JEFFERSON CITY – Last month, as Missouri Baptist churches received their remittance forms for Cooperative Program (CP) and designated giving in 2018, church leaders noticed something different. Starting Jan. 1, 2018, there is no longer the option to give to CP through Plan A or Plan B.
That’s because messengers at the 2017 Annual Meeting approved a 2018 budget that no longer allocates a portion of CP funding for “agency restoration.” And that’s good news for Missouri Baptists, according to Dr. John Yeats, the MBC’s executive director.
Until now, when churches gave to CP through Plan A, 3 percent was set aside to assist the MBC with legal expenses related to restoring several agencies that broke away from the convention – specifically Missouri Baptist University, The Baptist Home, Windermere Baptist Conference Center, and the Missouri Baptist Foundation.
Plan B, however, allowed churches to support CP ministries without designating any funds for legal expenses. This option accommodated churches that wanted to continue supporting MBC and Southern Baptist ministries but did not want their CP dollars to fund the litigation.
Now, thanks to recent legal victories and an insurance settlement, all Missouri Baptists may rest assured that no more Cooperative Program gifts are needed for agency restoration.
The Foundation comes home
In December 2014, the MBC reached a $5 million settlement from the Foundation’s insurer, Church Mutual Insurance Company. The proceeds enabled the convention to become debt-free, and to set aside reserves for concluding the litigation.
More good news followed in 2016, when the Foundation came home to the MBC after the Missouri Supreme Court turned back a final appeal from the Foundation. A short time later, in a smooth transition, MBC-elected trustees were seated and Neil Franks was named president.
Later that year, the MBC asked the Circuit Court of Cole County to rule in the convention’s favor regarding the Baptist Home and Missouri Baptist University, the two remaining agencies that refuse to seat trustees elected by Missouri Baptists.
The court ruled in the MBC’s favor in September of 2017. Both MBU and the Baptist Home have appealed, with a decision expected in 2018.
“We are so thrilled to have the Foundation back home,” said Yeats. “Under the leadership of newly elected President Neil Franks, great things are happening for Missouri Baptists and their local churches.”
Awaiting the appeals court
Yeats continued, “We also are greatly encouraged by the ruling of Judge Karl DeMarce in Cole County regarding MBU and The Baptist Home, and we believe the Appeals Court will affirm his ruling that MBC-elected trustees should govern both agencies. What a joy it would be to have these fine institutions back in the MBC family.”
For MBC churches that have given through Plan B, no action is necessary, according to Yeats. The churches that once gave according to this option simply continue to contribute to the Cooperative Program as always, but do not have to designate Plan B on their remittance forms. “And they may rest assured that every penny given through CP goes to ministry, and none to litigation,” he said.
“I encourage all Missouri Baptists to pray for wisdom as we conclude the legal process of bringing home our entities,” said Yeats. “Pray also for all of the residents and staff of the Baptist Home and for the students, faculty, and administration of MBU. These are fine institutions. Our issue has always been about governance: Who has the legal right and fiduciary responsibility to govern these entities? We have argued that it is a board of trustees duly elected by Missouri Baptists — and the courts have affirmed that position.”
It should be noted that Windermere, which has a differently worded charter than the Foundation, MBU, and the Baptist Home, was lost to the MBC in 2013 when the Missouri Supreme Court refused to reconsider a Camden County judge’s ruling that denied the convention’s bid for a jury trial. However, in 2014 the MBC purchased from a third party approximately 970 acres, redeeming about 75 percent of the camp’s original 1,300 acres at a huge discount.