The Pathway's Spin

March 05, 2008

The Pathway put out their predictable spin and distortions about losing their lawsuit against Windermere Baptist Conference Center. In their piece they also promise to appeal the decision, which means that tragically they seem committed to wasting more money and time on this attack on the life-changing ministry of Windermere. Here are a few of the problems with their response.

First, they complain that they did not get a jury trial. The piece starts by stating, "A trial judge March 4 canceled the jury trial." However, that is incorrect as the judge actually cancelled that over a month ago and told everyone that he would rule on the case himself. Then the Missouri Baptist Convention's attorney Michael Whitehead said, "We are deeply disappointed that a jury did not get to hear the evidence." He is suggesting that their case did not get the full attention that it should have. However, Callahan canceled the trial because there were "uncontroverted facts sufficient to enter summary judgment on enough legal issues to dispose of every claim between Plaintiffs and Windermere." In essence, he said it was so obvious that the MBC's case did not have merit that he offered his ruling based on his expert understanding of the law. There was no point in wasting everyone's time and money--especially that of those innocent people who would have been chosen to be the jury--to deal with a case that clearly had no legal merit.

Second, they claim they will win in the appeals court because they did last time. However, there are two very important differences this time. The first dismissal was over the issue of standing but this one is on the merits of the case. The first judge ruled that the MBC did not have proper standing to bring the lawsuit but the appeals court disagreed and sent it back. This judge, however, ruled not on the technical issue of standing but on the merits of the case. Thus, this is not the same decision and cannot be expected to be treated the same by the appeals court. The second important difference is that the make-up of the appeals court has drastically changed. Two of the three appeals judges--including the one who wrote the decision--have left the bench. The significance of this is that neither of them should have ever ruled on the case because of conflicts of interest that I exposed in an Ethics Daily article. The pastor's wife of one of the judges was on the MBC's legal task force committee that led to the lawsuit's filing. And the other judge served on board of regents for Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, which the MBC funds. Thus, the MBC's "victory" only came as a result of two judges that should have removed themselves from the case. With those two judges now gone, there may actually be a fair ruling this time.

Third, the piece continues to misrepresent the relationship between Windermere and Missouri Baptists. MBC interim executive director David Tolliver stated, "I wholeheartedly disagree with the judge's verdict. Missouri Baptists purchased Windermere, funded Windermere and built Windermere and now it has been taken from us." The problem he is making is confusing Missouri Baptists to be synonymous with the Missouri Baptist Convention. Windermere has not been taken from Missouri Baptists. It is still run, supported, and used by Missouri Baptists. Even the MBC can go to Windermere. The life-changing ministry of Windermere has not changed. It is still focused on serving people and sharing the love of Jesus. In fact, last year was the biggest and best year ever for Windermere and this year is already looking like it will surpass that record. All of that will make for an exciting 50th anniversary celebration in September. So while The Pathway continues their spin and attacks, the ministry of Windermere continues to changes lives.