TIME magazine this week published a story about Britons renouncing their ties to Christianity through obtaining certificates of “de-baptism”. Yes, de-baptism. According to the story, over 100,000 “former Christians” have downloaded a certificate of de-baptism to signify their public renouncing of their faith. Apparently the campaign has become so popular in the UK that the group printing these documents has started taking orders for certificates made from real parchment (at $4.50 a pop) — selling nearly 2,000 in just three weeks. This in addition to the 1,000 certificates downloaded over the internet each week. What are we to think of this little movement in England? While some might be extremely disappointed, I tend to be thankful – thankful for honesty. Let me explain.
England has a state church, the Anglican Church (what we know in America as the Episcopal Church), whereby infants (unbeknownst to them) are baptized and as such are regarded as a part of not only the Church but also to some degree the Christian faith. In other words, from the very beginning a person can see being a Christian founded not in what they believe but by virtue of their upbringing because the state and church have merged. Thus, it appears some Britons may very well come to the conclusion that they are Christians by birth, not conversion. However, the Bible tells a different tale. One enters the Church, whether in England or any other place on the face of the planet, solely through trusting in Christ as Savior and Lord (cf., Eph 4:4-6). To be sure, some miss this truth, trusting they are soundly within the Church of Jesus Christ via their baptism (be it infant or adult), church attendance, completion of a membership class or some other meritorious act. Unfortunately, they are sadly and perilously mistaken. It is our faith alone in Christ not our involvement which moves us into the Church. Jesus told us local churches would be composed both of those who truly believe and those who are truly deceived. He said the church would have both Christians and non-Christians, wheat and weeds respectively. Listen to his counsel in Mt. 13:30, “Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the harvest time I will tell the reapers, ‘Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'”
What I think is helpful is at least Britons, in choosing to “de-baptize” themselves, finally get to fly their true colors. It’s an attempt to separate from the religious morass that is the union of church and state. At least people are, by their own volition, declaring where their hearts lie. Why wouldn’t that be good for the Church? Now you know who is on the team and who isn’t. Instead of assuming people are followers of Jesus you can know where they stand…at least by their own profession. While some in the Church decry these bold Britons for actually stating the truth of their heart, I think it should not only be applauded but encouraged. Who needs a hollow and impotent attachment to the Church? Who needs bloated membership rolls that mean nothing? That shell-game of belonging to the Church bespeaks not of a relationship with the living God through Jesus Christ but cold, heartless religion. And believe me, the world doesn’t need any more religion. De-baptizing also lets the Church know where she truly stands with the culture. She may realize she isn’t as effective at bringing the Kingdom of God to the souls of men as once thought (official estimates are that fewer than a million Britons in the entire country even regularly attend Sunday services). Hopefully, it would stoke the fires of evangelism which may have all but died. That to be sure would be a blessing! Furthermore, it should encourage the Church in England (and around the world) to look in the mirror and see if there is any place where she has sold out Jesus, capitulated the Gospel to the culture, or substituted the mission God for lesser causes. It may very well be that the Church should repent before anyone else starts hitting their knees. All that to say, I can’t help but think these results would be good for the Church.
So I say, if you never really believed, “De-Baptize!” Wear the jersey of the team to which your heart is given and maybe God will give the Church the grace to adjust, repent and begin to do what Christ called them to do. That would truly be a gift indeed!