Churches welcome Scout promise decision
The Church of England has welcomed the Scout Association's decision to retain the original "duty to God" pledge alongside the introduction of a new alternative promise for atheists and others without a faith.
The core scout promise "to do my duty to God" has been in existence for 106 years and this is the first time in the Scout movement's history that an alternative pledge has been offered for people without a faith, although alternatives have existed for Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists for several decades.
From January, new scouts with no religion will be able to promise to "uphold our scout values".
The announcement comes after a 10-month consultation that included faith groups.
The Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, and the Church of England's lead bishop on work with young people, the Right Reverend Paul Butler, welcomed the outcome.
He said: "I very much welcome this announcement by the Scout movement that God stays in the promise. I particularly welcome the opportunity we have been given to contribute to this consultation and support the outcome which ensures that a duty to God remains in the core scout promise.
"In enabling people of all faiths and none to affirm their beliefs through an additional alternative promise the Scout movement has demonstrated that it is both possible, and I would argue preferable, to affirm the importance of spiritual life and not to restrict meaning to arbitrary self-definition. As the last census demonstrated we remain a faithful nation where the majority of families and individuals find identity, affiliation and meaning in religious belief.
"For many years the rich relationship between Scouts and the Church of England has borne fruit in the lives of generations of young men and more recently young women.
"We share with the Scouting movement the aim to enable young people to interact with others, gain confidence and have the opportunity to reach their full potential.
"From the thousands of volunteers from churches who work as leaders and enablers through to the hosting of groups in Church premises throughout the country, I am confident that our relationship the Scouting movement will continue to flourish."
Announcing the new promise, the Scout Association said it remained "fully committed as a movement that explores faith and religion as a core element of its programme".
It said the introduction of the new promise was about inclusivity and allowing the Scout movement to engage with more young people and adults.
Wayne Bulpitt, UK Chief Commissioner for TSA said: "We look forward to welcoming even more young people and adults to Scouting. Throughout its 106-year history the Movement has continued to evolve and today marks an important step in that journey.
"It also signifies the determination to become truly inclusive and relevant to all sections of society that it serves. We are a values-based Movement and exploring faith and beliefs remains a key element of the Scouting Programme. That will not change."
Reverend Michael Heaney, Moderator of the Free Churches Group, welcomed the Scout Association's continued commitment to faith.
He said: "In my experience of Christian ministry and Scout leadership, faith is something that brings people together and enables them to be truly rounded individuals.
"I am delighted Scouting will continue to put the exploration of faith and values at the heart of its programme and that it will continue to invite those who wish to, to promise to do their duty to God.
"The UK is enriched by people of all backgrounds and beliefs. We are all at different stages in our journey of faith and it is vital that young people are able to discover their beliefs in a safe and supportive environment. Scouting is the perfect place for them to explore these vital questions in an atmosphere of trust and friendship."