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Mo. leader cautions against Windermere bond purchases

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (BP)—The Missouri Baptist Convention’s executive director, in a Dec. 14 letter to pastors and other church leaders across the state, cautioned against the purchase of any bonds involving Windermere Baptist Conference Center in central Missouri.

Ownership of the 1,300 conference center is in legal dispute, jeopardizing the viability of any Windermere bonds, Clippard stated in his letter. Windermere is one of five breakaway entities that the Missouri convention is seeking to recover by a court declaratory judgment that the entities’ trustees violated state law when they fashioned self-perpetuating boards without MBC approval, ending MBC trustee selection.

The full text of Clippard’s letter follows:

“This letter is being sent to you because we have recently learned of the possibility that some of our good Baptist people in your church may be approached to purchase investment bonds involving Windermere Baptist Conference Center, in Camden County, Missouri. We are concerned that potential investors might not realize that such bonds could be voided by a court in Cole County, causing people to lose their personal investment. We don’t want individual investors to get hurt because of lack of information. We wish Windermere would disclose more facts, but based on what we know now, I felt it was urgent to get out this message to all Missouri Baptist pastors/shepherds and other church leadership so you can share it with your members.

“You may have been following news reports about the financial condition of Windermere. On November 15, 2005, Windermere reported in a public record, IRS Form 990, that it had $21 million of debt at the end of 2004. Most of this debt was owed to a bank which had a mortgage on the real estate. The same week, Windermere announced the departure of Frank Shock from CEO duties. In early December, 2005, Windermere, according to public records, conveyed via a special warranty deed, 900+/- acres of its real estate to private developers. All of this is very disturbing news to Missouri Baptists.

“Now it has been reported that Windermere may try to sell bonds to the public through a broker to help re-finance this debt. Instead of commercial banks being at risk, individual investors might be placed at risk, if they buy these bonds. We want to urge all Missouri Baptists to be very careful about such investments, if they are offered to you. The name of the bond broker is ‘California Plan of Church Finance, Inc.’

“Investors should be aware that the MBC legal action in Cole County Circuit Court asks the judge to declare that the breakaway board has no legal authority to mortgage land or to sell bonds. MBC is seeking to recover ownership or control of the Windermere real estate. MBC will ask the court to cancel any debts, mortgages or bond obligations incurred by the breakaway board. Hence, individual bond investors could lose their money. It would seem prudent under the circumstances to wait for the outcome of the MBC litigation before deciding to invest in Windermere bonds.

“Please share this with your church family. We will try to keep Missouri Baptists informed through Pathway about other details we learn about the Windermere situation.”

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