"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Body Mass Measurement and Culture

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,


Wade Burleson

75 comments:

IN HIS NAME said...

WADE,

YOU ARE SO RIGHT ON. AMEN

I took the test and it didn't allow GRACE for those over 70, So I failed the test. I'am on a diet, does that help?

GRACE To You and Yours

A Brother in CHRIST

Ranger said...

Last fall, when my wife and I were first applying for service with the board, we were put "on hold" for awhile until I could get my weight down. I was 6'3' with a weight of around 260. That's not a healthy weight by any standard.

The holding period forced me to come to grips with the gravity (no pun intended either) of my weight problem as I discussed the issue with doctors. It was actually a very encouraging and motivating time in my life.

I'm currently below the weight standard of the IMB (the lowest I could weigh and have my BMI check out would be 241). I'm at about 220, and nobody is mistaking me for being skinny yet...so I wonder if the question of weight being culturally acceptable would even be an issue since you can be under the BMI of 30 and still be overweight (technically, 25-30 is still considered overweight and 30+ is considered dangerously obese). If the culture only listens to those who are grossly obese, then I'm not sure what the board would do, outside of make special allowances for that particular people group...although I think it would be such a unique and special case that the IMB would not have to change the overall policy for it.

I personally believe the policy should cover everyone who works for the board, and the trustees. To be honest, after working so hard to lose weight, when my wife and I were finally invited to Candidate Conference, I was somewhat depressed to see all of the seemingly overweight staff. I don't know...I think the policy is good for the health of the individual and to test the actual motivation of the individual for getting on the field and serving with the IMB.

Wade Burleson said...

Notanarminian,

Identify yourself please.

Donald said...

Wow. Great post on this topic that is affecting many of us. One of the things that has affected our family when we come back to the states is seeing just how fat many Americans have become. It is really a problem in the US. Because of this, I understand the need for us to live a healthier lifestyle. I also understand insurance costs continuing to increase for the board, so I am willing to do my part.

You bring up two wonderful points though. The cultural one I had actually already thought about. I don't know locations where this would be a problem, but I am certain that there are cultures that like fat. Here is the other thing I was thinking about with culture. What about people who are unhealthily skinny? Is the board going to put a minimum BMI? Sometimes skinny (really skinny) people could cause problems? Ok, I am sort of kidding here :)

The second item of making everyone at the IMB go by these standards is something I did not think about. I do think it would be a good idea though :)

Jeff said...

Wade,
Pardon me for asking, but wouldn't question number 2 be a straw man argument in this debate?

Brandon said...

I just wanted to take a quick moment to say that Body Mass Index measurements are not a good measurement for all people. As is with everything the "one-size fits all" does not work. I am a 24 year old male, I am 5'8" and I weight 190- 195 lbs. Now if you look at the BMI I am at 29.6....just barely below the limit but here is the catch. I am in very good shape and just three weeks previous of this post competed in a triathlon and finished fairly well...Please tell me that if I decided to apply that I would not be turned away. If so the IMB needs to look at some other forms of measure for "temple health" instead of the BMI.

As far as the questions you ask, I think it is only right that the IMB abide by the same rules that it expects its employees to follow.
The other question is tough and I will leave it for others with more knowledge to answer. I will say again "One-Size Fits All" does not always work.

Dorcas said...

jflo -

By your logic, you do not believe there could be an actual culture in the world that would think fat is beautiful. I would merely suggest you study up a little on art history to realize the validity of Wade's question.

Wade Burleson said...

Brandon,

The medical staff would be able to recommend an exception to the trustees, but it would be an exception. There would need to be evidence that you are actually in good shape and the mass is a result of muscle.

Brandon said...

Then in that situation why would the board not consider a change to the body fat ratio which is more of a telling measurement of poor health than the BMI

Melonee said...

In theory, Wade, it would be a great idea for the IMB to practice those standards it holds its missionaries to. It's one of those 'don't do as I do, but do as I say' situations.

I would guess the regulations are in place because the IMB wants the missionaries as healthy as possible to do the work needed to further the cause of Christ around the world. The healthier they are, the less likely their immune systems would be compromised by local disease. What a concept!

I wonder how much more we could get done here in America for the cause of Christ if we had the energy and stamina of our missionaries.

Last January, I changed one of my passwords to 'Thinner06.' So far, it's not true. Ranger, you've inspired me. Thanks for taking your calling seriously!


Mel

Dustin Cross said...

This is the most ignorant thing the SBC has ever done!

How many of the trustees have a BMI that would qualify them to serve as a missionary?

