Trustees put Windermere up as "collateral"
Beloved MBC camp now at mercy of $18 million loan
By Bob Baysinger
September 9, 2003
ROACH – Windermere Baptist Conference Center trustees have agreed to use the Missouri Baptist Convention’s (MBC) lucrative 1,300-acre property as collateral for an $18.5 million debt consolidation loan.
The loan, provided by Allegiant Bank of St. Louis, is set to be used to pay off contractors and subcontractors who had received no pay for work thus far on the Wilderness Creek project at Windermere last year. The loan also will be used to continue work on the project and consolidate approximately $8 million in existing loans.
Contractors, who stopped working on the Wilderness Creek job last December, were owed more than $4 million.
Kirk Brydon, Allegiant loan officer who handled the Windermere transaction, told The Pathway Sept. 4 that his bank "was aware" that Windermere was involved in a legal matter when the loan was made.
"We had to consider it," Brydon said, "but we were able to deal with it the best way we knew how."
When asked who would be responsible for the loan if the court ordered duly-elected MBC trustees to be seated at Windermere and the other four breakaway institutions, Brydon declined comment other than to say that such questions would have to be answered by the bank’s legal counsel.
Roger Moran, research director for the Missouri Baptist Layman’s Association, described the loan as ludicrous.
"What kind of bank would stick their neck out on a loan like this?" Moran asked. "In light of what is happening legally, who would want to lend money to an institution that appears to have been seized illegally? Why they would invest their resources into something like that appears to be irresponsible."
Work began on the Wilderness Creek project late last year even though financing was not in place for the project. When Windermere was unable to pay contractors for work completed, all work was halted and contractors began filing mechanic’s liens in Camden County Circuit Court.
Windermere is one of five Missouri Baptist institutions that have attempted to break away from the convention in 2001 and 2002. Trustees changed Windermere’s corporate charter, canceling the MBC’s right to elect agency trustees. The MBC has filed a suit for declaratory judgment in Cole County Circuit Court, charging that the trustee action is in violation of Missouri corporate law and asking the court to declare their charter-changing act illegal.
The MBC advised lenders after the lawsuit was filed last year that they would be proceeding at their own risk if they loaned money to Windermere.
Frank Shock, Windermere president, recently told the Springfield News-Leader that Windermere’s problems with financing has nothing to do with the lawsuit. He said the two events were not related and should not be confused.
"To me, it intermingles two very complex things that have nothing to do with each other," he said, adding that, "anytime you have conflict in an organization, it makes going forward more difficult."
A spokesman for Walton Construction, Rick Quint, told The Pathway that all debts have been satisfied by Windermere and work is expected to resume shortly. Windermere owed Walton more than $835,000.
Windermere announced in a recent newsletter that construction "will be resuming within a few weeks."
Shock said in a news release — published on Windermere’s Web site — that the new construction will provide space for more than 1,000 guests. "The expansion will allow Windermere to accommodate many larger conferences and groups that previously were unable to utilize the facilities because of limited space," Shock said.
No details were released by Shock concerning plans to retire the loan.
Calculations by The Pathway, however, show that if loan payoff is set up for monthly payments at six percent interest on a 20-year loan, Windermere will be paying $128,957 to retire the $18 million loan. Total interest over the life of the loan would be $13 million. Monthly payments on the same loan stretched over 30 years would be $107,919, with total interest of $20.8 million.
Windermere was purchased by the Missouri Baptist Convention in 1957. Other properties have since been added, and the Windermere site now contains more than 1,300 acres. Frank Shock became Windermere’s director in 1989, coming from Louisiana where he had served with the Louisiana Baptist Convention.
Moran said Missouri Baptists should never forget why the MBC finds itself in its present situation with Windermere and the four other agencies.
"When the churches that make up the MBC utilized the convention’s existing democratic process to change the pro-CBF (Cooperative Baptist Fellowship) course its leaders had charted, the convention’s hard-line moderate leadership simply ravaged the convention, seized as many of its institutions as possible, and then declared they would form a new, competing state convention," Moran said.
"When the convention’s democratic process no longer produced the results desired by the MBC’s moderate leadership, the will of the churches and the democratic process was rejected and the convention was plundered.
"As both sides prepare for their day in court, we may soon discover whether those who plundered the convention did so legally or illegally."