By John Pierce
PLAINS, Ga. -- The world's best known Baptist Sunday school teacher, Jimmy Carter, is winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize. The 39th President of the United States was selected for his "vital contribution" to the historic Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt and his continuing efforts to resolve conflicts around the world and promote human rights.
Upon learning of the high recognition Oct. 11, Carter told reporters he hoped the visibility from the Nobel Prize would enhance efforts in seeking peaceful solutions to international conflicts. Carter added that he will donate the $1,000,000 prize to the Carter Center, the 20-year-old think tank and policy center that he and his wife, Rosalynn, started in 1982.
Carter considers establishing and working through the Atlanta-based center as his most gratifying and significant achievement. He is often described as a model ex-president for the work he has done with the center as well as Habitat for Humanity International and other service organizations.
Thousands of guests -- including many international visitors -- attend Sunday school classes at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Ga., where Carter teaches most Sundays.
"It's about time!" Dan Ariail, pastor at Maranatha, told Baptists Today just hours after the announcement. "He's been nominated seven times and passed over six."
However, Carter has also been gracious to state how previous winners were more deserving of the honor, said Ariail. "There is no end to my admiration for that guy," he added.
Carter is a lifelong Baptist layman who was actively involved in Southern Baptist Brotherhood work as a young man. However, Carter has been openly critical of the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention over the past two decades.
The Carters have aligned themselves with the 11-year-old Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Carter addressed the 2001 CBF general assembly in Atlanta that drew a record crowd.
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