CON Contact Us DON Donate
Our History General Assembly Worldwide Outreach Ministries Standards Resources

Question and Answer

Followup to "Are Godparents Biblical?"


The Q&A about godparents takes a very narrow view of the function of godparents. Could not a "godparent" simply be one who will be the legal guardian of a child upon the death of the parents? The OPC doesn't involve anyone else at baptism, but why would it preclude parents from securing care for their children?


The use of godparents is usually understood in the context of the sacrament of baptism. However, what one calls those who inherit the responsibility for raising children in the event of the death of both parents is of no matter to the church. Call them what you will, i.e., guardians.

Historically, the practice of using godparents or sponsors at the administration of baptism developed in the medieval church. By the time of the Reformation in the 16th century the practice remained among Protestants—even the Reformed in Switzerland (including Calvin!). The idea of godparents was, however, changed from a more superstitious approach to one which centered around instruction. Godparents were seen as those who would assist the natural parents to instruct and teach the child the doctrines of the faith. As far as I can tell, however, their responsibility was not necessarily to be the caregiver in the event of the death of the natural parents.

As time went on, some problems persisted with regard to godparents. First, Protestant parents were asking their Catholic friends, neighbors, and family to serve as their child's godparents. For the Protestant clergy this caused great consternation. After all, the main function of the godparent was to instruct the child in the faith and, if the godparents were Catholics, this would have been a threat to the faith of the next generation. After all, the Roman Catholic priests actually forbade their people to employ Protestant godparents.

Second, often the pastor or his wife was asked to be godparent of the child the pastor was baptizing. This became a problem socially because one pastor could serve as the godfather for numerous members. Members could enjoy that privilege because of the pastor's position and influence in the community. It was a way of getting into the "in" crowd. You can image how this could cause all kinds of corruption.

So, my guess is that by the 17th century the Reformed gave up the practice. Not only did it cause problems, but it was not biblical. By the time the Westminster Confession and Directory for Worship were written, the practice disappeared from church liturgy altogether.

However, again, this is not to say that you as a parent cannot designate someone to be the caregiver of your children in the event of your death. Furthermore, if you want to call them "godparents," that's your prerogative. But when it comes to the baptism ceremony, at least in the OPC, you won't find any liturgical mention of them for the reasons listed above.

About Q&A

"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.

The questions come from individuals like yourself. If you have questions about biblical and theological matters, you are invited to send them by e-mail by using the "Pose a Question" link on the OPC home page or by clicking here.

At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those people who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)

The purpose of the OPC website's "Questions and Answers" is to respond to biblical and theological questions. Matters of church discipline, disputes, or debates go beyond the scope of our work. We recommend that you present your concerns in these areas to the appropriate judicatory. In most cases this will be to a local pastor, elder, or session. We do not want the website to replace personal involvement in, or commitment to, the local, visible church.

While we will respond to every serious questioner, we are not bound to give a substantive answer to every question, should we deem the question to be beyond the scope of our purpose or our own ability to answer.

You will receive an answer by e-mail. Please be patient as many of our respondents are busy pastors. The response to your question may take up to two (2) weeks. Some of the questions submitted will be chosen to be posted here, along with the corresponding answers.

Note that the "Questions and Answers" posted on the site have been edited—all personal references are removed, Scripture references or from some source may be added, and sometimes portions are expanded—to make the questions and answers more useful to a larger audience.

© 2020 The Orthodox Presbyterian Church



Chaplains and Military Personnel

Diaconal Ministries


Inter-Church Relations

Ministerial Care

Planned Giving

Short-Term Missions


Church Directory

Daily Devotional

Audio Sermons

Trinity Hymnal

Camps & Conferences

Gospel Tracts

Book Reviews



Presbyterian Guardian