So basically, God may use you but we won't because a stupid test says that you are fat? The BMI is a horrible method for determining this. I am a SBC minister, but I am also a trainer, degreed in sports medicine as well as an amateur MMA fighter. No one in the field of sports medicine with any knowledge takes the BMI seriously.

I myself am 6'1" and weigh between 220-230 and have worked very hard to have a better body for sacrifice which, according to the mission board, is obese?!?!

Fist alcohol and now this? No wonder the church is losing the war with cultural relevancy...

Bob Cleveland said...

If there actually IS an island where they treasure fat, sign me up. I always wanted to be a Cardinal, a Bishop, or some such.

Jeff said...

Dorcas,
I wasn't expecting to have to get into a debate with anyone, but I will answer your question and then fade away and continue to read the blog as always.
No particular logic, I was just asking a question because I have seen other times a comment was called into question because it was a straw man argument. As for my investigation into art history, what's the point? I'm not the one who made the statement. I'm not a debater, never have been (except with my 16 year old!). But it would seem to make such an argument would place the resposibility for support upon the one making a statement.
The fact is, we can "what if" something to death. I don't think that bolsters the argument.
That being said, I don't have a problem with the point I think I hear Wade making. However, for the sake of consistency, I think his argument was weakened by this thesis. I would like to hear about the other reasons for the policy that weren't enumerated.
Thanks for letting me respond.

Jeremy Roberts said...

Wade -
I guess this can lead back into the same questions people on both sides of the SBC fence have. When does the narrowing of the tent become legalism?

On one hand I can see why its important for the IMB M's to be in decent shape, but it also seems difficult to turn some people who would be the sharpest and most Godly M's based on their weight.

As for question one, I think the BoT should be held to the same standard.

Wade Burleson said...

jflo,

I think I understand your point, though I am not making an argument for or against the BMI.

Frankly, I'm attempting to get people to begin to think through things at the IMBlogically.

Do you pick and choose which policies you wish to enforce on trustees?

Do you make extra-Biblical polices a mandate, regardless of the culture of the nation in which the missionary lives?

OR AS I WOULD PROPOSE:

Communicate at length with all field personnel prior to the establishment of any policy, and be very flexible with all policies (which may need to vary from region to region of the world), and quit making extra-biblical policies based upon the Southern Baptist culture of the Southwestern United States.

Wade Burleson said...

Has anyone ever noticed IMB spelled in reverse is BMI?

Someone needs to come up with an appropriate jingle.

Wade Burleson said...

Jeremy,

Thanks for your comment. In your opinion should trustees resign if they cannot abide by the BMI policy?

Roger Simpson said...

One of the major religions of the world has images that expressely denote being fat. That religion is Buddaism.

We go to a Chinese restaurant all the time and they have a huge statue of Budda in there. If that statue were a real person his Body Mass Index would be HUGE.

In Japan one of the types of athletic events they have is sumo wrestling. I must be the case that some Asian countries don't have the obsession of being slim like we have in the USA.

Jeremy Roberts said...

No. Its not a rule yet. If I happened to be on the BoT and I didn't fit the qualifications, I would resign. I think this is up to the individual BoT member's judgment.

I also think they should go with body fat % instead of BMI.

Wade Burleson said...

I'm confused about "it's not a rule yet."

Do you mean, Jeremy, that it is not a rule for trustees?

If so, no policy of the IMB that applies to missionaries is a rule for trustees --- none.

Roger Simpson said...

In my previous post I should have said:

If that status WAS (not were).

Subject and predicate must align in terms of number (singular/plural)

BTW, is there an "edit" mechanism for commentors so a given commentor can go back and change typos on one of his own previous comment?

Bro. Robin said...

Bro. Wade

If you find an island like that let me know. I'll be one of the top 100 beautiful people on their version of People magazine.

Moving on from the shameless jab at myself, when my dad served in Vietnam in 1966 (Army) he told me that when you went to the house of a villager (Montagnards) they would offer you rice wine. If you did not drink it, they took that as an grave insult.

So what happens to a SBC missionary if a they go to a Montagnard home and has a drink of rice wine and does not get drunk. Will they be fired?

I realize your post deals with weight, but I believe this issue can be related to it also. I wonder about your question also:

"should we be so driven by extra Biblical policy that we never make exceptions for the sake of culture?"

Thanks for the thoughts.

Bro. Robin

Jeremy Roberts said...

I'm not aware of the BMI being a rule for trustees. It may be...I just don't know about it.

Wade Burleson said...

Roger,

No edit mechanism for comments.

You ought to send blogger your idea and see if they can get it in their new beta system for a try.

