JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Baptist Convention should have a plan in place for use of 970 acres at the Lake of the Ozarks, which originally had been part of Windermere Baptist Conference Center, by April 2015.
According to news reports, members of the MBC Executive Board recommended that President Wesley Hammond name a taskforce to research possible uses and recommend a strategy. The seven-member team will offer reports at the board’s December meeting and its April 2015 session.
Meeting at the Baptist Building in Jefferson City July 14-15, the board agreed to use just over $152,089 from the Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma to make payments on the land the MBC was able to purchase from a third party.
After dealing with the financial strain of legal action the MBC filed against Windermere and four other formerly affiliated entities, Windermere administrators and trustees sold 943 acres of the 1,300-acre property to National City Bank of the Midwest in 2005 as part of a loan-restructuring plan to cover Wilderness Creek, the first phase of a long-range expansion plan.
Windermere, The Baptist Home, the Missouri Baptist Foundation, Missouri Baptist University and Word & Way had each changed its governing documents to allow each to elect its own trustees. In 2002, the MBC filed a lawsuit in Cole County to regain control of them. It lost against Windermere and voluntarily dismissed Word & Way.
The late William R. Jester purchased 943 acres through his Windermere Development Company Inc. of Springfield in March 2006, intending to develop the area to fit into the center’s long-range plan that dated from 1992.
The convention stalled development by filing a lawsuit in Camden County, where the property is located. Though the MBC lost the Camden County action, Windermere Development filed bankruptcy to halt a foreclosure sale on the acreage in 2010.
The mortgage on the land, including the additional acres, was picked up by Desert Capital REIT, an investor loss recovery center currently under bankruptcy proceedings. Desert Capital sold the land, valued at $11.5 million, to the MBC for $1.6 million.
In other action at the July session, the board approved allowing the convention to raise $200,000 for a learning center and boardroom in honor of Larry Lewis, to be located on the first floor of the Baptist Building.
A longtime pastor, Lewis served as president of Hannibal-LaGrange College (now University) in Hannibal, Mo., and president of the Southern Baptist Convention Home (now North American) Mission Board in Atlanta, Ga. He currently is an MBC board member.
Word & Way continues to be excluded from MBC Executive Board meetings.