JEFFERSON CITY – It’s an exciting new day at your Missouri Baptist Foundation!
In this quarter’s column, it is my privilege as the incoming chairman of the board of trustees to bring you this brief report on recent developments at the Foundation, and on some promising new and renewed partnerships that make the future even brighter.
First, an historic ruling by the Missouri Supreme Court on September 20, 2016, brought to a close a 15-year legal dispute about governance of the MBF, and restored a 70+ year-old relationship with the Missouri Baptist Convention and its 1,900 Southern Baptist Churches in Missouri.
The Foundation was incorporated by the MBC on August 5, 1948, by decree of the Cole County Circuit Court, creating a charter under which MBC elected MBF trustees and approved all charter changes. Then, on September 17, 2001, the board voted to break away from the MBC and filed an action in the same circuit court to become a “self-electing” board.
The MBC objected to this action, and for about a year urged non-judicial Christian resolution of the matter before eventually going to the same Cole County Court on August 13, 2002, to ask for a declaratory judgment to restore the MBC’s charter rights. The Cole County court ultimately held that the 2001 charter change was legally void, and restored the former MBF charter. The court also decreed that the MBC-elected trustees would be restored as the lawful board, which decree became final by action of the Missouri Supreme Court on September 20, 2016.
Even prior to September 20, MBF’s former chairman Larry Guess reached out to me and to MBC leaders to offer cooperation on the transition of governance for the benefit of staff and clientele. MBC Executive Director Dr. John Yeats joyously welcomed the Foundation back into the MBC family in a public statement. Productive meetings were held the next first few days to insure a smooth transition. We will keep you informed about other steps in the transition in the months ahead, but wanted to let you know about these initial decisions immediately.
The legal dispute focused on the issue of who has authority and responsibility to elect the members of the board that oversees the corporate affairs and the staff of the Foundation. It was never a question about the quality of the business decisions made by the previous board after the charter change, or the quality of the services provided by the staff.
The court decision restored the former corporate charter from 2001 and affirms that the Foundation is truly an entity tied to the Missouri Baptist Convention. That’s the Baptist way.
The Board informed the staff on September 28 that we were commencing a 90-day review period during which current staff will remain in their current jobs, providing the same client services as before. While the new board is reviewing some events of the past, we are primarily focused on the future. We are working to discover ways MBF can improve the quality of services to investors and Baptist institutions, in the most cost-effective manner.
As just one example, the new board quickly authorized changes recommended by interim President Stephen Mathis that update and maintain the Foundation’s website at a savings of thousands of dollars a year.
The board is also consulting with Robert Kellogg, president of the well-regarded Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma, to help us evaluate how our services and fees stack up against similar-size foundations across the United States, and to make recommendations on future growth.
Perhaps our biggest opportunity is to restore trusted relationships with Missouri Baptist pastors and their churches. Pastors can introduce our services to their congregations. Pastors can lead their people to be faithful stewards of their God-given resources even beyond the grave. Estate planning tools can help insure that the Lord’s priorities, and not the State’s, are carried out after the believer goes to heaven.
By introducing church members to the Foundation’s services, pastors can help their members better provide for their own families after death, and also bless the local church and other key ministries in their wills, trusts or other estate planning tools. Your Foundation stands ready to help you and your church members fulfill that stewardship.
Pastors, if you are interested in speaking with Foundation staff or new board members, please contact the Foundation at 1.800.776.0747.
The journey of the new board has just begun. We are excited for the future. We covet your prayers, and we welcome your questions about how we may be of service. We will continue to keep you informed, and to answer other questions in these columns in the future.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Floyd Gilzow, member of Concord Baptist Church in Jefferson City, serves as chairman for the MBC-elected board of trustees for the Missouri Baptist Foundation.