The Brownie/Guide Promise

In February 2013, we heard about potential changes to the Brownie/Guide promise and Sheila Bember their faith advisor said this: "Girlguiding UK has always been an organisation that has held the spiritual development of girls at the heart of its activities. In a society where is it increasingly 'uncool' for young people to believe in God or any 'higher power,' it is important that there are still places where they can be encouraged to explore and develop their own beliefs. It is important that Girlguiding offers opportunities for spiritual development."

Unfortunately, by September of the same year the reference to God in the promise has been dropped.

Asked to speak to a local Guide group about their promise tonight and researching how I would go about it,  I came across the Jesmond Parish church response to the new words. You can read Rev'd David Holloway's thoughts here.

As Anglican ministers with Guide packs closely associated with and carrying the same name as our Parish churches, we are bound to lament the change in the promise from this:

I promise that I will do my best
To love my God
To serve the Queen & my country
To help other people
And to keep the Brownie/Guide Law

to this: 

I promise that I will do my best
To be true to myself and develop my beliefs
To serve the Queen & my community
To help other people
And to keep the Brownie/Guide Law

Victoria Coran of the Observer newspaper describes in her 8th of September article  "God swapped for gobbledygook" how I felt this evening:

I'm sorry they dropped God from the pledge rather than simply offer, as is done with jurors, an alternative wording for anyone whose faith or lack of it cannot incorporate the name. It seems a mean trick to play on all those churches that lend their halls for Brownie and Guide activities – forcing them to choose between continuing to house an organisation that has publicly severed its link with what they stand for, or withdrawing the space and leaving local children with nowhere to gather. In other words, they can choose between feeling foolish or cruel. It's an insidious position in which to place anyone, especially given that the new Promise also swears to "serve my community," of which churches are surely an important part.

Is this the rising secular agenda that is impinging on all aspects of contemporary life at work again? 
Does the new promise even make sense?

An article by Theosthinktank is helpful with its explanations that the whole of our way of life is deeply embedded in the Judeo-Christian world-view: 

...moral values come from somewhere. Our last three prime ministers have been well aware where they have come from. Tony Blair, who since his resignation as prime minister has been making up for not ‘Doing God’ whilst he was in office, is clear about the importance of his Christian faith in his life. Gordon Brown, whose father was a Church of Scotland minister, credited his parents with giving him his moral compass. David Cameron, whatever qualifications one might wish to put on his designation of Britain as a ‘Christian country’, was right to acknowledge the profound way in which Christian values have become British values,[10] and have become accepted as common sense even by those whose adherence to the Christian God is either weak or non-existent.

It is almost impossible for us to think ourselves outside of the Judaeo-Christian understandings of who human beings are and how they should relate to one another that we have inherited. We react with shock when we discover that Aristotle, the Philosopher, believed that slavery was natural, that some people were fit to be no more than living tools for others.[11] We are horrified when we understand how caste prejudice affects the Dalits, the Untouchables, whose common humanity is denied. We couch our debates about euthanasia in terms of the suffering of the old, chronically ill and dying, because it is unthinkable for us that they should be exterminated simply because they are now no longer contributing to society or able to fend for themselves.
We react in these ways because our public morality, our universal, reasonable, liberal morality tells us that no reasonable or sane person could think in those terms. And yet, what we believe to be reasonable turns out to have been profoundly influenced by Christianity’s teachings.

The self at the centre?
The new Guide law centres the self as the place of all right thinking "To be true to myself," but this is profoundly incompatible with the Christian world view. With all the Guides 'doing what is right in their own eyes' and all the leaders too, what will be the founding principles on which these once Christian organisations go on to have an impact in the world?

Do we think that there is going to be some possible future world in which we are able to conceive of right thinking and right living simply out of nowhere? It is not natural to us to think ethically, to put other people before ourselves - we need God's help and guidance, the guidance of his Holy Spirit and the guidance of his word. As the article I quoted from above goes on to describe:

Not just for the Romans, the Greeks and the Egyptians, but also for the Anglo-Saxons and the Celts, the commitments to social justice, to welcoming the refugee and to caring for the poor and the disabled which we feel strongly are ‘natural’ would have been seen as surprising, if not irrational.

Secularist nonsense
David McIlroy argues finally that the secularist agenda is a nonsense:
...law which is secular in the sense that it seeks to take no moral stances whatsoever, to rely on no contentious claims about the nature of human beings, about morality, or about values, is impossible. 

Perhaps then the new Brownie Guide Law is deeply compromised and compromising too! 

Only monarchists allowed then?
Just on one level alone, it is interesting to read their Equality and Diversity Policy - all faiths and worldviews are to be embraced but by the very nature of the promise itself, excluded are those who cannot for reasons swear allegiance to the Queen - surely she will go next. 

What now?
Perhaps I need to swap my own children from the Brownies and Guides to the Girls Brigade instead: 
Girls' Brigade's National Director Ruth Gilson says:
'...this step does seem to be an intentional shift away from having any Christian basis at the core of Girlguiding as a movement. For the Girls' Brigade, being a part of Church in the local community, committed to being people of Christian faith and providing space for girls and women to discover what this could mean for their lives is what we were founded to be. We welcome all girls, have lots of fun, are passionate to see girls and women grow, achieve and make a positive difference in their communities and we're excited to be part of the life and mission of Church.'

Much to think about this week in my household as my own girls approach this change to their Brownie/Guide promise. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's important to remember that Guiding was never a Christian organisation, and the God referred to was never specifically the Christian God, but the supreme being(s) in each religion, whatever name that being was usually given.

The Promise has now been made more challenging for the individual - no longer is it enough to 'do my duty to God' (in which case one could claim one's duty was simply not to offend those who did believe in God whether one did oneself or not), or to 'love my God' - which could be wholehearted or wishy-washy love of God alongside love of chocolate, a pop star, or whatever. Now, not only does each member have to have beliefs, but they have to develop them - to do something proactive about them such as study, debate, campaign . . . some thing which I think is much more demanding of all who have beliefs.


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