The Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) has asked the Circuit Court of Cole County to restore The Baptist Home and Missouri Baptist University to the MBC family.
The Baptist Home, a three-campus senior adult residential ministry, broke away from the convention in September 2000, declaring its board of trustees to be independent and self-perpetuating. In August 2001, Missouri Baptist University (MBU), a four-year college in Clayton, Mo., took the same action, amending its charter to remove all ties to the MBC.
Their moves away from the MBC were similar to steps the Missouri Baptist Foundation took in September 2001, resulting in legal efforts by the MBC to restore the institutions. Those actions began in August 2002 and continued until September of 2016, when the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that the Foundation must return governance to trustees elected by Missouri Baptists at their annual meeting.
The cases involving the Baptist Home and MBU were stayed by the trial court until the Foundation case was finally resolved in the Missouri Supreme Court, so that common questions of law could be decided. That’s because the Baptist Home and MBU each have consent clauses in their charters that are nearly identical to the clause in the Foundation charter that prohibited the entity from making changes in its charter without the approval of the convention.
MBC General Counsel Michael Whitehead believes the Foundation decision provides a legal precedent for the cases involving the other breakaway entities. In filing a separate motion as to each entity on Dec. 2, the MBC asked the Circuit Court of Cole County to grant a summary judgment to the MBC, effectively restoring governance of each entity to MBC-elected trustees.
“We are grateful to the Lord for restoring the Foundation to our stewardship,” said John Yeats, executive director of the MBC. “We also are thankful to Missouri Baptists, who showed remarkable patience and resilience over the last 15 years as we sought the Foundation’s return. We now pray that the Circuit Court of Cole County returns the Baptist Home and MBU to the MBC family.”
Circuit Court Frank Conley, who also decided the Foundation case, is expected to rule on the MBC’s motion after allowing defense lawyers to file written responses. A ruling could come by early next year.
Regarding Windermere Conference Center, which also broke away from the MBC, Whitehead notes that the consent clause – which is key to the cases of the Foundation, Baptist Home, and MBC – was deliberately omitted from the Windermere charter when it was filed in 2000, resulting in a court decision that MBC could not recover the Windermere corporation or the land.
In 2014, MBC was able to re-purchase 970 acres of land which had been lost by Windermere to a creditor. Windermere is no longer involved in the legal proceedings related to the senior adult home and the university.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reported by the staff of The Pathway, mbcpathway.com, newsjournal for the Missouri Baptist Convention.)