Appeals court rules for MBC in case against Missouri Baptist Foundation - Word&Way

Appeals court rules for MBC in case against Missouri Baptist Foundation

The Western District Court of Appeals in Kansas City, Mo. — a three-judge panel — ruled May 24 in favor of the Missouri Baptist Convention in their 14-year legal battle over selection of the Missouri Baptist Foundation’s board of trustees.

Chief Judge Alok Ahuja announced the court’s decision upholding Cole County Circuit Court rulings that MBC is entitled to regain control of the foundation.

The order noted that orders by three different Cole County judges — Paul Wilson (2010), Senior Judge Byron Kinder (2011) and Special Judge Frank Conley (2014) — had all reached the same conclusion: “Amendments made by the Foundation to its organizational documents in 2001 were void; those amendments had the effect of eliminating various rights of the Convention to oversee and influence the Foundation’s actions. The court found the amendments to be void because they were adopted without the Convention’s prior review and approval, as required by the Foundation’s governing documents.”

Judge Ahuja’s opinion noted that judges agreed with Judge Conley’s opinion that governance of the foundation should be restored to the MBC-elected board of trustees.

The foundation responded with a written statement after the appeals court decision was announced.

“The foundation is now reviewing the decision and will decide what the appropriate next steps will be,” it said. “The foundation respects the judges of the Missouri courts and the work they do, even as it does not agree with the outcome.

“The foundation will continue to perform its duties to its clients as it has done for all the 70 years of its existence, seeking to serve the mission and ministry efforts of all Missouri Baptists,” the statement concluded.

The MBC originally filed suit against the foundation and four other entities — Windermere Baptist Conference Center, Missouri Baptist College (now University), The Baptist Home and Word & Way. The boards of all five had taken action to self-elect their trustees rather than to accept trustees elected by messengers to the MBC annual meeting each year.

While all five were named in a single suit, the court separated them out with trial consideration one at a time. The circuit court ruled in favor of Windermere in 2008, a decision the appeals court upheld in 2009. The MBC voluntarily withdrew its claims against Word & Way a year later.

Cases against The Baptist Home and Missouri Baptist University are pending.

The foundation had appealed two Cole County rulings in the case to the court of appeals. In the earlier appeal, Western District judges ruled in 2012 that Wilson’s decision was not final for appeals purposes and returned the case back to Cole County, where it was assigned to Conley. Conley upheld his two predecessors’ findings and resolved other issues the appeals court had said were omitted in the previous orders.

The foundation may appeal the appeals court ruling to the Missouri Supreme Court, its final option in the case.