August 13, 2002
Dear Missouri Baptist Pastor:
I wanted you to hear firsthand from me about the action we have taken which we believe is necessary, although regrettable, in order for us to fulfill the mandate given to us by Missouri Baptist churches at the convention last fall.
Five Missouri Baptist agencies have for many years received Missouri Baptist funds in consideration for Missouri Baptist accountability. Each agency charter promised that Missouri Baptists had the right to elect agency trustees. Then the corporations secretly changed their charters without MBC approval, and started electing their own trustees. The agencies include The Baptist Home, Missouri Baptist College, Missouri Baptist Foundation, Windermere Baptist Conference Center, and Word and Way newspaper.
As you know, the Convention directed that I work with the Executive Board to take all steps necessary to restore five MBC agencies to their former relationship of accountability to Missouri Baptists. I appointed a task force, chaired by Pastor Gary Taylor of First Baptist Church of O'Fallon, to work with me on this matter. No one has tried harder than Gary Taylor and I to try to resolve this legal issue out of court. We have urged the agencies to rescind their unlawful charter amendments. We offered repeatedly to submit to binding arbitration. All five agencies have repeatedly rejected all of these requests. When the agencies refused to select a Christian arbitrator, they were, in effect, leaving no choice but to select a civil judge.
Today, attorneys representing Missouri Baptists filed a petition for declaratory judgment in circuit court in Cole County, Missouri. This is not a lawsuit seeking money for personal injury or personal offenses. We are asking a judge to read the corporate documents and to declare what the law is: were the amendments lawful or unlawful? Do Missouri Baptists still have the right to elect trustees, based on the former charters, or not?
This is a matter of stewardship toward to the Missouri Baptists who have given generously for generations, expecting these agencies would continue to be accountable to Missouri Baptists. Many of these donors cannot speak for themselves. We have a duty to speak for them, to seek justice for them. It is right for us to demand that these corporations submit to civil authorities (Romans 13) and to obey the corporate law of Missouri.
If this involved my personal funds which were wrongfully taken by an individual believer, I would have the right to drop the matter if I wanted. But this involves "other people's money," for which leaders are simply stewards. We don't have the right to ignore or cover up corporate law-breaking. As president of the Convention, I have a duty to pursue these corporations and to restore their lawful relationship to the MBC, as directed by Missouri Baptists.
I enclose several items to help you and your church understand what action has been taken and why. Please pray for all Missouri Baptists during these difficult days, that a declaration or resolution will come soon. Meanwhile, we are taking steps to be sure that every dollar given by Missouri Baptists to the Cooperative Program is delivered promptly to ministries that remain faithful and accountable to Missouri Baptists, as we work together to make Him known.
Yours in Christ,
Robert Curtis, President
Missouri Baptist Convention