Who Should Serve as a Sponsor?

Beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Ony True God and Our Only True Savior,



The importance of the Sponsor's role in the Mysteries (Sacraments) of baptism and matrimony cannot be overstated. The Orthodox Church expects that the person who serves as sponsor be a practicing Orthodox Christian whose life corresponds to its teachings. Therefore, someone who has married outside the Orthodox or abandoned its teachings may not serve as sponsor.

To understand the Church's view, it is necessary to know the sponsor's role in context, particularly at the baptism. A sponsor's presence at baptism dates to the early Christian Church when the initiation of adults into the Faith was common. It was the sponsor who guaranteed the sincere intention and orthodox belief of the person about to be baptized. The sponsor, then, had to be a person of integrity with credible testimony and a real commitment to instructing another in the faith.

With the appearance and prevalence of infant baptism, the sponsor's role has become purely functional. Now, all that is required is the mere recitation of the Creed (Symbol of faith) in place of the infant and the formal promise to nurture it in the Orthodox Christian faith. (It is my experience that the sponsor/s are not familiar with the Creed and cannot even read the Creed without making embarrassing mistakes.)

Great care should be taken in selecting a sponsor for the Mysteries of baptism and matrimony. The person entrusted with the sacred responsibility of professing the Orthodox Christian faith in behalf of one about to be baptized ought to exemplify all that this entails. Such expectation will help assure a special kind of relationship not only between the sponsor and godchild but also between the sponsor and the godchild's parents.

We should not perpetuate the notion that sponsorship is simply a social matter. On the contrary, an Orthodox Christian should carefully select sponsor/s whose counsel and support can be trusted as godly, pious and faithful to the Traditions of the Orthodox Church. In this way, one finds spiritual stability in troubled times and is bound into a measure of accountability to the sponsor.

It has been a tendency from some Orthodox Christians to always select relatives i.e., brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc. to be sponsors of their child. That, however, prevents to expand one's spiritual family. Don't forfeit the opportunity to increase the number of members in one's spiritual family. Furthermore, it gives the impression of being closed, self-absorbed and exclusive. It would be more appropriate to nurture a spiritual relationship with those who are not one's relatives. (Source: Dr. Lewis J. Patsavos is a Professor of Canon Law at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Brookline, Mass.)

My own observation is that some Greek Orthodox parents who wish to baptize their child are not willing to abide by the teachings of the Church. They, unfortunately, disregard the advice to bring the baptized child to the church for the next two Sundays of receive Holy Communion.  After the baptism, I do not see either the child brought by the godparent to church or by the parents of the child. Greek Orthodox parents do not decide on their own if the child should be brought to church or not. The child should not be deprived of Holy Communion for years because the parents feel it is not important. All of our children should grow up in the Church and faith. God is present at the Divine Liturgy and all the Mysteries. "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them" (St. Matthew 18:20).  God is with us. He has a special presence in heaven and in every church as well, through His grace and the Mysteries (Sacraments).

In Christ's Service,

+Father George