By Marty King
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The U.S. District Court for New Mexico has dismissed all claims of misconduct against Lifeway Christian Resources, the Southern Baptist Convention and its Executive Committee, and the Glorieta 2.0 ministry that bought Glorieta Conference Center from Lifeway 18 months ago.
Federal Judge James O. Browning issued the rulings in a suit filed by an Arkansas couple, Kirk and Susie Tompkins, who had been leaseholders at the conference center. Within hours of the ruling, the Tompkins filed notice of appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Denver, Colorado.
Browning’s ruling came in five separate orders totaling 71 pages, including an order last September that dismissed several named defendants.
One of Browning’s March 31st rulings states: “The Court cannot find any factual allegations from which it can infer that the individual defendants are liable for the misconduct alleged. Indeed, the Tompkins fail to identify an act by any of the defendants to allow for such an inference. They do not state a plausible claim.”
The ruling concludes: “the Court finds the Tompkins have failed to assert claims upon which relief can be granted for lack of factual allegations … [and] for want of standing.” The case was dismissed with prejudice and cannot be re-filed.
Lifeway President and CEO, Thom S. Rainer, said, “This is incredible news. I thank God for his goodness.”
“This process has been extended, painful, and costly. I am so thankful to get this ordeal behind us, leaving no doubt of our integrity throughout this process, and after so many months of baseless attacks on our ministry partners, trustees and executive leadership,” Rainer said.
The Tompkins, of Little Rock, filed the lawsuit in September 2013 claiming the 2,400-acre property near Santa Fe was not properly transferred and that Lifeway, Glorieta 2.0 and Executive Committee leadership improperly handled the sale.
Last September, federal magistrate Robert Hayes Scott recommended dismissal of all claims in a 79-page document prepared for the federal district court in Albuquerque where the lawsuit was filed. Scott wrote that he found no evidence of misconduct in the Glorieta sale.
Scott, in his role as a magistrate for the federal court, disagreed with the Tompkins’ contentions in his recommendations to dismiss their lawsuit. “The transfer of Glorieta by Lifeway was not fraudulent,” Scott wrote, “… [A]llegations of fraud and misconduct are baseless and have no foundation in the evidence.”
Browning declined in his order, however, to award Lifeway attorney fees for defending against the Tompkins’ suit.
At the time of the Glorieta sale to the nonprofit Glorieta 2.0 group, 65 churches, institutions and individuals owned structures on year-to-year leased lots at Glorieta. Rainer reported to the 2014 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting that Glorieta 2.0 offered to extend the year-to-year leases or purchase structures built there for up to $100,000, which all but a handful of leaseholders accepted.