This new Promise was announced in June 2013 and became official on 1st September 2013. This has caused serious distress amongst many in Girl Guiding Ulster and within churches across Northern Ireland. The new Promise is now in effect and, while listening to concerns from within their own membership and church representatives, there are no plans from Girlguiding UK to take these concerns on board and formally review the use of the new Promise within Girlguiding Ulster. In fact the Chief Guide stated recently that:
"Whilst all leaders will need to accept this change as we go forward, we will be talking with leaders who are anxious and working with them to help resolve any difficulties. We sincerely hope it won’t be necessary for anybody to leave the organisation.” (The Telegraph, 26/8/13)
There are very real and immediate fears among Guide leaders that they will be compelled to implement the new Promise or have to leave Guiding, the consequences of which could be devastating for thousands of girls who love the Guides and benefit from the valuable work they do.
The Church of Ireland, Methodist and the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and have voiced their ‘deep concern’ at this new Promise, and are asking that the option to be able to make a promise to God to be reinstated. They have made it clear that they value highly their connection with Girlguiding Ulster but cannot support the use of the new Promise.
Therefore many Guide groups will now be left between the choice of saying a new Promise against their own wishes and that of their host church, or saying the old Promise –which will go unrecognised by Girlguiding UK. The imposition of the new Promise has already proved divisive and hurtful. Guide members have reported that it was overwhelmingly opposed at a recent meeting with hundreds of Girlguiding Ulster leaders on Friday 11th October 2013.
What if there was a truly inclusive Promise arrangement acceptable for all? For example, Scouting UK have kept their original Promise, ‘to do my duty to God’ and allowed an alternative Promise to also be said that replaces ‘to do my duty to God’ with ‘to uphold our scout values’. It has been welcomed by key faith groups and the British Humanist Association (BBC News 8/10/13) and is likely to be widely accepted in Northern Ireland. A similar arrangement with the Guide Promise would receive the same widespread acceptance.
Therefore as stakeholders in Guiding in Northern Ireland we call on Girlguiding Ulster to, as soon as possible, take whatever steps necessary to officially reinstate in Northern Ireland the old Promise:
“I promise that 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.”
And to also provide the additional option of an alternative promise:
“I promise that I will do my best: To uphold our Guide values, to serve the Queen and my country, to help other people and to keep the Guide law.”
We, the undersigned, regard this to be the best solution to welcome those of all faiths and none to Guiding in Northern Ireland.