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Do parents have a role in the baptism of their child?


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#1 Algernon

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Posted 27 May 2012 - 09:47 AM

I have looked over the service of Orthodox Baptism and it seems as though the sponsors are the ones who voice all the promises and affirmaitons even though it is the parents who have the responsibility of raising the child in the faith. Why is this? Or am I reading this incorrectly?


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A

#2 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 27 May 2012 - 01:04 PM

The tradition of godparents or sponsors in Baptism dates back to the days when Christians were persecuted by the Roman Emperor Nero. Often parents were massacred during these persecutions. Thus sponsors were provided to instruct the children in the Christian faith in the event the parents were martyred. The godparent promises to see to it that the child is raised and educated in the Orthodox Christian faith. Orthodoxy teaches that the godparent is a sacred duty, not simply something to flatter a relative or friend.

The godparent speaks for the child who cannot speak for himself. The parents are giving their assent for this to happen, that is their role. The godparent also serves as an independent witness. The spiritual bond between the child and the godparent is stronger than a blood bond. Children of the same godparent cannot marry, and a godparent cannot marry a godchild.

#3 Algernon

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Posted 27 May 2012 - 04:54 PM

Of course it makes sense for someone to stand in for the parents when they are dead or otherwise unavailable. But when they are not, when they are in fact present at their child's baptism, they are asked to stand aside while someone else promises to raise the child in the Faith. I agree that being a godparent is a sacred duty. But surely you agree that being a parent is far more sacred. Why then should they not be the ones with an active role in the baptism? It is the parents who pray with the child every night and every morning and before every meal, it is the parents who get the child washed, dressed, and to church on time every Sunday, it is the parents' responsibility to determine which radio, television, or internet media are edifying and beneficial to the child's spiritual health and which are not, it is the parents who decide which school the child attends, and which friends are ok and which are bad influences on the child, it is the parents who teach the child how to make the sign of the Cross and how to pray and venerate the icons, it is the parents who teach the child to regard themselves and others as icons of God. It is the parents NOT the godparents, who made the endless day-to-day decisions, who make the rules, impose restrictions, and try to guard the child from the constant bombardment of evil. So, why should it not be the parents who are asked to speak for the child in this, the most important event in his or her life, when it is the parents who are expected to speak for and make decisions for the child in every other area of life?

Surely there's a better explanation for this than This is how it was done under Roman persecution.

#4 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 27 May 2012 - 08:26 PM

The parents already have a role in their children's lives, don't you agree? They already have a bond with their children, do they not? Baptism does not change, diminish or strengthen that role. Baptism is a spiritual joining of a person to the body of Christ and there is a spiritual bonding between the child and the godparent. Does the godparent give birth to the child? This is the spiritual birth, so there is a spiritual "god" parent. How else do you recommend this happen?

The godparent speaks for the child. The godparent witnesses for the child. In the ancient days before contracts, witnesses were vitally important for any commitment. Baptism is a commitment.

Is there some sort of problem here? Is there some sort of resentment for the role of the godparent? Is it somehow wrong to create this spiritual bond? The parents have already spoken, they are allowing their child to be baptized. They do not need to be in the center of attention. This is an opportunity to exercise humility if nothing else. Although words like humility and obedience are considered passé these days in modern society, they still have their place in the Church and in the lives of Christians, wouldn't you agree?

#5 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 27 May 2012 - 08:32 PM

Some more "official" information on godparents can be found here:

The Orthopraxis of Godparents in the Orthodox Christian Church

It might be noted that this is really not that different from the role of the sponsors in an Orthodox marriage. The parents really don't have any role in that ceremony as well. Is this somehow a bad thing?

#6 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 27 May 2012 - 10:03 PM

It is important to remember what baptism and chrismation do; the newly illumined child becomes a member of the Body of Christ, the Church which is the eucharistic community of the faithful. The godparent as the child's spiritual guardian represents that community beyond the immediate family of the child. Where the parents are observant Orthodox Christians, theirs is the primary responsibility for the child's spiritual well-being and the godparent supports that function whilst still representing the Church. Where the parents are less observant or lapse then the godparent's role becomes one of primary spiritual carer.

#7 Kosta

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Posted 29 May 2012 - 05:12 AM

I have looked over the service of Orthodox Baptism and it seems as though the sponsors are the ones who voice all the promises and affirmaitons even though it is the parents who have the responsibility of raising the child in the faith. Why is this? Or am I reading this incorrectly?


Thanks,
A



Algernon, you are reading the text correctly. To understand this we have to expand on a point brought up in the previous post. Originally, entire households were baptised. The sponsor was responsible for guiding and instructing an entire family. In the early church most converts were pagan adults, so the bishops' required a christian in good standing (whom the bishop knew and trusted) to sponsor those seeking to convert. Since these former pagans were new to the faith still living in a predominant pagan culture, the sponsors were their guides.

Fast forward a few centuries later, and there was no longer adult conversions as everyone accepted christianity, the role of the sponsor never fell out of usage and is retained from the earliest times

#8 Algernon

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Posted 02 June 2012 - 01:03 AM

I apologize for the late reply; I left town for a few days.

