Holding to religious faith in a secular world is hard. Asking someone to act as the godparent for your child or for someone else’s child in their stead can help make that religious faithfulness a little bit easier. While godparenthood originated within the Catholic faith, each of the different branches of Christianity includes godparents in children’s lives. We’ve summarized the commonalities and differences below so that you can understand this important role across Christian traditions.
Godparents started in the Catholic faith and are still an important part of a Catholic child’s baptism. Many Catholic families ask for one person, a godfather and a godmother, to act as godparents. The godfather and godmother don’t have to be married to each other, although some are. If the Catholic family wants a Christian but non-Catholic person to act as a godparent, they may include a third person as a guarantor of the child’s faith.
Although the Anglican church split from the Catholic church a long time ago, Anglicans still include godparents in their infant baptisms. Ideally, the godparents were also baptized and confirmed in the Anglican church, so they could best vow to help raise the child in the faith. However, the church gives individual clergy discretion; sometimes, they waive these baptism and confirmation requirements.
Lutherans also include godparents in infant baptism and are generally stricter than Anglicans, requiring that the godparent is a baptized and confirmed Christian, ideally Lutheran. The godparent’s task is to help the child’s parents raise them in their common faith, especially if the child were to lose their parents. A godparent can only have one godchild due to this important responsibility. If the child’s family wants a Christian who isn’t Lutheran to act as godparent, they may do so under the title of “witness” instead of godparent.
Methodists use the terms godparent and sponsor to describe the spiritual parents of the person who is being baptized, whether they are a child or an adult. Some Methodists perform infant baptisms as a sign of the parents’ dedication to raising the child within the church and perform a second baptism later when that child or adult accepts Jesus Christ as their savior. Godparents help guide people after either or both baptisms so they can grow in their faith. If you want to be a great godparent, no matter your faith tradition, you must assist in that growing faith.
Reformed churches prefer the term “sponsor” to godparent, but the role is much the same. The sponsors stand with the child during their infant baptism and vow to instruct them in their common faith. Parents select the godparents from their specific Reformed denomination, such as Presbyterian, although they can request that the local church all act as sponsors.
The Orthodox Church has many rules concerning godparents. The godfather is typically the best man from the couple’s wedding, and the godmother is typically the maid of honor or bridesmaid. Sometimes, the godfather can also name the child. At least one of the godparents must be Orthodox, and they will eventually sponsor the child’s wedding.
The different branches of Christianity all take the tradition of godparents seriously. No matter what faith tradition a potential godparent or godchild comes from, this relationship is great for both parties.