I agree. It is needed

ewinwe said...

wade,

you beat me to the punch on the "imb is bmi spelled backwards" thingy. that bit of irony is NOT lost on me. i'm in the 'ok' area to be on the field (and to even come back after a furlough) but i have seen several BoT members who would not meet the weight-to-height standards of the bmi ... and there may be some other areas that would prevent them from serving on the field as well ... hmmmm?

i would think, howumsoever, that putting an extra-biblical standard onto an m is not an hindrance in this case. i'd rather have folks working for us (at least in western europe) who do not fit the mold of the 'fat & ugly american'. of course, they also have to be very VERY tolerant of the vino and pils consumption over here ... neither of which (in moderation) has caused any national to fall into sinful or evil ways ... especially not when it is what has put the food onto the table of their family for the past 10 generations ...

Bart Barber said...

Roger Simpson,

Your original usage was correct. Among the several uses of "were" is (in addition to the plural indicative form of the verb) the SUBJUNCTIVE voice of the verb. If I were :-) grading your writing, I would give you a good grade.

Brandon said...

I think the real question to ask is, "is it a sin to be over weight/unhealthy?" I understand the health risk involved in the policy and why the imb would require it's missionary's to be "healthy" but look at it from the perspective of the biblical concept of our body is a temple and how it is our responsiblity to take care of it...Is being over weight/unhealthy doing any thing good for our temple? I think not but that might not be a stance alot of other people are willing to take and other cultures might view it as vanity.

art rogers said...

I noticed the BMI IMB thing, too.

If you ever do find such an island, like Robin, I am "fit" to serve. ;)

(My Baptism and not having a PPL also do not exclude me - though I doubt I would get far having goaded certain trustees for the last 8 months.)

Kevin Bussey said...

Wade,

I'm 6-2, 190-195. That index is flawed. Everyone I know thinks I'm skinny. I work out 3-4 times a week and according to the index I was overweight. You've seen me in person. Do I need to go on a diet? I'm depressed now!

Roger Simpson said...

I agree that it would be nice to have an "edit" function for guys like me who type faster than they think.

BTW, in my correction I mispelled "statue" as "status".

I guess it is hopeless when you make more errors in your errata
(erratum) than in your original text.

BTW, I checked out my body mass according to the CDC link and it is 20.7. I just put up my picture in my profile (which I hope works). Looking at this picture you can estimate for yourselves what my BMI might be.

Just my two cents: I don't think implementing health standards for overseas personnel is unreasonable. I don't know whether BMI is the right metric or not.

I don't think this should apply to the IMB BoT since they are not "employees". Also, they are not "overseas".

I wonder if the NAMB has a similar policy?

Ranger said...

I think one of the main arguments that some of you are using does not hold weight, but not for reasons you may know about.

If you are 6'2" 220, work out and are in great shape then the board will put you through even though your BMI is too high.

The restrictions are not BMI alone. If your BMI is off, then you have to go into the doctor for more in depth measurements. They ask for your waste measurements, blood pressure, chest measurements, body fat, etc. etc. etc. BMI only gives a basic indicator that you are MOST LIKELY overweight. Based on their other measurements that the doctor takes they then decide whether or not to send you on based on your particular case.

Once again, I think that the requirements are great, and I say it as someone who had to deal with the very situation of losing weight for the board during the past year. And I think they should be required of all IMB Staff.

davidinflorida said...

Pastor Wade, Another good subject.....There are some in authoritative positions that look at drinking and smoking as sin. They add restrictions to those who do them. They ignore gluttony... What does the Bible say about this?...Romans 14:17 "for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" ..Therefore, it must be a soulish problem, or in other words "LUST"....The Bible also mentions eating in Prov 23:20-21; Phil 3:19; Phil 4:5 to mention a few.........If those in power want to use drinking to limit involvement in the SBC, then they should also add gluttony .. They should also be subject to it, just as they wear their no drinking badges with pride.....

Daughter of the King said...

This is such a great topic to bring up. I was recently in China working with some missionaries there, and their concern was that one of them might be a little above the BMI level set by the board. THey were truly scared that they would be asked to leave the field. I just think it's a sad commentary when there are so many of us wanting to go and serve overseas, but cannot be "approved" under these rules. Yes, I do want to be healthy- and I do not disagree with that, but when the world is dying and going to hell can we justify not sending someone to that people group because he/she was a little over the BMI index? And the double standard of the board and their weight is very frustrating to say the least-when someone's heart's desire is to go overseas and serve and yet you look at the people serving in that dept. and they do not meet the requirements that they set in place.

Daughter of the King said...

