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Messengers to this year's annual meeting will be asked to authorize the use of Cooperative Program funds - if needed - to pay legal fees in its court action against five affiliated institutions.

Members of the Missouri Baptist Convention Executive Board passed a proposal at their meeting April 13 to include The Baptist Home, Missouri Baptist University, Missouri Baptist Foundation, Windermere Baptist Conference Center and Word&Way in the MBC 2005 budget. According to a story on The Pathway Web site, the money - about $1.2 million - would then be placed in the Executive Board's Agency Restoration Fund (ARF) to be used to pay for legal costs.

Messengers to the 2003 annual meeting agreed to establish ARF. The fund was supposed to have been supported by gifts - given above CP - from Missouri Baptist churches. Only $3,779 was contributed to the ARF fund from Jan. 1 to March 31 this year, according to a financial report distributed at the April Executive Board session.

Valerie Eades offered the motion, which was opposed by only a few board members, The Pathway reported. According to the story, MBC executive director David Clippard noted that money left in the ARF after legal costs are covered would be available to the five agencies if the courts eventually rule in the convention's favor.

According to the March financial report, the convention staff placed $280,000 into the Strategic Initiatives/ARF fund during the first quarter. Apparently, the money came from a $1 million line of credit messengers also authorized at the 2003 annual session. Figures in the March report indicate $225,151 as a notes payable liability on Dec. 31, 2003. By March 31, the debt had reached $505,151.

The SI/ARF fund showed a balance of $19,409 on Dec. 31, and the report noted an additional $129 in adjustments. The convention paid out $299,232 in legal fees in the first quarter of 2004, leaving the fund's balance at $306 on March 31.

The MBC has already spent at least $1 million-plus to force the five entities to rescind charters that each filed with the Missouri Secretary of State to allow each to elect its own board members. The Baptist Home changed its charter in 2000, and the other four took the same action the following year. The convention filed legal action against the five entities on Aug. 13, 2002. (4-22-04)

 
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