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Appeals court stands by ruling against Mo. breakaway entities

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–The Missouri Baptist Convention won another ruling over five breakaway entities Aug. 2 when the Missouri Court of Appeals in Kansas City denied motions for a rehearing or a transfer of the case.

After the appeals court had ruled in favor the convention in an order dated May 3, the five entities filed motions seeking a rehearing by the court or transfer of the case to the Missouri Supreme Court in Jefferson City.

In its Aug. 2 ruling, the appeals court refused to grant a rehearing of the case before the same three-judge panel or the full court en banc. The court also refused to transfer the case to the Missouri Supreme Court. The court did not comment on its reasons, but summarily denied the entities’ motions.

Michael Whitehead, the Missouri convention’s legal counsel, said the court of appeals “has heard enough of the agencies’ procedural mind games, about the convention lacking standing because it doesn’t exist.”

“As we expected, the court did not want to hear a re-hash of the arguments of April 20. The court wants the trial judge to move ahead with this case, to reach the real issue: Does MBC have the right to enforce the charter promises that MBC shall elect trustees of these agencies?”

The breakaway entities have 15 days to file yet another motion in the Missouri Supreme Court asking that court to intervene, but history would suggest that the Supreme Court is unlikely to grant an appeal at this stage in the proceedings. “After the case has been tried, and final judgment entered, the Supreme Court may choose to review a case, but this case has not even been to trial yet,” Whitehead said. “They won’t want to hear pieces now, and then have to hear other pieces of the case after trial.

“We wish the agencies would stop dragging this out, with all their procedural motions, but history would suggest that they will continue to use every procedural delay they can,” Whitehead said. “They just don’t have much to say when it comes to the substance of the case, so they will keep trying to talk about procedural arguments to delay things. But judgment day is coming, and they will have to answer for their wrongful breakaway.”

Once the Missouri Supreme Court appeal is denied, the appeal case, MBC I, will be consolidated with the recently filed petition, MBC II, also pending in Cole County. Whitehead said some limited discovery is still underway in MBC II, including the scheduling of depositions of Jim Hill, the convention’s former executive director who now serves as executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Missouri, the competing convention which is aligned with the breakaway entities.
Reported by The Pathway, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Conveniton, on the Web at www.mbcpathway.com.

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