MBC wins first round in Missouri appeals court
By Bob Baysinger
August 3, 2004
KANSAS CITY – The Missouri Baptist Convention is the winner of round one at the appeals court level in the ongoing legal struggle to restore the five breakaway agencies.
In a July 21 decision, the Missouri Court of Appeals at Kansas City denied a motion by Missouri Baptist College to dismiss the appeal and make the “judgment entered in the trail court … the final judgment.”
“The college was asking the court to rule on a procedural motion so the churches representing the Missouri Baptist Convention and the Executive Board would not get an opportunity to talk about the facts ever again,” said Stan Masters, a member of the MBC legal team.
“It was a convoluted argument with no real support under Missouri law. The college’s motion represented another attempt by the defendants to deprive the plaintiffs of their day in court, and the Missouri Court of Appeals said ‘no.’”
Clyde Farris, attorney for Missouri Baptist College, filed the motion to dismiss the appeal. Laurence Tucker, attorney for the Missouri Baptist Foundation, belatedly joined Farris in the request for dismissal, but by then the court already had denied the college’s motion.
The lawsuit was taken to the appeals court after Cole County Circuit Court Judge Tom Brown ruled last April that neither the churches of the Missouri Baptist Convention, nor the Executive Board, had standing to seek a declaratory judgment against the five MBC agencies.
The five – Missouri Baptist College, Word and Way, The Baptist Home, Missouri Baptist Foundation and Windermere Conference Center – had charters which guaranteed the Convention’s continued control via the exclusive right to elect agency trustees.
Three of the agency charters guaranteed the exclusive right of the Convention to approve all charter amendments. Paying no regard to their charters, all five agencies filed amended charters with the Missouri Secretary of State and declared themselves to be independent, self-electing boards – all without Convention or Executive Board approval.
The MBC through six representative churches – Concord Baptist, Jefferson City; Springhill Baptist, Springfield; Oakwood Baptist, Kansas City; First Baptist, Branson; First Baptist, Bethany; and First Baptist, Arnold – and the Executive Board filed the suit for declaratory judgment, asking the court to declare the five agencies are still subject to accountability and control of the MBC and the Executive Board.
The appeals court also extended until Aug. 16 the date for MBC attorneys to file all legal documents and transcripts with the court of appeals.
The decision by Judge Edwin Smith provided a welcomed change for the Convention following a string of negative decisions at the lower court in Jefferson City.
Brown handed down a major decision on Nov. 13, 2003, ruling in favor of the college on its request for summary judgment. Brown said that the Convention was not a member of the college, and the Convention had no right to approve the college’s charter change on that basis.
Brown forced the lawsuit to a higher court with a March 11 ruling which said that neither the churches of the MBC, nor the Executive Board, had standing.
“The court has no jurisdiction to proceed, and therefore, it must dismiss the plaintiffs’ amended petition,” Brown said.
MBC attorneys asked Brown to reconsider his judgment of dismissal, but Brown again ruled against the Convention. On April 7, he said the plaintiffs did not have a legally protectable interest in the litigation and could not be granted permission to file an amended petition. The Plaintiff churches and the Executive Board seek to overturn these rulings, among others made by Brown, in the Court of Appeals.