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Mo Baptist Cases

Why has the Missouri Baptist Convention been involved in litigation for 15 years?

As you know, Baptist state conventions help local churches cooperate in shared ministry. In Missouri, churches created corporations for ministries like colleges, children’s homes, and nursing homes. At annual meetings, messengers from churches elect Trustees for each corporation to oversee these shared ministries.

In the late 90s, annual meetings elected candidates committed to the inerrancy of Scripture. This was Missouri's version of the SBC's Conservative Resurgence (or "battle for the Bible").

In 2000 and 2001, leaders of five MBC ministries saw these trends and attempted to "break away." They amended their documents to end the churches' election of their trustees. This removed them from meaningful accountability to the cooperating churches. So, besides breaking trust with generations of Baptist donors and churches, the "breakaway" challenged the ability of Baptists to ever create ministries that would remain accountable to local churches.

The Convention pursued Christian conciliation and arbitration, but it was declined. So in 2002, the churches voted to ask a court whether the changes by all five corporations followed Missouri law.

The key issue is whether each corporation’s documents had a “consent clause” requiring the MBC to approve charter amendments. Two of the organizations didn't include that language; thus, courts said they could erase all Convention's rights. Since 2010, the courts have been addressing the three agencies that do have this language. Many judges have said the corporations must follow their own documents' processes. Still, the three agencies argued they were different, somehow. No judges have agreed.

The Missouri Baptist Foundation returned to the Convention in 2016. Its insurer has paid $6.5 million toward the Convention's legal fees. Recently, Missouri Baptist University and the Baptist Home have been ordered to return. The corporations plan to appeal, but the judge's opinion is strong. The Convention expects them, too, to return home.

At the 2017 annual meeting, Messengers welcomed the Foundation back to regular cooperation. They also voted to end budgeting for more agency restoration expense in the 2018 Cooperative Program budget.

Kansas City attorneys Michael and Jonathan Whitehead serve as Convention legal counsel.

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