This is such a great topic to bring up. I was recently in China working with some missionaries there, and their concern was that one of them might be a little above the BMI level set by the board. THey were truly scared that they would be asked to leave the field. I just think it's a sad commentary when there are so many of us wanting to go and serve overseas, but cannot be "approved" under these rules. Yes, I do want to be healthy- and I do not disagree with that, but when the world is dying and going to hell can we justify not sending someone to that people group because he/she was a little over the BMI index? And the double standard of the board and their weight is very frustrating to say the least-when someone's heart's desire is to go overseas and serve and yet you look at the people serving in that dept. and they do not meet the requirements that they set in place.

Cam Dunson said...

Wade (& Co.),
I freaked out last month when they told us about this new requirement. Then, I came home, read the policy and it's really quite generous, for the following reasons:
1. Those numbers indicate someone who isn't merely overweight, but is obese (or worse).
2. For Ms seeking to return from STAS, there is a pretty patient process outlined for them to loose the weight and accountability in place to keep it coming off.
3. Those indexes are reviewed by doctors on staff who are taking other factors into consideration, specifically when the index is a bad indicator for an individual.

I don't know if it's the best policy or not, or if the BOT members should conform; but I do know that we've got to really pray for some of our missionaries these next few years in this area. We have folks with 20+ years of service who are going to have a very difficult time getting medical clearance to return to the field after STAS. Not many, but I think most all of us know how difficult it can be to lose weight without the stresses of living with no salary. Please say a prayer for those folks. Thank you.

RM said...

At first I thought this was a huge joke and then I realized it was true! Absolutely amazing... Perhaps we should make the trustees abide by their own rules. At least I had a good laugh at first!

sbc pastor said...

Wade,

It appears that the intent of the BMI policy is to abide by principles of Biblical stewardship. The IMB pays for the medical expenses of its employees. If the IMB appoints individuals who are unhealthy (obese) as IMB missionaries, then they will pay for more medical expenses and then less resources are available for missionary work. Does that make sense?

Why should IMB trustees abide by every policy required of IMB employees? They are not employed by the IMB. Their employer, whether an SBC church or entity, has certain policies that they must abide by. It would only stand to reason that each employer, whether church or entity, would know what policies are most beneficial to fulfilling its mission. It is very likely that some of those policies may be the same, but certainly not all of them. God bless!!!

In Christ,
JLG

Jessica said...

I served as a J-man in a South Asian country and should I go back over as career, I would have to lose some weight (which I would love to do, but juggling full time seminary, and full time job--both in the attempt to go back overseas--make it near impossible to have a real "balanced" life). However, when I was there, I was considered "healthy" (not extremely fat, but not skinny). Which in their eyes meant I had enough food to eat, and I was wealthy enough to be able to eat as much as I wanted. However, we did have teams come to help and those who were very obese were looked down upon and not given much respect.

Roger Simpson said...

What is the reason that the BMI index is in force?

My guess it is due to a "health" reason, not a "moral" reason (such as because being "fat" connotes glutony).

If the BMI ruling is really a health concern, then I don't think there is necessarily a case to be made that stateside employees should have to conform since the negative consequences of bad health (such as potentially the lack of adequate medical care nearby and costly transport to the USA to resolve health issues) don't apply to USA employees.

If the reason given by the IMB for the BMI index rule is to avoid the appearance of "gluttony" because of a perceived "moral" issue then I think the rules should apply across the board to all employees including senior IMB management.

I don't know how to come down realive to "overweight" issues with the BoT. BoT members don't draw their checks from the IMB: they are mostly pastors or seminary professors, etc. who work for individual churches or schools. Possibly the BoT members should "voluntarily" submit to reasonable weight management since it is universally acknowledged that being overweight significantly increases risk of
heart attach and stroke.

-----------------
Now step away from the IMB to the larger arena of personal responsibility:

Speaking only for myself I think anyone who is overweight should be taking steps to correct the problem. Otherwise, you are cutting your own life short. Wouldn't a rational person take informed action -- regardless of any employer rules that are in place?

My dad used to smoke a pack a day. The doctor told him -- in so many words -- it was going to kill him. He quit cold turkey.

Last week several of my friends just happened to be diagnosed with diabetes. I am not saying there is a direct cause and effect relationship between diet and diabetes but isn't it curious that these guys drank soft drinks like there was no tomorrow -- multiple (6 to 12) cans / day. The did this for years -- decades even. The very day I heard about these guys being diagnosed with diabetes I took my six pack of Dr. Pepper and poured it down the drain and now I am only drinking water and occasional juice and milk. No more gratitious sugar junk.

Bottom line, for me taking care of your health transcends whatever the IMB or any other employeer says. Isn't "reasonable maintenance" of our own body consistent with a "Christian lifestyle"?

