Girl Guides from the North have been warned they risk being expelled from the movement after refusing to drop ‘God’ from their traditional promise.
The leader of a church-based troop has been told she risks being axed from the organisation after defying a bid to replace its traditional pledge.
Glynis Mackie, 55, who has been leading the 37th Newcastle Guide Unit at Jesmond Parish Church for more than 25 years, received a letter on Friday after the unit refused to adopt a new oath.
The Guiding Promise was altered so that members now swear “to be true to myself and develop my beliefs” rather than the original “to love my God”. Mrs Mackie and the other leaders of the group resisted the change, which she calls a “fridge magnet promise that doesn’t really mean anything”.
The decision means that the unit, which includes more than 100 girls in Rainbows, Brownies, Guides and Rangers, will now have to meet as an independent group.
Mrs Mackie said: “The only thing we want for the girls is for them to have a choice. This surprisingly aggressive letter says that we ‘will not use’ the new Promise and that simply isn’t true.
“We would use this new form of words but we want the children to have to choice to say the old Promise if they want to.”
She added: “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 decision.”
Girl Guiding’s chief commissioner in the North East has told the group their membership of the organisation will be ended on December 31.
Mrs Mackie instead wants Girl Guiding to take the same stance as the Scouts’ pledge, which says a member will “uphold our Scout values” and can be taken by those who do not choose to vow to “do my duty to God”. Mrs Mackie said: “They’re trying to force us out of Girl Guiding with no process and with only three weeks’ notice. The girls are incredibly angry and they want their voice to be heard.”
Chief Guide Gill Slocombe said: “Girl Guiding is extremely sorry to hear of any Guide group leaving our organisation. By changing the wording of our promise, after an extensive consultation with over 44,000 people, we have opened our arms to welcome even more girls and adults – of all faiths and none - who will benefit from all the fantastic things we do in guiding.”
David Holloway, the vicar of Jesmond Parish Church, wrote in the church’s monthly newsletter: “The hard reality is that this new promise is, whether intentionally or not, a move for exclusion.”
Alison McClintock, 46, a nurse from Kenton who has three daughters in the group, said: “It’s just so sad that the girls weren’t given a choice.”