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James L. Sullivan receives Cooperative Program award

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–James L. Sullivan, a Southern Baptist statesman who became a Christian four years before the Cooperative Program was established, was honored June 12 with the second annual M.E. Dodd Award for lifetime achievement in support of the Southern Baptist Convention’s process for funding worldwide missions.

The award is named after Dodd, longtime pastor of First Baptist Shreveport, La., who chaired the SBC Future Program Commission that recommended the Cooperative Program for adoption in 1925.

Morris H. Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee, called the award the “Heisman trophy of Cooperative Program missions.”

Chapman lauded Sullivan, 91, as a spokesman and writer throughout his ministry, in support of CP Missions. He served as a pastor, SBC president in 1977 and president of LifeWay Christian Resources [then called the Sunday School Board], 1953-75.

Sullivan has “spoken for years to say we should never return to the societal system” of funding denominational causes, Chapman said.

In receiving the award, a bronze sculpture depicting a farmer sowing seeds, Sullivan called the Cooperative Program “the best system of denominational financing ever devised.”

“Those of us in our 90s can remember what it was like before we had a Cooperative Program,” he noted.

After being baptized at age 11 into Tylertown (Miss.) Baptist Church, Sullivan said he received a box of offering envelopes divided into two sections — one for local church causes and one for various denominational causes.

He recalled “how frustrated I was that first Sunday” as he tried to figure out how to divide his tithe of a nickel in half to support local and SBC causes.

“I began to practice Sunday-by-Sunday giving, but it was still by designation,” Sullivan said.

“It was a wonderful day when our pastor and people came back from the Southern Baptist Convention to report we had the Cooperative Program,” he said. “We would tithe one offering and then the church would decide how it would give.” Tylertown Baptist Church then voted to send 40 percent of its undesignated receipts to the Cooperative Program, Sullivan said.

“When we put a dollar into the offering plate, it touches the world,” Sullivan said.

The first Dodd award was given in 2000 to Jim Henry, pastor of First Baptist Church, Orlando, Fla. The church consistently leads the SBC in Cooperative Program giving.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: KEY SUPPORTER.

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