Mercy Ministries demonised!

In a scathing article in the Sydney Morning Herald, Ruth Pollard slams Mercy Ministries for  allegedly practising exorcism on patients. Mercy Ministries is a Christian organisation.

One thing to ask here is whether it is appropriate for a Christian help service to practice exorcism. Who decides whether a Biblical practice should be used by a Biblically based group? Governments? Newspapers? The media? The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission? Centrelink?

When she asked Centrelink if there were any abnormalities with the way Centrelink payments were utilised, Pollard was told,  “Centrelink conducted a full investigation into the appointment of Mercy Ministries as nominees for Centrelink payments,” the general manager, Hank Jongen, said. “Investigation of the current customers reveals nothing untoward. There are no records of any complaints about the nominee arrangements.”

‘Nothing untoward’, and ‘no records of any complaints’, is not enough for Pollard and her fellow critics, though. They don’t like the concept of people being set free from being demonised, so they demonise the organisation for having manuals which outline what they consider correct techniques for casting out demons. Could this be because, like serial Christian basher and former senator Lyn Allison, she doesn’t like the prospect of Christians being able to help others through Biblical principles she doesn’t understand or consider valid?

Interestingly, Mercy Ministries has stated it doesn’t use the manuals anyway, and had revised their policy on exorcism. So why continue to pursue them?

I guess the practice of exorcism, which was first used successfully by Jesus, is a threat to unbeliever’s politically correct revisionist view of what true Christian ministry is – or it could be, if we will only act on Jesus’ instructions and not waver because a few doubters think psychology and medication are the only answers for many of the unexplained human frailties we are occassionally exposed to.

Clearly, each person has to be helped on an individual basis with true mercy, not every mental problem is solved through casting demons out of people, and there has to be a high degree of compassion, love and tender care given to these young women, most of whom suffer because they have a history of being neglected or abused. But saying no one ever needs to be freed through exorcism is a grave error.

So now, to perpetuate the rough treatment of Mercy Ministries, journalists are prepared to call respected commentators from Centrelink liars, and accuse the ACCC of a cover-up. Can’t let a good scandal die for want of facts, can we?


24 thoughts on “Mercy Ministries demonised!

  1. As I read it, some of the main points made in the article were:
    Mercy Ministries advertise that they provide psychologists to treat the girls, and yet the girls had no access to psychologists. Even the counsellors weren’t qualified.
    Mercy Ministries previously denied performing exorcisms, and now these books detailing exorcism which Mercy Ministries used up until a few months ago have surfaced.
    Mercy Ministries claimed their program was free and did a lot of fundraising from the unsuspecting public on that basis, when in fact they were charging the girls for their “services.”

    As a believer I know just as well as you that there are accounts of casting out of demons in the Bible. However, when programs falsely advertise their services and then enforce a one size fits all exorcism treatment upon each girl, while denouncing the validity of doctors, psychologists and medication, then something isn’t right. Jesus did not force exorcisms on every person that was sick.

    I saw how their form of treatment affected somebody who is quite close to me. They show the girls in the program anything but Mercy. They also claim to be a Christian program, however the words and actions of some of their staff don’t fit that claim. I do feel very sad for all of the girls that they have hurt, but I am also sad that an organisation that is behaving in such a way, still purports itself as being Christian and continues to give the world a reason to tar all with the same brush.

  2. Well put, Rob.

    I don’t think ministries should be supported by Christians just because the ministry claims to be ‘Christian’. There are serious concerns about this ministry.

  3. “Who decides whether a Biblical practice should be used by a Biblically based group?…Governments?…Centrelink?”

    If any group accepts money from the taxpayer, they should be willing to be open about what that money pays for, and answer legitimate questions.

    Its a bit rough to expect that government authority should leave you alone, but be happy to accept funds from that source.

    The kind of questions that Centrelink can ask however, would probably require records and documentation; I doubt that exorcisms are documented on a case by case basis, or if they are, I can’t see that Centrelink would have any standard questions requiring the production of such documentation.

    So I can’t see that Centrelink being unable to find evidence of anything ‘untoward’ says anything about whether the treatment practices of the group are good or bad.

    The government just isn’t set up to investigate this kind of thing normally. It would probably need a special Senate enquiry – and it doesn’t affect enough people to justify that approach.

    Journalists are the only ones who really can raise this kind of issue and keep it alive. If they didn’t do this, all sorts of atrocities would continue unabated.

    This is not to say that they are right or wrong about MM. But the lack of contact the girls have with outsiders, including their families, means that the ministry is basically opaque to outsiders. I’d view it with serious caution.

  4. Clearly, the real target, as often with the press these days, is Hillsong.

    Pollard writes, “Forget the eating disorder, the depression, or the related alcohol or drug problems – take on the money-making machine of the Hillsong Church, the coffee chain Gloria Jeans and their related entity, Mercy Ministries, because the Government bodies established to monitor their activities are busy doing something else.’

    So now it’s a fact, is it? Hillsong is merely a money-making machine, not a church, or a gathering of Christians in a large centre, worshipping together!

    You’d expect a church of 15,000 or more to have a large cash flow, since people give to support the work, and that’s the way it pays its way, as with all churches, large or small, but, in relative terms, why would Hillsong have more cash flowing in, by percentage, than the average Baptist church which also receives offerings and tithes, for the same reason Hillsong does – to help support the work, build buildings, have solid infrastructure, and everything else associated with churchs.

