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Georgia exec. named 2002 recipient of M.E. Dodd award

MARITETTA, Ga. (BP)–Georgia Baptist Convention Executive Director J. Robert White is the 2002 recipient of what has been called the “Heisman trophy of Cooperative Program giving.”

At the Georgia Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Marietta, Ga., Nov. 11-12, Morris H. Chapman, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, presented White the M.E. Dodd Cooperative Program Award in recognition of his continuous, long-term excellence in supporting the principles, practice and spirit of the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists’ unified giving plan formed in 1925.

“Dr. White’s commitment to the Cooperative Program, along with the vision and generosity of Georgia churches, has placed the Georgia Baptist Convention as one of the leading state conventions in total Cooperative Program support,” Chapman said. “During his tenure, Georgia has been no lower than second, and for the last two years, Georgia has been number one in total gifts to the Cooperative Program. This translates to literally tens of thousands of people around the world hearing the gospel and coming to Christ.”

White led the GBC to sponsor its first “President’s Cooperative Program Summit” in March 1998 with the goal of discovering what measures the state should take to keep the Cooperative Program strong into the 21st century. Two hundred thirty-nine people attended the summit and decided that the Cooperative Program needed a face so that church members would no longer be sending their money to missions without personal involvement.

As a result of the summit, the GBC launched Cooperative Missions Champions, an endeavor that seeks to raise the awareness of every pastor and church of working cooperatively to reach their communities, their state and the world for Jesus Christ.

“We have made every effort in Georgia to keep the Cooperative Program at the forefront of our emphasis upon missions,” White told Baptist Press. “We talk and write about it constantly and still feel that we are on a steep learning curve as to how we might best educate Baptists about the value of the Cooperative Program.

“There is no more effective or inspiring way to be a part of the efforts of 10,000 missionary families than to give through the Cooperative Program. When I heard Jerry Rankin [president of the SBC International Mission Board] give his annual report and state that nearly 400,000 people came to Christ last year through the ministry of our international missionaries, I said, ‘Thank you, Lord, for the privilege of being a part of this great missionary movement!”

The M.E. Dodd award was inaugurated at the 75th anniversary celebration of the Cooperative Program in Orlando, Fla., in June 2000 and first presented to Jim Henry, pastor of First Baptist Church, Orlando, and former SBC president. The following year, it was presented to James Sullivan, former president of LifeWay Christian Resources and former SBC president.

The award is named for M.E. Dodd, who served as pastor of First Baptist Church in Shreveport, La., and as the chairman of the Future Program Commission that recommended to the Southern Baptist Convention in 1925 the creation of the Cooperative Program. The award is now presented for lifetime achievement in CP Missions.

David E. Hankins, vice president for Cooperative Program with the Executive Committee, said White was chosen for his strong leadership in promoting the Cooperative Program during his years as a pastor, for promoting the Cooperative Program very effectively in the Georgia Baptist Convention and for emphasizing sharing a large percentage of Georgia’s Cooperative Program receipts with the worldwide program.

White is a 1968 graduate of Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., and earned the Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. He has pastored several churches, including Tabernacle Baptist Church in Carrollton, Ga., and First Baptist Church in Paducah, Ky., before becoming the GBC’s executive director in 1993. White is also a member of the SBC Empowering Kingdom Growth Task Force.

During his 10 years as executive director of the Georgia convention:

— Annual statewide baptisms increased from 29,301 to 36,280;

— Participation in Sunday School grew from 692,385 to 722,982;

— The total number of GBC churches grew from 3,282 to 3,508;

— Georgia Baptists started 430 new churches;

— Annual missions volunteers grew from 4,757 to 147,868;

— The GBC Cooperative Program budget grew from $33.7 million to $50 million;

— Total mission gifts of Georgia Baptists increased from $64.8 million to $99.7 million, according to the November 2002 issue of SBC Life.

White also led his convention to establish new mission partnerships in Chicago, San Diego, Rochester, N.Y., Buffalo, N.Y., Alaska, California, Utah-Idaho, Germany, South Korea, France and Moldova.

“From my earliest memory as the son of a Southern Baptist pastor, I have heard about the Cooperative Program,” White said. “As a boy, I studied it in Training Union and as a Royal Ambassador. I learned of its impact upon the lives and ministries of Southern Baptist missionaries around the world. Consequently, I always enjoyed hearing the testimonies of the ‘real live’ missionaries who visited our pulpit from time to time. Later when my dad served on the Foreign Mission Board and made several mission trips to minister among the San Blas Indians off the coast of Panama as well as other places across the world, I became deeply convicted about the necessity of supporting missions.”

The 2003 GBC budget will divide Cooperative Program gifts equally between national and state causes, after subtracting 13.06 percent for shared responsibilities, which includes such items as administrative and promotional expenses that relate to national and state causes and the convention’s portion of contributions to ministers’ retirement accounts with the Annuity Board. Therefore, the Georgia convention and SBC will each receive 43.75 percent of the Cooperative Program receipts.

“I have been blessed by the Cooperative Program as a graduate of Samford University in Alabama and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary,” White said. “Both of these fine institutions are supported through the Cooperative Program.

“As a pastor, I have been a champion for the Cooperative Program, raising the percentage of CP giving in each church I served as pastor. At First Baptist Paducah we were giving 20 percent of our unrestricted offering through the Cooperative Program, and God blessed us greatly as we paid off more than a million dollars in debt and built and furnished two new additions to the church debt free in 11 short years. It is truly impossible to out give God!”

White and his wife, Janice, live in Duluth, Ga.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: J. ROBERT WHITE.

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  • Erin Curry