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Annuity Board exec challenges pastors to take responsibility for their health

PHOENIX (BP)–O.S. Hawkins challenged pastors and church staff members to “take care of yourself physically and treat your body as the temple of the Holy Spirit” during the Annuity Board’s report to the Southern Baptist Convention June 18.

“If our people began to take responsibility for their health and adopt an attitude of wellness, we would see insurance claims and monthly payments decline,” the board president said, noting that insurance continues to be a priority of the Dallas-based SBC entity’s staff.

“National health care and rising costs continue to be a crisis in our nation and among our churches,” Hawkins said. “With these mounting concerns, our Annuity Board staff established a strategic healthcare project to address these issues and to provide you with a wider variety of medical plan options to meet your needs at rates you can afford.”

Hawkins said the project has a three-prong approach:

First, the Annuity Board is taking on the responsibility to offer more affordable healthcare products in 2004.

Second, participants need to take responsibility to improve their personal health by exercising more and eating healthful diets.

And, finally, churches need to take responsibility to provide adequate benefits separate from salaries for their ministers and staff.

“When we all work together,” Hawkins said, “we achieve a win-win situation for everyone.”

Byron McWilliams, pastor of First Baptist Church in Buna, Texas, shared a personal testimony about taking responsibility for his health.

During the SBC’s 2002 annual meeting in St. Louis, Hawkins introduced a wellness emphasis and challenged the messengers to make changes in their lifestyle.

“My wife and I were attending the convention and celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary,” McWilliams recounted. “During Dr. Hawkins’ report I did an evaluation of my life and began to realize that at 256 pounds I was part of the problem. I returned to Texas committed to eating healthy and starting an exercise plan.”

McWilliams began to limit his diet to 2,000 calories a day and began running last August preparing for a marathon.

“When I started running I could not even complete a mile,” he said. “But I continued to exercise and ran in my first marathon in January. I have lost between 50 and 60 pounds and just had a medical physical with a great report.”

McWilliams said God gave him a verse last year which has provided continual support, Hebrews 12:11: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

In addition to the insurance initiative, Hawkins reported positive news on the investment front. “After three years of decline in the equity market, all the board’s equity funds have been up at least 25 percent since experiencing the bottom in October of 2002. The Annuity Board staff and investment managers have remained true to our disciplined multi-manager approach and we are reaping the benefits.”

Hawkins said the Annuity Board continues to assist ministers, denominational employees and their widows who face critical financial circumstances in their retirement years. He encouraged the messengers to participate in this ministry by adopting an annuitant and as a church to observe Adopt An Annuitant Sunday on June 22.

“It is urgent that Southern Baptists step in to affirm these dear servants of God and let them know they are loved and not forgotten. We hope you will join us in this wonderful ministry,” Hawkins said.

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  • Jerilynn Armstrong