GirlGuiding removes God from pledge

GirlGuiding New Zealand has amended its 'Promise' to be more inclusive.
GirlGuiding New Zealand has amended its 'Promise' to be more inclusive.

God has been removed from the promise recited by all members of GirlGuiding New Zealand, after more than a century of being mentioned.

The move, which took place in April this year, has raised barely a ripple of dissent.

"A couple of people have said they liked the old one better, but there's been very little comment," GirlGuiding NZ president Sonia Faulkner said.

That contrasts with the experience in Australia and the United Kingdom when guiding organisations in those countries changed their promises.

In the UK, the decision to remove God from the Girl Guides pledge in September 2013 was opposed by some Guides groups which refused to adopt the new wording, facing the threat of expulsion.

The matter also ended up before the Church of England's General Synod, which debated a motion criticising the Guides' decision. In the end the synod called for the Guides to allow members to add a voluntary preface to the pledge which did mention God, and the Guides agreed.

In Australia, reference to God and the Queen were removed from the promise in 2012. Taking out the Queen was the more controversial move, with Girl Guides Australia director Belinda Allen saying that decision had been contentious with some, particularly older, members.

Guiding started in New Zealand with the Girl Peace Scouts in 1908, whose promise was: "On my honour I promise I will be loyal to God and the King, I will try to help others at all times, I know the Scout Law and will obey it."

The promise from the start of the 21st century until earlier this year was: "I promise, with the help of my God, to be true to myself, to do my best to help my country, and to live by the Guide Law."

Now it is: "I promise to do my best, to be true to myself and develop my beliefs, to live by the Guide Law, and take action for a better world."

GirlGuiding NZ's Faulkner said the promise had morphed over the years, so that it continued to be in language that was relevant for the time.

"We're aware in an increasingly multiracial New Zealand that one person's definition of God will be very different from another person's," she said.

Girls were finding it easier to understand the meaning of the new promise, which also replaced the words "do my best to help my country", with "take action for a better world".

The new promise was "something people can actively engage with in their daily lives", Faulkner said.

The promise was changed after a survey to which more than 6000 members responded.

Faulkner also said that when reference to the Queen was removed from the New Zealand promise some years ago it caused "no ripples at all".