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Christian Girl Guide leaders risk expulsion for refusing to drop God from promise

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Christian Girl Guide and Brownie leaders in North Yorkshire risk being expelled from the movement after publicly refusing to remove God from their promise.

Big change

The organisation announced earlier this year that the traditional pledge was to be changed, removing references to “God” and “country”. The change is one of the biggest in the movement’s 103 year history.

The promise “to love my God” is to be scrapped in favour of a pledge “to be true to myself” and “develop my beliefs”. Another change replaces a pledge to serve “my country” with “my community”.

Despite much controversy, Chief Guide Gill Slocombe has said the new wording will help the organisation’s 550,000 members to say it with sincerity.

Letter

But a group of Christian leaders from Harrogate, North Yorkshire, have announced their plan to continue using the traditional pledge at the groups which meet in their church.

Hazel Mitford, leader of the Guide group at St Paul’s United Reformed Church in Harrogate, Jayne Morrison (Brownie leader) and Allison Ellison (leader of the Rainbow group for younger girls) said they will encourage girls and leaders to continue with the original promise.

In a joint letter with the church’s minister, they spoke of their “dismay” at the change and argued that the movement keep “God at its core”.

Voluntary leader Jem Henderson, who is an atheist, has accused the women of forcing her to say the old promise. She is being supported by the National Secular Society.

She said: “It makes me angry: it is discriminatory against me, it is discriminatory against any atheist who is in the group already,” adding “It is not fair and I am cross about it.”

But Rev Brian Hunt, the minister of the church, has said that those who want to take the new pledge would still be able to do so.

This contrasts sharply with the message put out by a spokeswoman for Girlguiding UK, who confirmed that only the new pledge will be recognised.

The local Harrogate leaders say in their letter “The spiritual aspect is recognised in Girlguiding and ‘God’ has been part of the promise since it was founded.

“The divine is fundamental to everything it stands for. No one need join Girlguiding, so removing the reference to God in the interests of inclusivity removes much of what we stand for.”

They added: “Girlguiding has God at its core and anyone who has issue with this is free to start their own organisation.”

Support

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali has said that he hoped “many others” would follow the stance taken by the women in Harrogate, North Yorkshire.

“If there are others like this group – indeed I would hope that there are many others like it – why should they not be allowed to continue to have a reference to God?

“If these people really believe in diversity they would allow them to do that.

“Why should they face expulsion from the Girl Guides movement which is rooted in the Christian faith?"

He added: “I hope all Girl Guides will remain true to the vision, but, yes, if particular branches want to retain the reference to God they should be allowed to so.”

Andrea Minichiello Williams, CEO of Christian Concern, was also supportive of the group, saying: “The new pledge to ‘be true to myself and develop my beliefs’ may sound nice enough at first, but what does this actually mean? The opportunity to affirm a belief in God has been taken away without something of substance being put in its place.

“For many women, like those in Harrogate, their desire to serve in the Guides comes from their belief in God. They should be free to express that in the form of the original promise. Whether or not they’re allowed to will show how diverse and tolerant the new Guiding establishment really is.

“These women should be commended for standing up to the forced secularisation of the Guiding movement.”

Sources:

The Telegraph

The Telegraph

Related stories:

Girl Guides drop God from promise

Girl Guides consider dropping God from promise

 

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