OStatePhil said...

Good thing someone chubby like G.K. Chesterton is not around.

Gasp.

TruthOfActs said...

Wade,
I first thought your post to be a joke; but finally realized it to the biggest joke you’ve had on your blog.

Just as bad, is the acceptance of most of the comments. Some were shocked. Dustin Cross hit the nail on the head when he wrote, “This is the most ignorant thing the SBC has ever done!”
Of course the SBC didn’t have a thing to do with it as the IMB is an autonomous body of ‘thinkers’ who have to keep making rules as if that were their main priority.

When the IMB makes a new rule, they must pat themselves on the back and announce to everyone to look how smart they are to come up with something that no one in the whole world has thought of.
There’s a reason the whole world hasn’t thought of it because it’s NOT worth thinking about.

They are examples of knowing the Bible by heart, but their hearts not knowing the Bible.
Christ said, “If I be lifted up…” He didn’t require, Jew or Greek, male or female, fat or skinny.

Has the IMB gone crazy? How soon will it be before they require missionaries to have a daily log of required walking and sleeping per day?
Rex Ray

David L. Miller said...

I ran 16 miles yesterday.

My BMI is 36.5 and the thing classed me as obese.

Either the BMI is flawed, or I am the best-conditioned morbidly obese man in America.

ColinM said...
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ColinM said...
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ColinM said...
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TruthOfActs said...

(Truth of Acts said…)
Colinm,
You say “sorry” to me, but after I read your blog, I’ll say “sorry” to you as you were ‘turned in’ at SWBTC for not following a small rule. Did you feel like the KGB was at work?
A lot of our missionaries look over their shoulders to keep the ‘KGB’ from hearing.

Our IMB priority should be: HELP missionaries—NOT hinder them. Missionaries are given so many rules that one complained: “They tell us how to breathe.”
One long-time couple was told: “Tonight, I’ll pray, and tomorrow I’ll tell you what God’s will is for you.”

THE FROG IS ALMOST DEAD IN HOT WATER, AND WE STILL LET THE FIRE BURN.

Colinm, you write so nice—you must have a tender heart. I feel you have a weakness in accepting authority when it is wrong.
At one time, Bob Jones expelled Billy Graham from his school and claimed he was the arm of Satin.
Because my 17 year old sister wrote his school suggesting they have a ‘Student Council’ to handle discipline problems, he told her: “I smell evil. You are possessed with a demon. I want you off this campus tonight.” He had been her hero and had kept a journal of all his school talks.

At one time and may still be, the IMB had a rule that missionaries could not be the pastor of an English speaking church in a foreign land. With permission to be interim, more were saved in all my friend’s previous18 years of being a missionary in the same country. He accepted being their pastor and was facing being fired. The vice-president of the IMB spoke at our church and afterwards I talked to him about my friend. I told him my preacher-father believed the best thing about a good rule was to know when to break it. He laughed, but said his hands were tied. A few months later, we were remodeling my friend’s church and he told me he had heard by the way of the grapevine that he was not going to be bothered.

RULE OF THUMB, IMB, DON’T BOTHER OUR MISSIONARIES.
Rex Ray

TruthOfActs said...

Oops, strange how you can see errors when it’s too late. I spelled Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary as SWBTC.
Hummmm…would that be Cemetery? Sorry, Patterson. (Good thing I put the comma in there as some may think I’m upset over Patterson appointed trustees that fired Dilday and hired Patterson.)
Rex

TruthOfActs said...

Oops again, my conscious is hurting. I forgot the year Patterson was president of the SBC. He probably only appointed trustees that hired him and those trustees were not the ones that fired Dilday.
Sorry, of saying that because it sounded good. That makes me guilty as the ones I’ve been criticizing.
Rex

Katya said...

Hi Truthofacts,

I’m a missionary serving in the former Soviet Union and I think the weight policy of the IMB is grounded in good sense. The IMB is not trying to dictate to anyone or pose unreasonable hurdles for people. They are really trying to look out for and protect the people who they will send out to serve. After more than 150 years of experience around the world, the IMB has learned a few things. And one is that it really helps a missionary to be physically fit and healthy while living outside the U.S. Here in the former Soviet Union many of us M's live in high-rise apartment buildings. The elevators don’t work all the time. I have routinely had to carry groceries up five flights of stairs. We also do a lot more walking here than Americans are used to. If you’re in shape, that’s no problem. And of course, most of the nationals in my country are not overweight. Their impression is that Americans are fat. So, when they meet an American missionary who is not overweight, the fat-issue isn’t an obstacle. Plus, missionaries are subjected to culture stress all the time. The stress of trying to communicate in a second language with everyone and anyone you happen to meet during the course of a day; the stress of not knowing what to expect (will the electricity be on all day today? how long is this meeting with the brothers going to last?) and the stress of simply being an outsider who just doesn’t have the cultural background to make sense of everything in his/her environment. Being physically healthy makes it a little easier to handle those things. If you are trying to deal with all those things, on top of weight or other health problems, it’s that much harder.

