So I get a call from a mum of a baby I baptised last year. Two of the Godparents have decided, after the event, that they don’t believe in all this stuff and that they can’t do the job. Pretty commendable, if belated, I suppose. Anyway, the question is: can two other people become Godparents?

In many ways I could see no problem. If a Godparent decided that they could not fulfil the role in the child’s life, them surely someone else could be drafted in to do it? The new couple involved were keen to help, and promised to pray for the child, etc etc.

And yet, as far as I can make out, it is theologically impossible to declare that they are officially the Godparents, because one of the key roles of a Godparent is to witness to the faith of the baptised at the time of the baptism. It derives from the role of the ‘sponsor’ at the baptism of an adult in times of Christian persecution, where spies and informers were infiltrating the Christian faith. Just as a biological parent is alwys the parent of a child, whether they have contact or not, so a Godparent in witnessing the baptism is always a Godparent.

The parenting analogy breaks down there, however, because there is no rite in which a Godparent can ‘adopt’ a child, even if they can fulfil the role.

So: a newly baptised baby is abandoned by two Godparents. Two others are willing to replace them. The mum is keen that they should do it, for all the right reasons.

What I did was to affirm that the child’s baptismal faith had been witnessed by parents and Godparents, and invited the new couple to ‘act as’ the child Godparents. That’s actually what is says on the cards we give out. It seemed the pastoral thing to do – I’d rather the child had ‘Godparents’ who did the job, and I wasn’t going to get all theological. But was it the right thing to do?

The prayers (which I used at the (empty) font) are these.

Eternal and loving God,
you have promised that those who seek will find you;
we pray for your blessing on M and her familyfollowing her baptism.
May they may walk together in the Way of Christ.
By your grace, may M take her place within the community of your Church,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A and B, you have been asked to nurture M as she grows in faith, and to act as her Godparents.
At her baptism M’s parents and Godparents affirmed M’s baptismal faith and undertook to walk with her in the way of faith.
As you now take your place in order to act as her Godparents we pray that you will be strengthened to support M in her life in Christ.

May God bring you joy as you hold her in his love,
and walk with her on the Way of Christ.
May you be a blessing to M and her family,
and may the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always. Amen.

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