[quote name='Herman Blaydoe']The parents already have a role in their children's lives, don't you agree?[/QUOTE]

So......therefore let them not have a role in the joining of their children to the Church??

[QUOTE]They already have a bond with their children, do they not? Baptism does not change, diminish or strengthen that role.[/QUOTE]

No, in fact it seems that baptism is not connected in any way with that role. Sadly.

[QUOTE]Baptism is a spiritual joining of a person to the body of Christ and there is a spiritual bonding between the child and the godparent. Does the godparent give birth to the child? This is the spiritual birth, so there is a spiritual "god" parent. How else do you recommend this happen?[/QUOTE]

It's not the role of the godparents in the baptism that troubles me. Rather, it is the lack of any role for the parents.

[QUOTE]The godparent speaks for the child. The godparent witnesses for the child. In the ancient days before contracts, witnesses were vitally important for any commitment. Baptism is a commitment.[/QUOTE]

Again, why don't the parents speak for and act as witness to the child, when they speak for the child in every other aspect of the child's life?

[QUOTE]Is there some sort of problem here?[/QUOTE]

To be honest, I'm a bit surprised that I'm the only one who thinks so.

[QUOTE]Is there some sort of resentment for the role of the godparent?[/QUOTE]

No, not at all. Like I said, it is the total non-involvement on the part of the parents that bothers me.

[QUOTE] Is it somehow wrong to create this spiritual bond?[/QUOTE]

No.

[QUOTE]The parents have already spoken...[/QUOTE]

And will continue to speak for the child in every other way. So, why not in this way?

[QUOTE]...they are allowing their child to be baptized. They do not need to be in the center of attention.[/QUOTE]

Honestly, do you really think that's my concern here? I can assure you it is not.

[QUOTE]This is an opportunity to exercise humility if nothing else. Although words like humility and obedience are considered passé these days in modern society, they still have their place in the Church and in the lives of Christians, wouldn't you agree?[/QUOTE]

I certainly do agree. But I don't think for a single second that a parent's willingness and determination to take an active role in his child's spiritual formation is due to a lack of humility. And I think it's silly and insulting to suggest so.

[QUOTE]It might be noted that this is really not that different from the role of the sponsors in an Orthodox marriage. The parents really don't have any role in that ceremony as well.[/QUOTE]

Nor should they. By this point the child has grown and can speak for him or herself. Not so with baptism.

[quote name='Andreas Moran']It is important to remember what baptism and chrismation do; the newly illumined child becomes a member of the Body of Christ, the Church which is the eucharistic community of the faithful. The godparent as the child's spiritual guardian represents that community beyond the immediate family of the child. Where the parents are observant Orthodox Christians, theirs is the primary responsibility for the child's spiritual well-being and the godparent supports that function whilst still representing the Church. Where the parents are less observant or lapse then the godparent's role becomes one of primary spiritual carer.[/QUOTE]

I see. But if the parents are already members of the Church family and the child's family, doesn't it make more sense that they be the link between the child and the Church?

I'm not saying godparents should have no role whatsoever. What I am saying is that a child's natural parents--who, let's face it, are really the ones who will be raising the child in the Faith--should ALSO have a role.

[quote name='Kosta']Algernon, you are reading the text correctly. To understand this we have to expand on a point brought up in the previous post. Originally, entire households were baptised. The sponsor was responsible for guiding and instructing an entire family. In the early church most converts were pagan adults, so the bishops' required a christian in good standing (whom the bishop knew and trusted) to sponsor those seeking to convert. Since these former pagans were new to the faith still living in a predominant pagan culture, the sponsors were their guides.

Fast forward a few centuries later, and there was no longer adult conversions as everyone accepted christianity, the role of the sponsor never fell out of usage and is retained from the earliest times[/QUOTE]

Okay, but we're talking about parents who are already Christians in good standing. When an entire family is being brought into the Church, of course it makes sense even today to have a sponsor there to guide them and vouch for them. But why, when the parents are already baptized Christians and are perfectly capable of speaking on behalf of their child--and will be from that day forward anyway--and are the ones who are truly responsible for raising their child in the Faith, why is it that these ones, who have a key, no a VITAL, role in the formation of their child's spiritual life, should be excluded from that child's baptism? I'm sorry, it simply does not make sense to me. I'm sure there's a perfectly satisfying explanation to all this, but I have yet to hear it.

