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We receive a number of questions about the qualifications and responsibilities of God Parents.   The following and cross-referenced articles offer some information.

A 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.

“There 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. 

There 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 or over. 

 Canon 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.

So 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.

If 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). 

We 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.

 Having 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!

For a very clear example of advice to potential godparents see the leaflet produced by Ledsham

For related information - click on the following:

(God) Parents

Godparenting - more a social thing?
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