correspondent (a mother) asked for advice concerning the minimum age for being a
God Parent - in this case an 11 year old baptised cousin. The following is a
summary of our reply.
is no minimum age for godparents ("supporting friends") in the
Service of Thanksgiving
for the Gift of a Child. One of our Committee has commissioned
several younger children in this role - down to about the age of 7 or 8.
The promise of support can be made by anyone of any age.
isn't a specified minimum age for godparents in the Baptism
Service either. But
there are two relevant regulations:
Canon B23(2) specifies
that godparents in the baptism service "shall be persons who
will faithfully fulfil their responsibilities", so the godparents
need to be of such an age that they can promise for the future as well
as for the moment - and this implies that they ought to be at least
teenagers. I have heard it argued* that this being able to
promise for the future is what marks adulthood off from childhood: it is
the main reason that there is a minimum age requirement for marriage,
for instance. On that basis you would ask for godparents to be 17
B23(4) specifies that godparents in the baptism service must have themselves
been baptised and confirmed - so obviously someone under the age
for confirmation cannot be a godparent. In most dioceses it is now against
the regulations for the clergy to begin confirmation preparation
for someone under the age of 13, and preparation takes at least a few
months: so a minimum age on this basis would be 13 1/2. Although
the minister has power to dispense with the requirement for
confirmation, the reason for this is to allow practising Christians of
other denominations (which don't have confirmation) to be appointed as
godparents, and the minister would not be acting in the spirit of
the Canon were s/he simply to say that the age doesn't matter.
our considered response would be that 12 and under is definitely
out, 13-16 might be marginal, and 17 would be the proper minimum age.
this seems a bit indefinite and even a bit legalistic, it really
seems to be a matter where the law (ie Canons) has to be interpreted
pastorally and in the context of local practice (cf the current
difficulties surrounding admitting unconfirmed children to communion).
would encourage the mother to consider
a thanksgiving service when
there would be no objection to the Cousin being a “supporting
friend”. A thanksgiving
service should not be thought of as a “second best” option (though
sadly some think of and treat it as such).
It can and should be conducted with as much “sense of
occasions” as a baptism and it does have the benefit that the child
then has the option of adult baptism and making their own promises when
(of age”. There are an
increasing number of committed Christians who take this option.
said all this it is great to hear of an 11 year old sufficiently
interested to consider this important role.
If the outcome is that the Minister (or PCC) feel she cannot
formally be a Godparent at a baptism, there would of course be
nothing against her joining the
chosen Godparents round the font and saying the promises even
though she would not formally be called a Godparent!
a very clear example of advice to potential
godparents see the leaflet produced by Ledsham
related information - click on the following: