JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (ABP) — Attorneys for the Missouri Baptist Convention have filed a motion which, if granted, would renew the convention's legal battle with five of its affiliated entities.
In a motion filed March 24, Michael Whitehead and Stanton Masters asked Judge Thomas Brown to reconsider his recent dismissal judgment, to clarify the order that dismissed the case against the agencies, and to allow the convention to amend the list of plaintiffs in the original case.
A hearing on the new motion is set for April 5 in Jefferson City.
In 2001, Windermere Baptist Conference Center, Word & Way newspaper, the Missouri Baptist Foundation and Missouri Baptist University changed their corporate charters to allow them to elect their own trustees rather than to continue to allow the Missouri Baptist Convention to elect them. The Baptist Home trustees had taken the same action a year earlier.
The convention, along with six of its churches, filed legal action against the institutions in 2002. But Judge Brown ruled March 11 that the convention and the six churches that filed the original action did not have legal standing to do so.
In their new motion, convention attorneys point out that by dismissing the case based on standing, the court does not determine who controls the five entities — the institutions' trustees or the convention. They argue that “a quarter of a billion dollars in ministry assets is at issue” and that the entities should not be allowed to “redefine the denomination's constitution in a way to escape accountability for charter promises.”
The attorneys asked the judge to reconsider his March 11 order and the outlined points they presented during an earlier hearing. The motion also asked the judge to clarify the order because the ruling came as a result of a motion by Missouri Baptist University, and the other four entities were not specifically named.
The attorneys also are asking to substitute individual convention messengers as plaintiffs in the case in place of the six churches. If the judge allows the substitution, the motion notes, the convention's lawyers will try to “certify messengers as a class.”
— Vicki Brown is a news writer for the Word & Way.