A Girl Guides troop from Newcastle has reportedly been told that unless it removes any explicit mention of God from its membership oath, it risks expulsion from Girl Guides UK.
The national organisation adopted a new secular oath this year with
the wording "to be true to myself and develop my beliefs" replacing the
traditional promise to love God.
Leaders of the 37th Newcastle Guide Unit, based out of Jesmond Parish
Church, have not entirely rejected the new oath but have said they
would prefer to offer new Guides the choice using the original oath.
Glynis Mackie told the Daily Mail, "We would use this new form of
words but we do want the children to have the choice to say the old
Promise if they want to."
Ms Mackie is clearly unimpressed by the new oath that took effect
from September 1, describing it as a "fridge magnet promise that doesn't
really mean anything".
Despite that view however, she is not in favour of banning its use.
Ms Mackie wants a set-up similar to that currently used by the Scouts,
which made the decision in early October that any atheist who wished to
could replace the God-referencing part of the pledge with a promise to
"uphold our Scouts values".
"I understand why an atheist might not want to make a promise to God,
and that is fine by me, but it has to be up to the individual," she
However, her position has apparently been rejected in a letter by the central leadership of Girl Guides UK.
Ms Mackie said: "This letter, which is surprisingly aggressive, says
that we 'will not use' the new Promise and that simply isn't true."
Ms Mackie was also critical of how the Girl Guides leadership went about changing the historic promise.
She told The Chronicle: "This is the first substantial change to the
promise in the 103-year history of the Girl Guides. The change they
propose wasn't honestly investigated and we couldn't appeal the
She was not alone in her displeasure, with 839 official complaints
launched at the time of the initial proposal of the change.
this prompted fears in some quarters of a split in the movement, Girl
Guides UK pointed out that this number only represented 0.15% of their
Chief Guide Gill Slocombe, quoted in the Daily Mail, disputed Ms
Mackie's claims of inadequate discussion, saying that there had been "an
extensive consultation with over 44,000 people".
She insisted that the current system employed by the Girl Guides was
sufficient, as it "opened our arms to welcome even more girls and
adults, of all faiths – and none".
"We hope the new wording will help us reach out to girls and women
who might not have considered guiding before, so that even more girls
can benefit from everything guiding can offer," she said.
"I think it's more important that all girls get included in Guides than just the ones that have religious affiliation.
"It's a new oath, and more leaders that are younger and perhaps less
stuck in their ways should make Guiding more exciting for people that
want to join that don't just want to go and sit in a church hall with
women who are older than their mothers talking about whatever it is
they're talking about."
The vicar of Jesmond Parish Church, David Holloway, wrote of his
disappointment in the church's monthly newsletter: "The hard reality is
that this new promise is, whether intentionally or not, a move for
Mrs Mackie concurred, saying, "This is an example of people not
realising the importance of faith, of all faiths, in our community… I
would go as far as saying that it is an example of faith being sidelined
A similar instance occurred in August, with the St Paul's United
Reform Church troop in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. In that instance,
despite support from the former Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali,
the leaders of the troop backed down and agreed to accept the new
Girl Guide's chief commissioner for the North East has told the 37th
Newcastle Guide Unit that their membership of the organisation will be
ended on December 31 unless a change is made.
In commenting on any wider dissent, Ms Slocombe said: "They're
Christians, therefore they're capable of turning the other cheek."