Monday, January 14, 2013

Guides consult on promises

THE Guide Association has launched a consultation on whether to drop the traditional promise that asks girls to swear allegiance to God and the Queen. 

The Association says that an increasing number of girls "struggled" with the wording.

When they join as Guides, Brownies, or Rainbows, girls have to promise: "I will do my best, to love my God, to serve the Queen and my country, to help other people and to keep the Guide law."

The Chief Guide, Gill Slocombe, said this week: "The promise is Guiding's beating heart - it's the core expression of values, and the common standard that brings everyone in Guiding together. Over the past few years, we have heard from more and more girls and leaders who struggle with the wording, particularly in interpreting what it really means to girls today.
Girlguiding UK is committed to retaining a promise that is in line with its original principles, but we know it's crucial that girls and young women understand and believe in the words they say."
 
The Guide Association is not an explicitly Christian organisation, although its values are rooted in Christian values of love and service to others. The consultation, which opened last Friday and continues until 3 March, is open to anyone in the general public, as well as members of the organisation.

It offers a range of options that respondents can rate under headings of "Like a lot", "Like", "Don't like", and "Dislike a lot". The mention of God could be replaced with a promise to "search for the spiritual value in my life", or "serve the Highest Truth and Love faithfully at all times". Alternatives to the reference to the Queen include "be useful to my country" and "engage myself with responsibility in the community I live in".

The National Secular Society has been campaigning for the Guides and the Scouting Association to drop the mention of God from the promise, arguing that it excludes some children.

The Scouts last year launched a consultation to ask their members and the wider public whether a non-religious version of their promise should be developed. This consultation ends on 31 January.

The review of the Guides' promise has been initiated by its new chief executive, Julie Bentley, and follows complaints from two families with no religious faith, who wanted their children to become Guides, but objected to the oath. Their cases were taken up by the National Secular Society.

Last year, Girl Guides in Australia dropped their allegiance to both God and the Queen, agreeing instead to serve their community and be true to themselves.

The chief executive of Christian Concern, Andrea Minichiello Williams, said this week: "I think it is a great sadness when you lose that ethos: you lose what you believe in and the organisation ends up meaning nothing. Girlguiding values, like serving others, have their roots in a Christian outlook. But if you sever the roots, then the fruit will shrivel."

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