Church Mutual makes partial settlement in MBF case - Word&Way

Church Mutual makes partial settlement in MBF case

The insurer for the Missouri Baptist Foundation has paid $5 million to the Missouri Baptist Convention toward a settlement in ongoing litigation between the two Baptist entities.

Church Mutual Insurance Co. reached a partial settlement with the MBC early in December and submitted the payment to the convention on Jan. 6, according to news reports. However, the agreement does not negate the insurance firm’s obligation to the Foundation.

The insurer decided to offer a partial settlement, even though a Foundation appeal is pending in the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District.

In an email statement, Foundation President Chris Calmer said trustees were surprised at the insurer’s decision.

“Insurance companies are required to manage their risks, and Church Mutual made a unilateral decision to settle the financial claims of this case despite not having a final ruling from the courts,” Calmer said.

The MBF “had no part” in the insurer’s decision, he added.

On Jan. 14, Calmer said Church Mutual would continue to cover the Foundation’s defense in the ongoing legal tangle.

The Church Mutual partial settlement stems from a lawsuit in Cole County the MBC filed in 2002 against five formerly affiliated entities, including the Foundation, Word & Way, The Baptist Home, Missouri Baptist University and Windermere Baptist Conference Center in an attempt to regain control of the institutions after each had changed its governing documents to elect its trustees.

Windermere won in the Cole County case and in separate legal action the MBC filed against the center in Camden County. The convention voluntarily dropped Word & Way from the Cole County litigation. The MBC continues to pursue legal action against The Home and MBU.

Church Mutual based its settlement on financial losses the convention claims and not on Judge Frank Conley’s ruling in Cole County last June in the convention’s favor, according to news reports. His decision would require the Foundation to pay court costs, legal fees and interest estimated at about $5 million. The MBF is appealing the ruling.

Foundation trustees continue to insist they changed the institution’s governing documents to protect its fiduciary responsibilities to its clients.

“The action was not taken to cause any injury to the Convention or the churches which are affiliated with it…. [T]he Foundation has honored and respected ‘historic Baptist trusteeship’ throughout the twelve years of this litigation. It will continue to do so in the future,” noted Foundation Board Chair Larry Guess in an email statement.