Just another perspective for you to consider.

ColinM said...
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irreverend fox said...

I say that if God wanted to save such an island then He will save them!

We're not going to bend or break our BMI standards for such heathens anyway!

What kind of heathens would glorify being fat? What kind of heathens would brag about over eating when they got together for pot-lucks? What kind of heathens would brag about beating another tribe to Pondarosa after their weekly spiritual gatherings? What kind of heathens would follow spirital leaders who were fat?

Come on Wade! We've got standards that we've always had. The answer to your question about such an island is NO, we're not sending ANY missionaries to such a place!

Johnny Grimes said...

Great the BMI classifies me as normal! Now I’m ready to be an IMB missionary.

volfan007 said...

irreverend fox,

now, that's funny! thanks for a good laugh.

volfan007

TruthOfActs said...

(Truth of Acts 15 said…)
Colinm,
NO, I DON’T KNOW YOU—HOW DOES A MAN HAVE A BABY?
I’m not shocked—I’m stunned. Of the many word fights we’ve had on the Baptist Standard Internet before they discontinued it, this takes the cake.
crev, your last word was you would attend some convention and could be identified by a large bull’s-eye on your back. I had planned to look for you but I didn’t make the convention.
Did you really wear the bull’s-eye? I’m so gullible.

My most enjoyable reading from you would be when you would get close to admitting you were wrong which was about once or twice.
Thanks for the compliment of me not changing. (I can see things the way I want.}

Good luck in your schooling. Maybe your teachers can straighten you out—I sure couldn’t.
Rex Ray

TruthOfActs said...

Irreverend Fox,
You ask what kind of heathens would welcome fat missionaries.
Cannibals.
Rex

Lee said...

I wonder how many of the requirements for IMB missionary service fall into the "non-biblical" category. I also wonder if, perhaps, this is an example of not really trusting God to be the one who does the calling to missions.

Perhaps this is why so many excellent, God-called Southern Baptist prefer to serve on foreign fields under the banner of Campus Crusade or New Tribes, or raise their own funding.

sembrador said...

Thanks for the site, Stateside is coming up and I am glad to know where I stand.

I feel that the test is very generous. Someone like myself, could be overweight but not fail the test. We are Americans, and have our rights to eat all we want, then go back for more! ;)

Please don't lower that standard!!!
Sem

volfan007 said...

i was just wondering if any of your churches require a new members class for a person to officially be a member of your church? if so, where is that in the bible?

also, would you all be for allowing a man who is known for gambling large sums of money and hanging out in casinos to be a leader in your church? just wondering?

volfan007

sao paulista said...

Wade,

Would you be so kind as to clarify the process? Is one automatically disqualified from missionary service if they have BMI in excess of 30? Or do they have a period of time in which they must get their weight down after they have passed through other stages of appointment? How are other medical conditions handled by the IMB when appointing missionaries (is the usage of the BMI any different than the exclusion from missionary service for other pre-existing medical conditions such as a history of heart attacks)?

Thank you,
John T

TheMDude said...

I think the IMB is just following a trend similar to other employers to monitor overweight people. Major corporations see that people who are overweight (for the most part), get sicker more often and have higher medical bills. I have seen lots of overweight IMB missionaries in my trips and with 25-50 lb loss they would feel sooooo much better and be more productive. They will live longer, too. Now, I have no clue what the average BMI is for a BOT member, but the BOT member is not employed by the IMB! Maybe we should mention this in San Antonio next year that SBs should leed the way to better health by losing weight for Jesus!

Kevin Bussey said...

Day 2 of my diet!!! Thanks Wade!

Jeff Repass said...

In regard to Roger Simpson's implication that Chinese appreciate those who are overweight because many of them are buddhists, I would simply say that if you think Americans are obsessed with being skinny, you haven't seen anything. I used to live in China and can assure you that being overweight is not...widely regarded.

Whether the BMI is the best index or not, holding M's accountable for weight is good. In reality, the IMB's bark is bigger than their bite on this one. It seems that once a person is hired the standards are seldom if ever enforced. Seriously, have you ever been to an AGM?

Donald said...

I think that this is an issue that most missionaries are not as upset of as some of you who are reading this. I was recently at an annual meeting with about 50 families and did not hear anyone criticizing this new policy. I think it was how it was presented (very well).

