Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Stump the Priest: Who can be a Godparent?



Question: Who can be a godparent?

There are requirements for who can be a godparent, and then there are implications connected with being a godparent that need to be kept in mind.

Requirements:

First of all, a godparent must be an Orthodox Christian in good standing. This is the most obvious, and most important qualification. The purpose of the godparent is to instruct and guide the person who is baptized in the faith. In the case of children, should their parents die before the children become adults, the godparent should be prepared to take his godchild into his own home, and raise him as his own. Of course, in order for this to happen, the parents should indicate this decision in their Will.

One godparent must be of the same sex as the the person being baptized, the other godparent (if there are two, must be of the opposite sex). Only one godparent is necessary (though two are the usual custom in the Russian Church), but if there is only one, that godparent must be of the same sex.

Godparents should not be children (i.e., they should be at least young adults, who understand the faith).

Neither biological parent can be a godparent to their own child.

See also: Godparenting 101.


Implications:

A godparent cannot marry the other godparent of the person who is baptized.  It is a custom in many local Orthodox Churches for the wife or husband of the godparent to also be considered a godparent, but this is an honorary title. Technically, only the spouse of the same gender as the person baptized is the actual godparent. This honorary title is actually given to the spouse of the godparent, even if the godparent marries them after the baptism, and they were not even present at the baptism. However, if you have two actual godparents, they cannot marry, because they have a spiritual relationship.

The godparent cannot marry either the parent of his godchild, nor could he marry the child of his godchild. The same prohibition applies to the natural children of the godparent. Neither can two people who share a godparent get married.

For more on this, see Concerning Relationships Due to Holy Baptism.

See also: The Orthopraxis of Godparents in the Orthodox Church.