MBC Continues to Mislead

May 11, 2010

As Missouri Baptist Convention leaders continue their nearly eight-year legal battle against several ministry organizations, they keep making false claims. In the past couple of weeks, two such examples occurred. First, comes the question of funding. The Word&Way reported that the MBC Executive Board recently loaned themselves money (again) to pay legal bills since churches are not giving enough missions money for the cause. They gave themselves $150,000 from the reserves fund, which is Cooperative Program money. They promise to pay it back. However, the last time they did this they took $316,000 and promised to pay it back within a year, but then had to take out a $500,000 bank loan to pay it back (while using CP money as collateral). That loan, of course, was on top of the $1.5 million bank loan they had already taken out (with their building as the collateral). So why should anyone trust that they will pay this new bridge loan back? Adding to the doubts is the fact that they have spent more than $1.5 in CP money on the lawsuits, despite promising not to (as documented in articles here and here). Right now, churches can designate their CP money for "Plan A" that will give 3% to the lawsuits or "Plan B" that will not. However, the recent news about the new bridge loan and the past information about their CP spending on the lawsuits means that either plan will likely result in one's missions money being spent on the lawsuits. Even though most churches are giving to "Plan B"--and thus clearly voting with their pocketbooks against giving money to the lawsuits--the MBC leadership continues to shuffle funds around to pay for a legal battle that they are losing.

The second recent item occurred last week when The Pathway ran an article full of spin. The article was about the latest action in the MBC's second lawsuit against Windermere Baptist Conference Center (the first one is completely dead with Windermere winning). In the second case, Windermere won at the district court level so the MBC appealed that decision. Then a couple of weeks ago, the appeals court dismissed that appeal and sent the case back to the judge without a ruling on the merits of the case because they wanted the judge to clarify if the dismissal was with or without prejudice (this is news that I broke first here). The headline for the Word&Way's article was: "Appellate court dismissal returns Windermere land issue to Camden County." And the first sentence of the article offered this: "The Missouri Baptist Convention's effort to reclaim land at Windermere Baptist Conference Center in Roach is back in the hands of Camden County Circuit Court after an appeal was dismissed April 30." These lines captured the decision well--no winners but instead a technical decision (that means the past year was wasted). But here is how The Pathway titled their "article" about the ruling: "MBC wins appeal regarding Windermere." And the first line of their "article" was: "The Missouri Baptist Convention won a crucial ruling by the Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District, in Springfield, on April 30, in its effort to recover the Windermere Baptist Conference Center in Camden County." The MBC's appeal was dismissed but they claim they won. Huh? These articles do not seem to be about the same ruling, but they are. Since when did having your appeal dismissed mean you won? Well, considering that every judge that has ruled on the merits of the case has ruled against the MBC, it might be true that any ruling that focuses on anything except the merits is good news for the MBC. But even that does not justify their spin (a nice word for lying) that they would claim they won their appeal that was actually dismissed. The fact is that the MBC's case against Windermere still remains dismissed since the dismissal was not overturned. Sadly, but predictably, the Baptist Press merely ran the MBC's spin without checking its accuracy. The Word&Way's article is not as sexy and its title is a little awkwardly long, but at least it is accurate. An article about a technical legal ruling demands proper nuance. Putting on 3-D glasses and traveling to another planet might make for good Hollywood entertainment, but such fantasy worlds have no business in a publication that claims to be a Christian newspaper.

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