A trial judge stayed any further transfer of governance of the Missouri Baptist Foundation to trustees elected by the Missouri Baptist Convention while the matter is on appeal.
Judge Frank Conley’s judgment of June 6, 2014, ordered the ouster of Foundation trustees not elected by the MBC. Conley met with legal counsel for the convention and for the Foundation at the Cole County Courthouse on March 4 to hear a motion filed by Foundation attorneys seeking clarification of Conley’s order. The judge and lawyers conferred on the issues and then agreed to stay any further implementation of the judgment during the appeal.
The MBC-elected board of trustees for the Foundation had begun to take steps to be recognized as the board, and had proposed a transition plan that would ensure a stable transfer of governance should the appeals court affirm the trial court. MBC attorneys argued that the Foundation’s failure to post an appeal bond triggered an automatic transfer in control to the MBC-elected board. When the MBC’s attorneys raised the issues with the Foundation’s attorneys and some vendors, the Foundation moved to clarify the order.
Judge Conley’s 2014 judgment, like that of prior Judges Paul Wilson and Byron Kinder, ordered the eventual ouster of all self-perpetuating trustees because they had “engaged in intentional misconduct” which “knowingly and purposefully violated the Convention’s rights.” Wilson ordered that any trustees not elected by the MBC should forfeit their trusteeship immediately, but Kinder stayed the ouster pending appeal, and Conley’s latest order expressly adopted Kinder’s stay language.
In its motion, the Foundation’s attorneys argued that the convention couldn’t complain about risk to its investments during the appeal since the executive board “could have withdrawn its funds at any time, but has not done so.” Foundation attorneys also cited a recent letter by an MBC leader, complimenting a Foundation leader, as evidence that a change in control was not truly necessary during the appeal.
Leaders of the MBC-elected trustees of the Foundation expressed disappointment in the delay, and in the Foundation’s unwillingness to plan a smooth transition for the benefit of individual and institutional clients of the Foundation, and for Missouri Baptists generally.
“We remain confident that the courts will return the Foundation to the MBC family,” said John Yeats, MBC executive director. “While Judge Conley’s decision delays the process, it does not change the series of court rulings in our favor on the point of who has the legal right to govern our agencies. For now, we prayerfully return our focus on asking the Court of Appeals to uphold Judge Conley’s order and to return this vital ministry to Missouri Baptists.”