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Do the godparents you choose for your child need to be the same religion as the church where your baby will be baptised? Maybe you have a friend who you think would make an excellent godparent as they are thoughtful and kind, but they happen to be a different religion.
A godparent who has a different religion or no religion at all won’t be able to fulfil the promises made by a godparent at a child’s baptism. A godparent promises to help develop the faith of the child being baptised and therefore needs to share the same basic Christian faith.
The basic Christian faith includes belief in Jesus, who he said he is, what he teaches and belief in his promises.
If you have a friend who would make an excellent mentor for your child but doesn’t believe in the Christian faith then maybe in this case the friend could have another special role in the child’s life. Maybe mentor or another special title.
I’ve done a bit of research on this so let’s delve into some specifics and reasonings below.
Godparent with a Different Religion
There are many different religions in the world. Each religion is separated by their basic main belief in what or who God is and how he relates to us. Christians are separated by other religions because of their belief in Jesus and his claim to be the Son of God. Christians also believe in the Holy Spirit.
Baptism is an important ceremony performed by Christian Churches. Christians are baptised in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as instructed by Jesus in the bible. Therefore baptised Christians believe in the triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit)
The role of godparent is to help instruct and develop the faith of the child in the faith that they were baptised into. If the godparent doesn’t believe in who Jesus said he was or the Holy Spirit then they won’t be able to fulfil the promises to be made at the child’s baptism.
Asking someone to be a godparent when they have a different faith may put a lot of pressure on that person as it is such a fantastic honour to be asked to be a godparent and they probably very much want to accept, but in doing so they will be asked to promise something that they cannot do.
Some churches may allow the person to stand at the front with another godparent of the christian faith. This person can sometimes make a separate promise which doesn’t involve a promise about faith. Maybe a promise to be there and support the child. Each church will have a different view on this, but it may be worth asking.
I have also heard of some people that have been asked to be a godparent that take the request and role very seriously. They have looked into the Christian faith further and end up believing and embracing the faith themselves. This is really fantastic, but in no way to be expected. Everyone’s own faith should be respected.
Godparent with Same Religion But Different Christian Denomination
So we’ve established that godparents need to be of the same christian faith. But what about all the different christian denominations that believe basically the same thing but have some differences in their beliefs also?
Each denomination has slightly different rules on who can and cannot be a godparent for baptisms performed at their church. Let’s look at them separately:
The Catholic code of cannon law states that a godparent/sponsor must “be a Catholic who has been confirmed and has already received the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist and who leads a life of faith in keeping with the function to be taken on.”
Also “A baptized person who belongs to a non-Catholic ecclesial community is not to participate except together with a Catholic sponsor and then only as a witness of the baptism.”
So if you are a christian from another denomination then you can only act as a witness at the baptism in the Catholic church and there must also be a Catholic sponsor for the child.
Lutherans rules are a little more relaxed and allow godparents to be any family member or friend who is a baptised Christian.
The Lutheran church may also suggest assigning a sponsor from the church if they feel it would be beneficial to gently help in the development of faith in the child.
Anglicans have a similar belief to Lutherans. They also believe that godparents must be baptised in order to take on the very special role of supporting the child’s faith journey. They don’t specify that the godparent must also be Anglican.
I imagine most other protestant denominations have a similar belief, in that they require the godparent to be a baptised christian, but not necessarily of the same denomination.
Eastern Orthodox churches require the godparents to be “Baptised and/or chrismated in the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church” extracted here
Can a Non Baptised Person be a Godparent?
It seems to be a requirement from all Christian denominations that the godparent/sponsor be a baptised christian. Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches require that the godparent can only be a baptised christian from their own denomination.
Main Criteria When Looking For a Godparent
When looking for a godparent the focus should be on whether the person will be willing and able to help your child grow in faith in Jesus.
Other factors to consider are:
- will the godparent be in touch with the family for many years to come?
- are they someone you know and trust and will be there for your child?
- are they ready to make some big promises for your child at their baptism?
- are they baptised christians? (a requirement for most churches)
- If in a catholic or eastern orthodox church – are they baptised in the same denomination as your child will be baptised?
Sometimes it can be hard to find someone who fits all these things. It can be hard to know if someone will be in touch with the family for years to come. We can only go with what we know now and our best instinct.
How Many Godparents Can You Have?
Traditionally there are between two to four godparents when a child is baptised. There doesn’t seem to be any official maximum number of godparents, but there are not normally more than 4 godparents.
Prince George is an exception with 7 godparents. A suggestion for this is that he is going to have a lot of pressure growing up with the world watching and may need extra guidance and people he can confide in. Imagine trying to find 6 good godparents that you trust for each of your children. That would be a hard job!
For me personally I had 2 godparents growing up. My brother and sister also had 2 godparents each. Where I grew up this was fairly typical. Our children all have 2 each except our youngest who has 3, but that includes a married couple.
The Church of England says that every child should have at least three godparents. However, the Church of England also allow the baby’s parents to act as godparents, so they must have at least one other godparent besides the parents.
The Catholic church require one of each gender if more than 2 godparents are chosen. Similarly the Anglican church require a godparent of each gender.
If 3 godparents are chosen and it is a baby girl being baptised she will often have two godmothers and one godfather. Similarly if the child is a boy he will often have two godfathers and one godmother. The reason for this is because often it is easier to relate to a person of the same gender. However it is also equally important to have a good role model in the opposite gender.
Most people I know chose a godparent from each gender anyway, regardless of whether it is required or not.
Hopefully this helps clarify some viewpoints and doesn’t make the decision any harder in choosing a godparent for your child. If you’re not sure who to choose – remember to ask God for guidance and wisdom in this important decision.