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Former Mo. Bapt. property in foreclosure

CAMDENTON, Mo. (BP)–Property once owned by the Missouri Baptist Convention is now facing a foreclosure sale on the steps of Missouri’s Camden County courthouse Nov. 6 according to an Oct. 15 legal notice in the Lake Sun Leader, a newspaper in Camdenton, Mo.

Michael Whitehead, legal counsel for the MBC, said the foreclosure notice will not change the convention’s legal effort to recover five breakaway entities including the Windermere Baptist Conference Center.

“We are asking the Cole County court to declare that the MBC should get all 1,300 acres back, free and clear of any liens or other transfers. We intend to get that case to trial on Feb. 1,” Whitehead said.

“Meanwhile, we have a separate petition filed in Camden County, naming all the parties who are involved in this foreclosure. We expect to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent the transfer of this land to any third party,” Whitehead said. “Anyone who buys this land takes it subject to our pending litigation, and stands to lose it when we obtain a court judgment.”

Situated on the Lake of the Ozarks, Windermere Baptist Conference Center and four other entities changed their corporate charters in 2000-01 to stop the Missouri convention from electing their trustees.

The other four breakaway entities are the Baptist Home retirement center, Word & Way newsjournal, the Baptist Foundation and Missouri Baptist College. Combined assets of all the breakaway entities is about $250 million.

When the five entities resisted a Christian arbitration proposal from the MBC for more than a year, the convention filed a petition in August 2002 contending that the charter changes violated Missouri law.

In March 2001, the MBC transferred title to the land now in foreclosure to the Windermere Baptist Conference Center, whose trustees were to be elected by the convention as part of the convention’s 1999 “New Directions” reorganization initiated by former MBC Executive Director Jim Hill. That corporation’s board changed its charter to self-perpetuating status in July 2001, broke ties with the convention and claimed title to the 1,300-acres.

The Windermere board defaulted on a loan of more than $20 million in 2003 and then conveyed 941 acres of undeveloped land to its lender by a “deed in lieu of foreclosure.” In February 2006, developer William Jester of Springfield, Mo., acquired and mortgaged the 941 acres. Jester planned to build townhouses, villas, condominiums, private residences, commercial buildings and a possible retirement facility. Jester allegedly has defaulted on his mortgage, thus the foreclosure notice.

The Windermere corporation retains title to about 300 acres of developed lakefront property, now mortgaged to two California banks for about $14 million.

“The good news seems to be that Mr. Jester is not going to be cutting down more trees or developing this land while we are trying the Windermere case on Feb. 1,” Whitehead said.

“The foreclosure notice probably means that Mr. Jester cannot find other lenders who are willing to take the risk of investing money in this land during the pending litigation. They are wise not to do so.

“The breakaway boat is sinking,” Whitehead added. “This should strengthen the resolve of the MBC to recover these agencies.”
Reported by the staff of The Pathway, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.

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