JACKSON, Tenn. – June 13, 2008 – Union University presented Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, with its M.E. Dodd Denominational Service Award during a June 10 dessert reception at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting.
The Dodd Award is the highest denominational service award Union gives. It is named for the man who was a Union alumnus, served as president of the SBC and who was the father of today’s Cooperative Program, the method by which Southern Baptists pool their resources to fund their mission efforts.
The award is given annually to a leader within the Southern Baptist Convention who displays excellence and leadership in Southern Baptist life, as well as friendship and commitment to Union University. Past recipients include Jimmy Draper (2004), Adrian Rogers (2005), Morris Chapman (2006) and Frank Page (2007).
“Thom Rainer is a gift from God to the Southern Baptist Convention,” Union University President David S. Dockery said. “I have known Thom for well over 20 years and have watched his remarkable leadership on display in the context of local church pastor, as a seminary dean and now as president of LifeWay Christian Resources.”
Dockery said Rainer’s abilities as a leader, thinker, writer and preacher of the gospel are well known, and that his insights into such areas as church health, church growth, evangelism and missions are at the forefront of Southern Baptist life.
Dockery also pointed to Rainer’s leadership in February, when LifeWay was the first Baptist entity to respond following the tornado that massively damaged the Union campus. LifeWay contributed $350,000 to Union’s disaster relief efforts.
“You think of all the people who are the heroes and the heroines of Union University, and you think about the students and what they have done, and the type of men and women they have become through this tragedy,” Rainer said in receiving the award. “You think about the faculty and the administration, and all the sacrifices they made. They’re the heroes and the heroines.
Rainer also identified the families and friends of Union, as well as Dockery, as more deserving of recognition.
“And then you realize that Dr. Dockery was placed in a place of leadership for such a time as this,” Rainer said. “We all know that it was God who brought this leader to this place for this time.
“God knew all the events that would unfold, and he knew that it would take a special man to lead a special university at a special time,” he continued. “And so I stand here as one who is grateful, as one who is humbled, as one who is joyous to receive this award. But I also recognize that there are many more who are far greater than I.”
About 325 people attended the reception, an annual event during the SBC meeting. Dockery provided an update about Union’s rebuilding process, and announced that more than 5,500 donors and 500 churches have contributed more than $12 million to the disaster relief efforts.
“God has sustained us, but he has sustained us through your prayers,” Dockery said. “We recognize that Union University is where it is because of friends and supporters like you.”