JEFFERSON CITY – For the third time, before the third judge, the Missouri Baptist Foundation (MBF) has lost its effort to escape from Missouri Baptist Convention governance and accountability—and from a $5 million price-tag for its misconduct. And for the third time, the MBF is taking its loss to the court of appeals in Kansas City.
On June 6, Cole County Circuit Judge Frank Conley entered judgment in favor of the MBC and against the MBF, and on Oct. 1, the judgment became “final.” Conley affirmed the prior rulings of Cole County Circuit Court Judges Paul Wilson in 2010 and Byron Kinder in 2011. All three judges agreed that the MBC had the legal right to elect MBF trustees and that the 2001 breakaway by a “self-perpetuating board” was illegal.
In addition, Conley ordered MBF (or its insurer) to pay more than $5 million to the MBC to compensate for the attorneys’ fees and costs it has paid over the past decade. Interest is to accrue on the fee amount since 2010, at the rate of 9 percent per annum.
On Oct. 10, MBF filed its notice of appeal, returning the case to the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, in Kansas City. But interest continues to accrue at about $30,000 per month.
All three judges have ordered the MBF to seat the trustees elected by the Missouri Baptist Convention in place of the self-perpetuating board of trustees that took control in 2001. All three have ordered that MBF must pay for MBC’s attorneys’ fees. Only Conley’s judgment set a dollar amount for the fee award.
Judge Conley issued his initial ruling on June 6, but MBF filed a “motion to amend the judgment” on July 3, which delayed the finality of Conley’s ruling for 90 days. On Oct. 1, after 90 days, the MBF motion was deemed overruled because of Conley’s inaction.
On Oct. 10, the last day under the rules, MBF filed its notice of appeal.
MBC attorneys said they are confident they can defend the three rulings by the three trial judges. The court of appeals panel will also consist of three judges who may hear oral arguments in six to nine months. If the case should go to the Missouri Supreme Court, there are seven judges on that panel now, including Wilson.
“We won’t speculate about what the Foundation may do, but our desire always has been to welcome back the Foundation into the MBC family once it seats the board members you elected,” said Rob Phillips, communications director for the MBC.
“Our desire is to welcome back the Foundation, the Baptist Home, and Missouri Baptist University,” Phillips said, noting that the MBF case is expected to be binding precedent as to the other two institutions.
“It’s been a lengthy and grueling journey so far — a legal roller coaster ride with more than its share of twists and turns,” Phillips says in a video report to the messengers at the MBC annual meeting at Tan-Tar-A Resort Oct. 27-29. “Yet we continue to press on, seeking to bring our agencies home, and praying for a God-honoring closure that now, more than ever, appears within our view.”
“We want all Missouri Baptists to focus on our ministries with kindness, forgiveness, and gentleness of spirit.”