August 12, 2003
|Correction: In the previous web site edition, Jim Hill, former Missouri Baptist Convention Executive Director, was unintentionally identified as a member of the BGCM board of Directors. He is not on the BGCM board, nor has he ever been. Rather, it is his son, Jim Hill, Jr. who serves on the BGCM Board. The Pathway is glad to set the record is straight.|
JEFFERSON CITY – Depositions in the case involving the Missouri Baptist Convention and its five breakaway agencies began July 28 in the main conference hall at the Jefferson City Chamber of Commerce.
The depositions are being taken in anticipation of a trial involving the Missouri Baptist Convention’s (MBC) declaratory judgment petition filed last year in Cole County Circuit Court in Jefferson City against five of its agencies. The petition was filed after the MBC obtained a legal opinion indicating that trustee boards for the five agencies – Windermere Baptist Conference Center, Missouri Baptist Foundation, Missouri Baptist College, The Baptist Home and Word & Way – broke Missouri corporate law when they voted to become self-perpetuating. The trustee action ended decades in which MBC churches had been involved in the trustee selection process for the institutions which are said to have combined assets worth up to $200 million.
The taking of depositions represents the final phase of the discovery process, leading up to an actual trial. The trial is expected to begin in early 2004. However, Missouri Baptist College on July 7 filed for a summary judgment and it is possible Cole County Circuit Court Judge Tom Brown could rule on key parts of the case as early as September or October. All hearings will be heard before Judge Brown.
Approximately 40 witnesses have been subpoenaed by attorneys representing all six parties involved and depositions will be collected over the next five weeks. It is possible that more subpoenas are forthcoming. The depositions, which are taken under oath, are being video taped and transcribed, but will be held in confidence for 21 days from the time they are taken. At that point they will become public record. The proceedings are not open to the public. Each agency involved is allowed to have only one representative in the room — with the exception of attorneys.
Bart Tichenor, an attorney and employee for the state of Missouri, is a former Missouri CBF moderator and a leader in the new breakaway Baptist General Convention of Missouri (BGCM), was the first witness to testify July 28. The interest in Tichenor is due, in part, to his role on a 1978 study committee that analyzed ownership of MBC entities, which is often cited by lawyers representing the five breakaway institutions as authority for the trustee boards’ right to become self-perpetuating.
Tichenor also runs a web site, Missouribaptists.org that is frequently critical of the MBC and the Southern Baptist Convention. He injected himself into the legal battle by filing an amicus curiae brief opposing the MBC’s legal action against the five agencies. An analysis by The Pathway, news journal of the MBC, of the signatures on the brief revealed that 1,096 of the 2,485 individuals who signed are members of churches sympathetic to the CBF, Missouri CBF or the BGCM. The list reads like a virtual who’s who among the moderate/CBF movement in Missouri. Tichenor was questioned by Missouri Baptist Convention lead attorney Michael Whitehead for more than six hours.
During the depositions only the attorneys who have subpoenaed a witness may ask questions, but attorneys representing the witnesses may cross-examine.
Whitehead, from Kansas City, was joined in the room by the two other members of the MBC legal team, Stan Masters and James Freeman, both Kansas City attorneys as well.
The lone Missouri Baptist Convention staffer in the room was Pathway Managing Editor Bob Baysinger. Baysinger remained after objections were raised over two MBC staffers being in the room. Don Hinkle, editor of The Pathway, volunteered to leave and the proceedings began despite further objections over Baysinger’s presence. The objections were raised over his job as a reporter, but Whitehead debunked that argument by pointing out that Baysinger is a paid MBC staffer.
Also in attendance were Clyde Farris, a St. Louis attorney representing Missouri Baptist College; Jim Shoemake, an attorney with the St. Louis law firm of Guilfoil, Petzall, & Shoemake which represents the Word & Way, The Baptist Home and Windermere; and John Hardin, general counsel for the Missouri Baptist Foundation. Others in the room July 28 included Larry Johnson, president, The Baptist Home; and James Smith, president, Missouri Baptist Foundation.
Tichenor was but one of more than a dozen people subpoenaed by MBC attorneys. Among the others:
- Bill Webb, editor of Word & Way, the long-time news journal of the MBC until it was stripped of that title in 2002 by the MBC;
- Frank Shock, president of the picturesque Windermere facility with its miles of pristine lake-front property nestled in the Ozark Mountains. Windermere is now shackled with more than $2.4 million worth of liens filed against it by construction companies for work with which they have received little or no compensation. The construction was part of Shock’s grand plan to transform the beloved facility into a luxury resort. Instead it has become a financial nightmare, its landscape scarred with unfinished buildings and other projects put on hold due to a lack of funds.
- Jim Hill, the former MBC executive director who resigned in 2001 because he said he could not work with conservatives occupying the majority of seats on the MBC Executive Board. It was under Hill’s "watch" as MBC executive director that the trustee boards of the five entities voted to become self-perpetuating. Hill is a long-time supporter of the CBF. He is president and chief executive officer of Springfield-based Resource Development, Inc., which was in-charge of the controversial Windermere construction project.
