Baptists and Godparents

Question inspired after watching the Netflix show, “Insatiable”, but putting this in GQ because I’m looking for a factual answer to something I wonder if the show got wrong.

Does the Baptist denomination actually do “Godparents”? Or is this just another example of “Hollywood” portraying religion without actually knowing what they’re talking about?

I was raised Protestant, but in non-Baptist denominations, so know little about the particulars of Baptist doctrine and practices. I have always thought that Godparents were a Catholic thing (and perhaps Episcopal/Aglican).

I don’t know the answer to this, but I’ll note that it’s likely that there’s no one answer for “Baptists,” because, unlike mainline Protestant denominations like Methodists or Episcopalians, the Baptist churches (at least in the U.S.) tend to be decentralized and autonomous – they aren’t one monolithic denomination with one standard way of doing things.

No, they do not for very obvious reasons. Baptists do not believe in infant baptism. They baptize professing believers only who are old enough to understand their baptism. The idea of a 20 year old needing Godparents is a bit ridiculous. Very few Baptists are baptized before at least late Elementary age, and usually middle school and up.

I’ll also note that, broadly, Baptist churches often insist on full-body immersion baptism, and practice baptism among adults, rather than for infants (as practiced by Catholics and many mainline Protestant denominations).

Part of the concept of godparents, from the standpoint of infant baptism, is that the godparents pledge to assist in the spiritual upbringing of the child. If you aren’t being baptized until you’re an adult, while you might well have a person who’s acting as a “sponsor” for you within the church, the concept of that person being a “godparent” might be seen as less relevant.

They wouldn’t have godparents in the sense of baptismal sponsors: That’s mostly just Catholics, and possibly other sects that practice infant baptism. But even people who don’t have that sort of formal relationship still sometimes have people whom they refer to as godparents. In that context, it just means unrelated adults in a child’s life who take on a quasi-parental role.

My mom, for instance, has a couple of former students (Jehova’s Witnesses, I think) who just sort of latched onto her. She refers to them as “honorary grandchildren”. They refer to her as their “godmother”. There was never any ritual making her their godmother, nor any sort of paperwork: That’s just the word they use to describe the relationship.


This never once occurred to me as a child.

Raised Southern Baptist, Recovering since 1988-ish

I believe that many sects that don’t believe in infant baptism believe in the biblical practice of infant dedication (to the lord), which infant baptism. We see this in the Bible several places of various forms like 1 sam 1:11.

Bold mine, Today these people are still know as hippies :slight_smile:

Anyway dedication to the Lord, beyond what a parent thinks they can do, is biblical. Selecting that person oneself to do so is on shakier ground.

Former Baptist here, from a church affiliated with the National Baptist Convention, USA, a predominately African-American group.

I did indeed have godparents. While the church believes in adult (or at least age of reason) baptism, we did have christenings, or baby blessing ceremonies. Ostensibly godparents have the role of keeping an eye on the spiritual upbringing of the child. For my family, it was just like having an extra aunt and uncle.

I am fifty-eight and haven’t been to church in 30+ years, but I have no reason to believe this has changed.

Yup, the churches I’ve attended do infant dedications, but actual baptism waits until the child is old enough to understand it.

I grew up Southern Baptist, and there was no concept of “godparents”.

Yep. It was something that I had heard mentioned on TV, but never really knew it had something to do with infant baptism until I saw the episode of Modern Family parodying the The Godfather christening scene (which–I’m ashamed to admit–I saw before ever actually seeing The Godfather.)

And that would also be a Lutheran/Methodist thing.

Oddly enough, not a Presbyterian thing, even though the Presbyterians are an infant-baptism sect. It’s a deliberate stance, not just an accident of custom. And Presbyterians congregations aren’t as independent as Baptist congregations are.

But we often get families who /want/ to have godparents, and they are accommodated in the service. The minister makes up something to make them feel included.

Missionary Baptist. No Godparents.

What “obvious reasons”, please? The role of godparents includes coparenting the child, which for older ones would be more what’s called “mentoring”; traditionally it also included adopting the child if the parents died, or taking them as apprentices. I don’t see anything there which makes it obvious that a child old enough to know their own mind can’t use such people.

The purpose of baptism in the Baptist faith is that the child is old enough to make those decisions him or herself. The idea of needing some sort of ‘in loco parentis’ is a strange one since they don’t need a ‘parentis’ at all - spiritually speaking. The decision for their spiritual growth becomes their own and a community responsibility. They are free to pick a mentor or not as they see fit since they are ostensibly old enough to be responsible for their own religious life.

I had a different “What ‘obvious reasons’ please?” question: Why does godparenting have to be concurrent with baptism?

(I grew up in a tradition that had neither godparents nor infant baptism, but I didn’t know they had to go together. (For all I knew, godfathers had something to do with the Mafia, and godmothers had something to do with turning a pumpkin into a coach so you could go to the ball.))

Well, the term originates with Catholic baptismal practices. But like I said, a lot of people have someone they call “godparents” who aren’t baptismal sponsors.

While the above may be obvious to many people , that doesn’t mean it’s obvious to all. Although “godparent” is typically used to refer to the sponsor(s) of an infant or young child being baptized into the Catholic Church , a person of any age being baptized and/or confirmed will have a sponsor ( which is what a godparent actually is). So it’s not so obvious to me that churches that don’t practice infant baptism don’t have a godparent/sponsor equivalent - my husband was baptized at age 31 and needed a sponsor , why would I think 12 year old needing a sponsor was ridiculous?

The religious aspects of godparents/sponsors are the same no matter the age of the person being baptized/confirmed - essentially to assist the person in living a Catholic life and being a role model. The “traditional” aspects such as being the child’s legal guardians if something happens to the parents are cultural or taking the child on as an apprentice are cultural

I guess my obviousness doesn’t extend to everyone. We have to define ‘godparent’ one supposes as we could think it means all sorts of things. The OED has a single definition for it “A sponsor at baptism or confirmation; a godfather or godmother.” Baptism is sort of an essential part to that. I guess we could come up with our own ideas of what a ‘godparent’ is, but then we’re really not talking about the same thing. Language is fluid I suppose and maybe in someone else’s particular dialect or vernacular an animal that barks is called a ‘cat’ and if we want to start defining it that way, that’s cool, but I’m not sure we’re then getting at the root of the OP’s question.

You are correct that adults can and do have godparents in many Christian faiths, but typically that arises out of the practice of infant baptism, rather than arising independently and then applying it to infants as well. I guess I can only say that things that are obvious to me are not obvious to everyone and for that I apologize. I will only say that “No, traditionally Baptists do not have Godparents.”

I don’t think it did actually - my recollection is that originally sponsors served not only as role models to the person seeking baptism, but also vouched for them during the time when Romans persecuted Christians , similar to organizations that require prospective members to be sponsored by a current member.