#9 Kosta

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Posted 02 June 2012 - 04:44 PM

[QUOTE]Okay, but we're talking about parents who are already Christians in good standing. When an entire family is being brought into the Church, of course it makes sense even today to have a sponsor there to guide them and vouch for them. But why, when the parents are already baptized Christians and are perfectly capable of speaking on behalf of their child--and will be from that day forward anyway--and are the ones who are truly responsible for raising their child in the Faith, why is it that these ones, who have a key, no a VITAL, role in the formation of their child's spiritual life, should be excluded from that child's baptism? I'm sorry, it simply does not make sense to me. I'm sure there's a perfectly satisfying explanation to all this, but I have yet to hear it.[/QUOTE][/QUOTE]



There is no seperate service for adults or infants. When my uncle married a korean girl, she was baptised with my mother as her sponsor, obviously her buddhist parents had no role in the service, there was no need to edit anything out. The Orthodox church uses the one and same service for all. In the pre-Nicene era, if the parents were martyred, the children would have been spared death, the task of raising them in the faith would then fall to the sponsor. There is no need to create a spiritual bond with the parents as its natural, the service instead anoints an 'alternative' by creating a new spiritual bond between the sponsor and the baptismal candidate which did not exist before.

#10 Archimandrite Irenei

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Posted 02 June 2012 - 05:59 PM

I always make a point, at baptisms, of stressing to all those present precisely this unique situation of the role of the parents in the mystery. It is a very vivid icon of the actions of Joachim and Anna, who present their daughter, the Theotokos, to the Temple. The role of Godly parents, in joining their children to the Church, is to offer them to God; to make them His. To renounce the worldly claims of parental authority, power, influence, right, etc., and to give the child to the Trinity. The child is then united to the Body of Christ, made wholly His -- just as the parents (if they are Orthodox Christians) are themselves part of this Body, themselves servants of God. This act is not done by the parents, nor is it an act of parental authority, involvement or influence. God draws the child to Himself. He unites the child to His Body (the communal responsibility, indicated in the Godparents). The parents 'offer up' their 'control', their possession; and they stand to the side as the child becomes wholly God's.

Then the great mystery, in that the child who is fully God's is returned to the parents, who are made his caretakers, his nurturers; their home is made the 'temple' in which he will grow and live. God gives this great gift to parents: that recognising their child is God's, He hands over care to the parents as a divine favour, responsibility and grace.

There is something therefore very important in the fact that the parents do not have an active role in their own child's baptism, apart from this key act of offering their child into the Church, and receiving him back from the hand of God.

INXC, ​Fr Irenei

#11 Algernon

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Posted 03 June 2012 - 07:45 PM

There is no seperate service for adults or infants. When my uncle married a korean girl, she was baptised with my mother as her sponsor, obviously her buddhist parents had no role in the service, there was no need to edit anything out. The Orthodox church uses the one and same service for all.


Yes, but the same service is used in different ways. At every adult baptism I have attended, the person being baptized speaks for him or herself, not the sponsor. The one being baptized is the one who spits out the door and who recites the Creed. Sometimes the sponsors do it as well, but I have never seen the sponsors do it instead of the person being baptized, except in the case of infant baptisms.

(Besides, you are talking about parents who are not Christian; I'm talking about parents who are)

In the pre-Nicene era, if the parents were martyred, the children would have been spared death, the task of raising them in the faith would then fall to the sponsor.


Yes, I get that. But we're not talking about the pre-Nicene era, we're talking about right now. Even now, parents can die and the task of raising the child in the Faith falls on the rest of the Church community, specifically the godparents. Fine. But as long as the parents are living, it is their job to see to the child's spiritual upbringing, is it not?

There is no need to create a spiritual bond with the parents as its natural, the service instead anoints an 'alternative' by creating a new spiritual bond between the sponsor and the baptismal candidate which did not exist before.


Again, I'm not suggesting that sponsors should have no role in the baptismal rite. I think it's a good and necessary thing that the child have a spiritual bond with his or her godparents. My issue is with the fact that the natural parents--whose task it is to raise the child in the faith--are excluded entirely.

Edited by Olga, 03 June 2012 - 10:27 PM.
fixed formatting tags


#12 Algernon

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Posted 03 June 2012 - 07:49 PM

I always make a point, at baptisms, of stressing to all those present precisely this unique situation of the role of the parents in the mystery. It is a very vivid icon of the actions of Joachim and Anna, who present their daughter, the Theotokos, to the Temple. The role of Godly parents, in joining their children to the Church, is to offer them to God; to make them His. To renounce the worldly claims of parental authority, power, influence, right, etc., and to give the child to the Trinity. The child is then united to the Body of Christ, made wholly His -- just as the parents (if they are Orthodox Christians) are themselves part of this Body, themselves servants of God. This act is not done by the parents, nor is it an act of parental authority, involvement or influence. God draws the child to Himself. He unites the child to His Body (the communal responsibility, indicated in the Godparents). The parents 'offer up' their 'control', their possession; and they stand to the side as the child becomes wholly God's.

Then the great mystery, in that the child who is fully God's is returned to the parents, who are made his caretakers, his nurturers; their home is made the 'temple' in which he will grow and live. God gives this great gift to parents: that recognising their child is God's, He hands over care to the parents as a divine favour, responsibility and grace.

There is something therefore very important in the fact that the parents do not have an active role in their own child's baptism, apart from this key act of offering their child into the Church, and receiving him back from the hand of God.

INXC, ​Fr Irenei


That is by far the best explanation I have yet read.
Thank you, Father.




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