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The vanishing art of godparenting

02 November 2006


From Mr Roger Godin
Sir, — We in Baptismal Integrity (BI) are really grateful for Rachel Harden’s article ( Features, 5 November ). It raises a whole raft of issues, many of which come up from correspondence on our website ( www. baptism.org.uk  ).

We find the growth of services of thanksgiving encouraging. We feel that this is not so much due to the difficulty of finding godparents, as to an increased awareness of the seriousness of the godparent’s promises; a wish on the part of more parents (including many committed church families) to leave the decision to their children; an ideal opportunity for the "uncommitted" to express thanks to the Creator God in an environment where they are welcomed, not overwhelmed; avoidance of an "apparently hard-line" baptism policy (as outlined in the "Chatham" experience); even the possibility of having "ath-parents"!

With all these advantages, why is the growth not more rapid? Several answers are possible, but primarily it seems to be fear of adverse reaction, perhaps especially in rural areas.

To gain more objective evidence BI is commissioning a survey by the respected Christian Research Organisation to investigate further. If any of your readers are interested in taking part, please would they let me know.

By the way, while the clergy can exercise their discretion to allow unconfirmed godparents, all godparents must have been baptised.

Chair, Baptismal Integrity
The Stables, Capland Lane

Baptismal Integrity was formerly the Movement for the Reform of Infant Baptism (MORIB). Editor]

From the Revd John Hartley
Sir, — I fear that the demands on godparents are even worse than Rachel Harden suggests in her splendid article on infant baptisms: Canon B23 (2) requires godparents who are not only good examples of Christian faith, but who also exercise real care for the child. How many children have three or more committed Christians among their real carers? One can’t help suspecting that most Anglican baptisms nowadays are unlawful.

Nevertheless, as she says, "Thanksgiving services are increasingly popular." In fact, they are the only growth figure in Church Statistics 2002. Churches like ours at Eccleshill have found that they provide a way of giving people a real welcome, a first-class service, and the integrity that means they can look the Vicar in the eye afterwards.

Thanksgivings would probably be more widely used if more churches offered them. Maybe we need to learn how to present them properly, and promote them as part of our welcome to parents.

Eccleshill Vicarage, 2 Fagley Lane
Bradford BD2 3NS

From Dr Martin Henig
Sir, — I enjoyed Rachel Harden’s perceptive and wide-ranging article on godparents. I am certain that a great deal of leeway should be allowed in choosing them, but in the end the obligation is a religious one, and truly awesome in its implications.

In my own case, a far-sighted friend chose me to be godfather to her son. I was, at the time, not even a Christian, and so was very grateful to a generous and liberal priest for allowing it. But I was in no doubt whatsoever that something special had happened when I undertook the responsibility to “help him grow in the faith of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in which he was baptised”.

Twelve years later, I was myself baptised — and then very happy to be confirmed alongside my godson.

16 Alexandra Road

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