its bid to reclaim Windermere and its property when a three-judge Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District, panel affirmed a Camden County Circuit Court decision. The convention lost on procedural grounds.
On Nov. 1, 2006, the MBC filed a quiet title claim against Windermere in Camden County where the conference center is located.
The appellate justices in their March ruling noted the Executive Board had failed to follow rules that required it to support its facts or deny facts Windermere presented by using discovery, exhibits or affidavits. The MBC tried to add information. It also tried to reference material that the lower court had not allowed and so could not be considered by the appellate justices.
After the three-judge Court of Appeals panel ruled, the MBC requested the full court to consider the case. When the court declined, the convention asked that the court transfer the case to the Supreme Court. The appellate court refused to do so, and the Executive Board approached the high court directly.
The Windermere Board of Trustees released the following statement after the Missouri High Court decision:
"The entire Windermere family is pleased that this litigation has come to an end. We continue to thank God for his blessings on Windermere and its ministry. After more than 12 years and millions of dollars spent on these various pieces of litigation, it is our hope and prayer that all Baptists in Missouri can focus on sharing the gospel in our state rather than attorneys guiding decisions and charting the course.
"While we are glad that the actions previously taken by Windermere have been affirmed in this litigation, we take no joy in where these cases have brought Baptists in this state. It is our sincere desire to put the past behind us and work together as brothers and sisters to advance God’s Kingdom.
"Throughout the years of these cases, thousands of Baptists from hundreds of Missouri Baptist churches have continued to come to our campus and had life-changing experiences.
"Windermere Baptist Conference Center will have a record-breaking year in 2014. Nearly 30,000 children, youth and adults will come to our campus and while here they will encounter the Living Christ. Hundreds will profess faith in Christ and hundreds will also commit to full-time Christian service.
"Windermere is God’s ministry, and our staff and leadership totally rely upon God’s leadership and direction in all we do. God is doing great things at Windermere and we invite all Baptists in Missouri to be a part of our ministry."
The Executive Board filed the Camden County action while awaiting a ruling on its appeal in a lawsuit it had filed against Windermere and four other entities formerly affiliated with the MBC.
In 2000 and 2001, The Baptist Home, Word&Way, the Missouri Baptist Foundation, Missouri Baptist University and Windermere changed their governing documents to allow each to elect its own trustees. The convention filed litigation in Cole County Circuit Court against the five on Aug. 13, 2002, in an attempt to regain control of them.
The Cole County case against Windermere was dismissed on March 11, 2004. An appeal to the Western District sent the case back to the lower court. Again, the Cole County court ruled in WindermereÕs favor, and the appeal’s court upheld the decision on Feb. 3, 2009. The state Supreme Court turned down the MBC request to examine that ruling.
In addition to Windermere, the Camden County case included former MBC Executive Director James Hill, Reliance Trust Co., National City Bank of the Midwest, Consolidated Mortgage Inc. and First American Title Missouri Agency Inc. as defendants.
Although both the Cole and Camden county cases have concluded, legal wrangling will continue between Windermere and the MBC. Windermere filed suit against the convention last fall in an effort to move ahead with utility improvements required by the state. In that legal action, the conference center seeks $10 million in damages for interference with its business, "injurious falsehood," "slander of title" and "breach of warranty."