One of the policies that applies to missionary candidates for the International Mission Board involves an appropriate "body mass" for the individual applying to serve as a long term or short term missionary. The BMI (Body Mass Index) Policy is as follows:
Long Term or Short Term Missionaries
Body Mass Index Must be 30 or less for missionaries less than 35 years of age.
Body Mass Index must be 31 or less for missionaries between 35 and 44 years of age.
Body Mass Index must be 32 or less for missionaries between 45 and 54 years of age.
Body Mass Index must be 33 or less for missionaries 55 years of age or older.
You can measure your Body Mass Index over the Internet here
The Rationale for the BMI Policy
One of the staff members of the medical department gave me some very good reasons for such a policy via phone. Rationale included increased medical costs for missionaries on the field because of health problems related to weight. There were some other very practical concerns, that I will not enumerate here --- except for one. The very helpful medical department employee mentioned that in some cultures an overweight caucasion is an offense, and the missionary could be hindered in his/her work because of weight. Sensitivity to culture is necessary for any career missionary.
This BMI policy is an example of an extra-biblical regulation required by the International Mission Board for her employees. It is necessary for the IMB to have some policies that are not rooted in Scripture, but if we do, we must have very good reasons for them.
I just have a couple of questions which I would like to ask. I don't have the answers myself, but I think you will see that not everything is as black and white as some would like.
(1). In light of recent suggestions that no trustee should ever serve the International Mission Board without himself or herself being willing to abide by every policy required for IMB employees, should trustees of the IMB be required to abide by this BMI Policy as well?
(2). What happens if the IMB decides to send a SBC missionary to an island where body fat is treasured? What if, on this island, fat were beautiful and an outward picture of a loving heart while being skinny was a sign that you were "cursed"? Should we send a skinny American to the island and expect him to share the gospel ---with nobody being willing to listen? In other words, can we agree that being fat is not a sin, but that some might possibly choose to become fat in order to win people to Christ, or should we be so driven by extra Biblical policy that we never make exceptions for the sake of culture?
This is just some food for thought (pardon the pun),
In His Grace,