Q&A: Windermere Redemption Project

The Missouri Baptist Convention has purchased from a third party approximately 970 acres of land formerly part of the MBC’s Windermere Baptist Conference Center. The Executive Board’s redemption of 75 percent of the camp’s original 1,300 acres follows a recommendation by a Board-appointed study group.

Please see the news release for further details.

Q:    What is the reasoning behind this action?

A:     There are three primary reasons the Board voted to acquire this lan

1)    Missouri Baptists have asked the Executive Board to “take all steps necessary” to return the Windermere land to convention governance. The acquisition of 75 percent of the camp was considered an opportunity to carry out the wishes of Missouri Baptists, especially given the Camden County Court’s decision that denied the MBC a jury trial.

2)    The lien holder of the property, Desert Capital REIT, sought to dispose of the property at a significant loss – less than one-third of its loan value in 2006 – meaning the MBC is acquiring property with a value exceeding the cost. Considering the assistance of the Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma, the Executive Board decided the move was a fiscally prudent way to fulfill the desire of Missouri Baptists.

3)    Missouri Baptists have a long history of ministry at the Lake of the Ozarks. The move allows the MBC to reassess this strategic vision, and the part that this land may play in our future. We believe the property may even open new doors of cooperation with Windermere on issues of joint concern, as our focus returns to ministry in that area rather than in litigation.

Q:   What was the price and how are you paying for it?

A:    The purchase price was$1.6 million. This is approximately 35 percent of the original loan value of $4.5 million, and a discount of more than 80 percent compared to the debt owed by Windermere Development Company, a company formed by William Jester in 2006. A $160,000 down payment was paid from reserve funds. The Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma financed the full amount of the purchase price at closing.

Q:   Why are you borrowing from the Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma?

A:    The Foundation provided us with very attractive terms. When BFO officials investigated the property and discovered its outstanding loan-to-value ratio, they welcomed the opportunity to secure funding for us. By the way, a significant portion of the interest paid to the BFO goes back into Southern Baptist churches and organizations, including the possibility of funds being invested in Missouri Baptist ministries.

Q:   How will you meet monthly payment obligations?

A:    The amount of the down payment taken from our reserve fund was refunded to the MBC at closing and the Board has authorized its use for installment payments over the next 15 months. Thereafter, the portion of reserve funds being used for Agency Restoration Fund expenses to recover Windermere could be available for servicing the loan. In addition, the Executive Board will seek other sources of revenue as it works with the MBC on future uses of the land to benefit Missouri Baptist ministries. If these funds are not sufficient to meet monthly mortgage payments going forward, the MBC would need to adjust its future operating and program budgets.

Q:   Why are you calling it the Windermere Wilderness Redemption Project?

A:    Because we are redeeming – or paying a debt to recover possession of – land that once belonged to Missouri Baptists, following a Biblical model exemplified in the prophet Hosea and ultimately in the person of Jesus Christ.

In the Old Testament Book of Hosea, the Lord commands Hosea to marry a promiscuous wife, which evangelical scholars generally understand to mean a wife who would prove unfaithful to Hosea after he married her. Even though Gomer is promiscuous, Hosea dramatizes the faithfulness of God toward Israel by taking her back at great personal expense.

In the New Testament, God demonstrates His love for us by sending His Son, who redeems lost sinners by His blood, thus restoring us to a right relationship with Him.

These Biblical models provide an example for us to imitate as we seek to be faithful to the Lord and to Missouri Baptists by redeeming – or buying back – what once belonged to us. It is an act that we believe illustrates the faithfulness, and sacrificial work, of our great God.

Q:    Will MBC keep the wilderness land, develop it, or liquidate it?

A:     We will utilize the gifts and skills of Missouri Baptists to fully evaluate the land’s potential and recommend a course of action. Missouri Baptists ultimately will decide the best opportunities for using the land acquisition to benefit Missouri Baptist ministries.

Q:    Does this redemption project mean that Missouri Baptists may get the remaining 350 acres of Windermere back – the property on which the conference center is located?

A:     The purchase of 970 acres does not include the Conference Center or its 350 acres. The 970 acres surround the conference center (see map).

We cannot predict what the current WBCC operators will do with the conference center property or facilities. The fact that the MBC has regained the land that WBCC transferred to creditors puts us in a stronger position to resolve the dispute and discuss with the WBCC board how best to benefit Missouri Baptists through this lake property.

Q:    Why should we pay again for property we already paid for?

A:     We agree that Windermere was unfairly removed from Missouri Baptist governance. Prior to now, our legal recourse has been to seek to regain the title to the property, free and clear, through the courts, but last month the Supreme Court effectively ended that course of action.

The redemption of 970 acres of former Windermere property at a deeply discounted price is our best opportunity to restore the land immediately to Missouri Baptists for whatever ministry purposes the MBC decides.

Q:    Honestly, do you even want Windermere back?

A:     Yes. Missouri Baptists have asked the MBC to seek the return of all Windermere property, and it is our fiduciary responsibility to attempt to regain governance of the property lost by Missouri Baptists to a board that declared itself self-perpetuating.

No doubt, the world has changed over the last decade, during which time the self-perpetuating board has governed Windermere according to its own dictates and at a significant loss. If the conference center were returned to the MBC family, then appropriately gifted Missouri Baptists would conduct a thorough study of the conferencing facilities and recommend a plan for the future.

The bottom line is that Windermere once belonged to Missouri Baptists – and Missouri Baptists have the moral right and responsibility to determine its future place in ministry.