- Other notables subpoenaed by MBC attorneys include: Larry Johnson, president of The Baptist Home; James Smith, president, Missouri Baptist Foundation; and Alton Lacy, president, Missouri Baptist College; Don Wideman, former MBC executive director (Wideman was succeeded by Hill) and Arthur Mallory, board chairman for Windermere.
Attorneys representing the five agencies have subpoenaed more than 20 people connected to the MBC. Among those: Roger Moran, a member of the SBC Executive Committee and research director for the Missouri Baptist Laymen’s Association; David Clippard, MBC executive director; and Monte Shinkle, MBC president and pastor, Concord Baptist Church, Jefferson City.
The complete list along with the dates and locations for their depositions are as follows beginning with those subpoenaed by MBC attorneys for questioning:
- Bart Tichenor, former moderator, Missouri CBF and a founding leader of the Baptist General Convention of Missouri – July 28 in Jefferson City
- Bill Webb, editor, Word & Way – July 30 in Jefferson City
- Larry Guess – Missouri Baptist Foundation board chairman – Aug. 6 in Jefferson City
- James Smith, Missouri Baptist Foundation chief executive officer – Aug. 7 in Jefferson City
- Don Wideman, former MBC executive director – Aug. 13 in Kansas City
- Arthur Mallory, long-time chairman of the Windermere board and former MBC president – Aug. 13 in Springfield
- Frank Shock, president, Windermere Baptist Conference Center, Aug. 14 in Springfield
- Randy Fullerton, former board chairman, Missouri Baptist College and pastor, Fee Fee Baptist Church, St. Louis – Aug. 18 in St. Louis
- Alton Lacey, president Missouri Baptist College – Aug. 19 in St. Louis
- Larry Johnson, president, The Baptist Home – Aug. 20 in St. Louis
- Robert Cox, chairman, Word & Way board of trustees – Aug. 21 in St. Louis
- Charles Limbaugh, Baptist Home trustee – Aug. 22 in St. Louis
- John Tindel, Word & Way trustee, tentatively for Aug. 25 in St. Louis
- Jim Hill, former MBC executive director – no date or location set
- Jerald Hill, an attorney for RDI and the brother of Jim Hill – no date or location set
- A representative of Walton Construction, project manager for the controversial Windermere expansion – no date or location set
- John Hardin, Missouri Baptist Foundation general counsel – no date or location set
- Duane Benton, former Missouri Baptist Foundation trustee – no date or location set
- Carl Cage – no date or location set
- Vernon Armitage, Windermere trustee and pastor, Pleasant Valley Baptist Church, Kansas City – no date or location set
- Ray Giles, Windermere trustee and former MBC Executive Board member – no date or location set
- Wade Paris, Baptist Home trustee – no date or location set
- William Copeland, a St. Louis attorney who formerly represented Missouri Baptist College — no date or location set.
Those subpoeanaed by attorneys representing the five breakaway entities include:
- Bob Curtis, former MBC president and pastor, Ballwin Baptist Church, Ballwin – July 29 in Jefferson City
- David Clippard, MBC executive director – July 31 in Jefferson City
- Kenny Qualls, former MBC president and MBC associate executive director – July 31 in Jefferson City
- Monte Shinkle, MBC president and pastor, Concord Baptist Church, Jefferson City – Aug. 1 in Jefferson City
- David Tolliver, member, MBC legal task force, former MBC recording secretary, and pastor, Pisgah Baptist Church, Excelsior Springs – Aug. 11 in Kansas City
- Chris Mason, pastor, Oakwood Baptist Church, Kansas City Aug. 11 in Kansas City
- Randy Comer, member, MBC legal task force and pastor, First Baptist Church, Bethany, Bethany – Aug. 11 in Kansas City
- Bob Collins, former MBC president and pastor, Plaza Heights Baptist Church, Kansas City – Aug. 12 in Kansas City
- Jay Scribner, former MBC president, chairman of the MBC Executive Board Administrative Committee and pastor, First Baptist Church, Branson. – Aug. 15 in Springfield
- Roger Moran, research director, Missouri Baptist Laymen’s Association – Aug. 21 in St. Louis
- Gerald Davidson, former MBC president and pastor, First Baptist Church, Arnold – Aug. 22 in St. Louis
- Jeff Purvis, MBC executive committee and pastor, Westport Community Church – tentatively for Aug. 25 in St. Louis
- Jim Plymale, former Missouri Baptist College trustee and director of missions for Franklin Baptist Association – tentatively for Aug. 25 in St. Louis
- Jim McCullen, MBC Executive Board, pastor, Liberty Baptist Church, Belgrade — tentatively for Aug. 25 in St. Louis
- Gary Taylor, former MBC president, chairman of the MBC Legal Task Force and pastor, First Baptist Church, O’Fallon, Mo. – (tentative) Aug. 25 in St. Louis
- Mark Inman, pastor