This week members of the Church of England General Synod debated Girlguiding's Promise: the beating heart of our charity. Lately our Promise has become the beating heart of many newspaper headlines too.
Before we changed the promise last September, girls and members had been telling us that, as it stood, many of them struggled to understand and believe in the words of our Promise. They told us it was often a barrier to joining our charity. Our Trustees took this very seriously. Being open to all girls is one of our most deeply held commitments.
So I was immensely proud of the thoughtfulness, care and consideration our volunteers invested in forming the new Promise with its pledge to actively "develop my beliefs" and "be true to myself".
Since our new Promise came in last September many people have told me they have been able to make the Promise for the first time. Members with faith, and those without, have embraced the inclusivity of the new words. Members even stayed up until midnight to stand on Westminster Bridge and be the very first to make the new Promise.
The overwhelming messages I have heard have been wonderful accounts of how our Promise for all is really helping our members to fully engage in the "exploring spirituality" aspect of our programme. People have told me the new wording is really encouraging, no - in fact demanding, meaningful thought about beliefs and values.
But of course not everyone was pleased. It is always upsetting getting critical feedback, especially from our members, but with over half a million members it was inevitable not everyone would be happy.
Some of our members told us that as part of their Promise celebrations a few of them were choosing to say some words beforehand to make clear what their personal beliefs are. This seemed no problem to us! And so we have suggested it to the small number of other members who are struggling with the Promise.
The Synod has welcomed this approach - and we are very grateful for their support.
But I would like to be absolutely clear that none of this changes the decisions that came out of our careful democratic process last year. The girls and volunteers chose our new words - and we stand firmly by them.
And I would also add my own voice to the vast majority of members who have asked us to retain just one Promise for All - that unites our wonderfully diverse girls and young women in our membership behind a shared commitment to shared values. That shared commitment, and that unity, is what makes us so very special as a charity. It creates amazing bonds between people who have never met. And it brings an immense sense of pride to those who have made it. So we stand by our commitment to one Promise for All as well.
Girlguiding is an independent charity. We have listened very hard to what everyone had to say - but particularly we listened to our young members. After all Girlguiding is a youth charity - and nothing matters more to us than what they think and feel! It is for them, and our volunteers, to direct our decisions.
I am very proud of the decisions we have made. I hope that they can be respected, because I, and our Board of Trustees, are absolutely clear that the words of the Promise, and our commitment to one Promise for All, have not changed.
To me, this is what being "true to myself" is all about: standing up for what we believe in even when it might seem hard.
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