This was the same issue with the BF&M. People in the states were quite up in arms about this and yet the vast majority of the missionaries did not see a big deal with it.

So, do I need to lose a little weight? Yep. I will probably lose a little weight but I am not going to sweat this BMI thing.

Someone asked why trustees should be held to the same standards as IMB employees. Well, I am not out waving the hold the trustees accountable flag but I do think that it would be hard for me as a trustee to require something of someone else when I wasn't willing to hold myself to the same standard.

It seems that some where quick to judge certain trustees belief on alcohol yet if someone ask them to step on the scales, all of a sudden they do not need that much accountability.

I pray that the result of this will be healthier missionaries. I have known a few people who had to lose weight to be appointed (10 years ago, this isn't new) and I know someone who did not want to lose the weight so they did not go with the board. That was their decision but I fully support the IMB trying to help missionaries be healthy. Trust me, being a missionary is stressful enough. Satan attacks you around the clock and health is one of the main reasons people leave the field. It is good stewardship to try to have healthy missionaries.

That is all for now, I am going to get a donut and a cappuccino.

Cam Dunson said...

Wade,
I realized after I commented yesterday that there is one crucial piece of information that you guys don't know. You said that the policy originated with recommendations from the Medical Department. The missionaries reading this already know this, but only they would have access to this crucial information.
What you all need to know is this: NO ONE, NOT ANYBODY, NOT WADE, NOT MARTY, NOT JOHN, NOT UNCLE JERRY, NOBODY works harder or cares more for the well-being of missionaries than the doctors in the medical department. I can guarantee you that, if those guys came up with this policy, then it is with the missionaries best interest in mind.
They are also not stupid people. They are amazingly knowledgeable on many varied aspects of medicine and public health. That, in addition to the fact that the CDC advocates the use of the BMI, in my mind negates the arguments of a few that this index doesn't measure well for them.
Ok, I think I'm done now.
thanks,
cam

Nomad said...

Cam,
The crucial piece of information is that it really didn't originate with the medical department; well, not totally at least. They were told that they needed to reduce medical expenditures. That is an extremely difficult thing for that particular department to do. So, they decided to "do" something which is inforce the weight policies.

Another piece of information unknown is that for years, they could "threaten" to discharge m's for being overweight, but didn't think they could legally. Well, the Board's legal counsel said that M's were not protected under the same employment laws of the US and they could "fire away".

Yes, the medical department does care for us; they are under immense pressure to get their budget within their enforced BMI.

For me, one who will have to lose weight to "pass" my STAS physical, the issue is more of having yet another stressor in my life. George mentioned that the meeting with 50 families "took it well". Of course they did. How does someone overweight stand up and yell "unfair" or "foul"? Those of us who are overweight don't need someone (or some measuring devise) to tell us that. We know it. Everytime we look in the mirror. Everytime a national pinches our arm or rubs our belly and says, well anything. We know we are overweight. It is embarassing. It is not fun. BUT, for me, losing weight doesn't come easy and it doesn't stay off. I have heard the doctors' mantra "Loose weight and excercise more". That is much easier said than done.

How can being overweight make someone a "bad" missionary? Yes, it does make it hard at times, but I don't think it has ever affected my usefulness to God.

To me, this whole BMI thing is a money issue. Plain, but not simple.

bc said...

ain't it funny.............after reading this post, went to msnbc.com.............lead story was......

Dump the BMI?
Study finds body mass index obesity test badly flawed

Seems Doctors from the Mayo Clinic reviewed 40 studies covering about 250,000 people.

While being obese is bad, it seems they have determined the the BMI is a REALLY BAD tool in determining health risk.

Oh well.........

Ranger said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ranger said...

From the way the medical staff talked to me though, the BMI is what they use as the initial indicator to see if you are overweight. After they saw that my BMI was in the obese range, I had to go to the doctor and have all different types of measurements sent in to the board before they even made the decision to delay me.

Multiple agencies reported last year that obesity has passed smoking as the #1 killer in America. Just under 20% of the deaths in America were directly linked to obesity or complications brought on by obesity. With that stated, it would be financially and in my opinion spiritually irresponsible to send someone onto the field without considering this issue. The board does not send people who are mentally a health risk onto the field, so why would they send someone who is so physically a health risk?

We keep forgetting too, that this is not referring to what doctors consider slightly overweight. This isn't talking about 10-15 extra pounds. I'm still overweight by my doctor's standards, but I'm also 21 pounds below what the board will allow according to BMI.

