Judge upholds stay in MBF case - Word&Way

Judge upholds stay in MBF case

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Baptist Convention will have to back away from its claim that it is entitled to govern the Missouri Baptist Foundation now rather than waiting for a higher court decision.

Circuit Court Judge Frank Conley ruled March 4 that a stay Cole County Senior Judge Byron Kinder had issued with his May 13, 2011, decision remains in effect until all appeals are exhausted.

That ruling means the Foundation’s current board of trustees will continue to govern the entity until a higher court, either the Missouri Court of Appeals or the state’s Supreme Court, determines who will be in charge.

The MBC had taken steps to regain control of the Foundation by declaring that MBC-elected trustees were legally in charge of the MBF’s ministry.

The convention made that move in spite of the Foundation’s pending appeal of Judge Conley’s ruling in the MBC’s favor in Cole County last June. MBC attorneys said the judge intended for control of the Foundation to revert to the convention under the MBF original governing documents.

Foundation lawyers, however, said Judge Conley’s ruling did not negate the stay Judge Kinder had imposed.

The Foundation’s appeal is the latest step in a 2002 lawsuit the convention filed in Cole County against five formerly affiliated entities, including the MBF, 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 own trustees.

Judge Conley issued a final judgment against the Foundation on June 6, 2014, in which he ruled the MBF would return to its 1994 charter. The Foundation filed a notice of appeal last October, which the appeals court is still considering.

In an emailed letter to Foundation lead attorney Laurence Tucker dated Jan. 26, Michael Whitehead of the Kansas City-based Whitehead Law Firm alleged he represents the Foundation trustees, “as elected by the Missouri Baptist Convention.” Whitehead alleged Judge Conley’s ruling did not include a stay and that the Foundation’s self-elected trustees “are effectively removed, and are not legally entitled to take any action for or on behalf of” the MBF.

Whitehead also emailed a second letter in which he outlined the convention’s reasoning for convention-elected trustees to replace the current Foundation board and requested that letter be forwarded to the Foundation-elected trustees.

The MBC attorney contacted Commonfund, the Foundation’s investment partner, and the MBF’s insurance carrier, Church Mutual Insurance Co. According to its news journal The Pathway, the convention also notified Hawthorn Bank, a financial institution the MBF uses for funding operations.