April 01, 2009

There are a few items out regarding Windermere's victory yesterday. Windermere put out a statement yesterday. Here are some highlights from it:

"We are pleased that the court has upheld Windermere's victory," states Windermere President/CEO Dan Bench. "We are not surprised, however, because we knew the three appellate judges and the circuit court judge had offered well-documented rulings on the merits of the case."

"We urge the MBC to accept these judicial rulings and allow Missouri Baptists to put this sad conflict behind us," adds Bench. "We pray no additional money, energy, or time will be wasted by further litigation efforts. Lives are being forever changed because of the life-changing ministry of Windermere and we welcome all Missouri Baptists to join with us."
Word&Way also had an article about the decision yesterday, a version of which was carried yesterday by the Associated Baptist Press.

The Pathway released its response today, which offers three main points. First, they promise to appeal to the state Supreme Court, which is sadly not surprising. In fact, the piece is more about the upcoming appeal than the actual news. They titled the piece "MBC to appeal to State Supreme Court." That is not the big news from yesterday. Of course, before the unanimous appeals court ruling in February, the MBC's attorney, Michael Whitehead, said it was unlikely the case would be reheard by the appeals court or the state Supreme Court. He quickly changed his tune after the MBC lost, which was the opposite of what he confidently predicted. The second point in the piece is the touting of the new argument Whitehead has talked MBC leaders into trying. He claims that this case does not matter because in the other lawsuit against Windermere the MBC is trying to get the land and not the corporation. Basically, he is now claiming that the Windermere corporation is a worthless shell company that never legally received its land. This argument, of course, contradicts all of his legal arguments prior to now. And if it were actually true, MBC leaders should fire Whitehead for wasting over six years and millions of dollars fighting for a worthless shell company. Instead, they just follow him each time he completely changes his story after a setback.

The final aspect of the piece--actually the largest part--is a response to last week's Ethics Daily report demonstrating how Cooperative Program money has been spent to fund the lawsuit, despite promises that this would not occur. Windermere's press release referred to the Ethics Daily report. In The Pathway response, David Tolliver and Randy Comer (both of whom are quoted in the Ethics Daily article) deny that CP money has been used. However, they do not offer any proof but merely expect us to trust them. Their "proof" is basically the "because I said so" response. Yet, can we trust them? After all, MBC leaders promised not to appeal or to sue individuals and they have done both of those actions. Additionally, the Ethics Daily article details five different ways that CP money was used as reported in the MBC's own audit reports, to a tune of more than $1.5 million. It seems that a more detailed response is necessary to such an accounting. Actually, there is not really even a debate here because Tolliver admits that the MBC used the Strategic Initiative Fund, which--as the Ethics Daily article explained--is CP money. It is time for them to be honest to Missouri Baptists. People deserve to know how their missions money is being spent. In this case, the answer is on a losing legal battle.

UPDATE [4-6-09]: In hindsight, I wonder if the MBC was trying to subtly admit that they are using CP money. After all, they released their denial on April 1. Maybe any day now they will say, "April Fools! We did it." The tone of the piece seems to support such a theory. They dismissed the Ethics Daily article as "a report by a freelance writer on an internet website." This statement, however, came in an article by "staff" on an internet website. On a better note, the Baptist Press put out an edited version of the story that included comments from Windermere (thus giving both sides) and changed the title to make it more accurate.