The board is restricting people who are obese. Not solely because their BMI falls in the obese range. In fact, if I remember correctly if my waste size would have been under 40 inches when my BMI was so high, they still would have considered passing me through.

Just as you have to worry about sending someone onto the field who has serious psychological issues that may cause them to bail on the assignment too quickly, or cause them to act dangerously on their assignment where they do damage to the assignment, you have to consider health. It would be spiritually irresponsible for the board to send someone to be the sole representative to a people group if they feared that they were a risk due to their health. If something were to happen due to their health the problem it caused spriitually in the people group could be very bad.

Personally, when I was asked to lose the weight, it was a great time for me to truly evaluate my call. Was I willing to work extremely hard to lose weight for the sake of the people God had put on my heart, or was going on the field just something that I thought might be fun to do?

curmudgeon said...

While any health guideline policy could be abused, what I find most amazing about this subject is how many are willing to condemn the overweight believer as either an example of "gluttony" or simply a poor witness.

The NT saints had examples of gluttony, seen in the excesses of Romans eating until they regurgiated and then going back to eat some more.

Of course, those of us who are overweight would feel better and probably live longer. But to use current PC positions on diet, health, weight, et. al., to address the spirituality of another believer is simply over the top.

How fat is too fat? Do I need to be checking my BMI as a regular part of Christian self-examination? Self-control is a proper fruit of the Spirit. But to make judgments re another believer's spiritual maturity based on physical appearance is Pharasaical.

cameron said...

1. In my opinion (whatever that may be worth) every one associated with the IMB, be they field personel, trustees, RVA personel, whatever, should be held to the same policies. Whether the issue is BMI or beverage alcohol, everyone should be held to the same standard.

2. When we send a missionary to a culture that persecutes all Christians, is by all appearances completely and violently against the gospel message, and very likely to result in the injury or death of the missionary, do we send a non-Christian in to do the job, so as not to offend the locals? The target culture influences how we share the gospel, but it does not dictate who we are.

3. Do you really have a problem with the BMI policy? Because it seems to me (perhaps its just that pesky filter on my eyes) that you're just looking for something to critize.

IMFletch said...

As a missionary who not long ago had a BMI over the magical number, I can say that I appreciate the accountability. It has helped me keep the weight down where it should be.

I don't think others (BOT or Richmond employees) should be held to the standard, but it would be a lot more encouraging for us that are if they would give it a shot.

Wade Burleson said...

Cameron,

I'm not criticizing the BMI policy. I am very surprised most people don't understand the purpose for this post. My dad did the first time he read it, and will probably put up a post very soon that summarizes the reason for this post --- which has very little to do with the Body Mass Index and everything to do with logic, consistency, and the ability to live by principle and not the whims of man.

krisewbank said...

The only debate should be whether or not this policy will result in more souls being won to the Lord.

The heart of anyone going to the mission field or anyone sending people to the mission field should be that the gospel will be preached. If money or pride or preferences or politics enters in, then Christ is not glorified.

If you have a desire to see the lost come to accept Christ as savior, then you should gladly support any policy that more effectively spreads the gospel, regardless of how it impacts you.

We are not the important ones in this cause. We are simply servants. We should be willing to do whatever God asks of us, and support others who are obedient.

To be clear, the IMB board are simply servants. As leaders, they will give an account of their actions. It is a serious offense to discharge this duty with anything but humility and obedience. God will deal severely with them if they rule with pride and their own agenda.

To the churches, pastors, IMB board members, and missionaries, its all about souls, not you.

The Sullivans said...

I believe the IMB is very wise in having health and weight standards for their missionaries. There is no measure or scale that would be perfect in every situation and I think the IMB staff recognizes the need for exeptions. There are times, yet not many, when an indivituals weight is unusually high because of muscle mass.

I think the IMB is wise in this regard because being overweight is a sign of both a physical problem and a spiritual one. If someone is overweight they will probably have more physical problems that could cause undue medical costs for the Board, and in some cases, the need to leave the field. Secondly, gluttony and laziness are biblically, clear spiritual problems, which many Christians (especially Americans)would like to downplay.

I do think that if IMB Trustees and stateside staff do not have to adhere to the BMI requirements, they should at least have their BMI score printed on their IMB name tag :)

Keith

Laura said...

I can see somewhat why any Christian should follow healthy weight regulations. The Bible does mention very clearly that we are to have self control and not to indulge, many refer to this as to why not get drunk, etc. But this includes food. We live in an out of control society, Christians should be showing self-control in order to spread the Light.
I disagree with the reasons that they decided on a regulation BMI, though. It sounds almost vain, which is a sin of course.
The rules set should apply to everyone. God follows His rules.