    It just has more people in attendance that’s all. Why should this make it more of a ‘money-making machine’ than any other voluntary-giving enterprise or club? It’s an irrelevant claim. OK so they’re very successful with their Worship albums and major conventions and events. When did this become a criminal offence? Why is it even a social problem? Worthy of ACCC investigation?

    Does the media hate the church enjoying success so much that it wants the Australian government to take measures to shut bit down? I think we’d call that draconian if it happened in any other nation.

    Gloria Jeans is apparently also bad, for what reason exactly? Pollard doesn’t even make any kind of suggestion what Gloria Jeans has to answer for!

    Mercy Ministries has some controversial means to their approach to recovery, and they are as close to Hillsong, by the indirect route of a slight Gloria Jeans connection – basically, sponsorship – as the media can get right now!

    I hope Mercy Ministries will open up and allow an independent, though Christian-based, enquiry into their practices. I say Christian based, because who, outside of Christian circles, understands a Biblical approach to care?

    I’m pretty certain that Centrelink is very strict about who they allow to use funds from payments, so, in saying they find nothing untoward, they are showing faith in Mercy Ministries to conduct themselves in a financially open and proper way, and this financial arrangement will be accompanied by stringent operational conditions. The previous Government seriously tightened up most of these kinds of operations during their tenure.

    The media wants to catch the big fish in this pool. If they can find something on Hillsong they’ll gather round like a pack of ravenous wolves. Meanwhile, Mercy Ministries will do.

    So why not just aim at Mercy Ministries? Because there is little evidence of actual wrong-doing or harm. I’m not saying they’ve done nothing to be answerable for, but I don’t have any more evidence than you, or the media, has, and I don’t think the existing evidence would be conclusive in a court of law or enquiry.

    The truth is that there is so much speculation and innuendo, as there often is in these things, that it is unlikely that agencies like the ACCC will have more than a glance at it, unless someone comes up with substantial proof of actual harm and wrongdoing. I think we’re still considered innocent until proven guilty in this country.

    So should the media operate outside of evidence also? Or should it come up with more actual facts before adding another slur by association? Should the media also attribute innocence until proven guilty? That assumption doesn’t make news and sell papers, so they don’t always, but it would be pertinent to remember this excellent and well-won legal principle.

  5. The link between Mercy Ministries and Hillsong is much stronger than you suggest. Mercy Ministries was brought to Australia by Hillsong, and until recently it was run by Darlene and Mark Zschech.

    The links with Gloria Jeans are strong too. Peter Irvine, co-founder, owner of Gloria Jeans took over running Mercy Ministries after the Zschechs. Gloria Jeans collected monies for Mercy Ministries, hundreds of thousands per year, under false pretence. Gloria Jeans and Mercy Ministries themselves claimed that girls are not charged to be at Mercy Ministries. This claim was made in advertising brochures. They used that claim to ask people to give more money. They also claimed that staff were qualified and that was untrue too. Because of this, people gave hundreds of thousands to a ministry that is run very differently to what they were told.

    No evidence of Mercy Ministries participating in any wrong doing? The exorcisms? The false advertising? The false claims in order to gain finance? The mistreatment of young women that made their conditions worse? The dishonesty when first addressing the claims in the media until the exorcism books started coming out?

    I’m with ravingpente, we need to be less naive when putting support behind an organisation just because it claims to be Christian. What they get up to needs to be measured against what the Bible instructs.

  6. If exorcism is intended to be used, it should be stated in the literature regarding the ministry, not sprung upon women once they are in a confining and opaque environment. It is not part of a conventional treatment process, and a person entering a treatment facility would not normally expect that to be part of the process.

    If their belief is that these illnesses are caused by demonic possession most of the time, and therefore exorcism is a regular and normal part of the treatment process, this should be stated.

    I know Christian psychologists who practice professionally, and while they are Christian, exorcisms aren’t one of the things their patients expect from them.

    Botched exorcisms can seriously stuff people up mentally, spiritually and emotionally. So if used, this should be stated in the literature, so that only those comfortable with such things are confronted by it.

  7. ravingpente exactly.

    If they were so proud of what they were doing, and had nothing to hide, why didn’t they admit they performed exorcisms when first asked about it? Mercy Ministries Australia said in many articles and media responses that they do not perform exorcisms. The statements were only taken back when their exorcism books were produced.

    This is not how a Christian organisation operates.

  8. The lack of transparency (and honesty) is a real problem with Mercy Ministries.

    However to be fair, the article is poor journalism. It has an almost hysterical tone as FL points out. Pollard seems to think that MM, Hillsong, Gloria Jeans are guilty of something, and if the Government have cleared them then there must be something wrong with their investigation.

    The article adds no more information to the public domain, just a rant that we havent got them yet.

  9. Yes, that’s true, wazza. It is a rant. When an article is so obviously prejudiced, its easier for people who don’t like the points made, to dismiss it.

    Some journalists seem to think every sane person thinks Jesus is a joke, but in reality they alienate a large number of their audience.

  10. I was told Hillsong have pulled out of Mercy Ministries now due to what they were doing. Has anyone else heard about it?

  11. Looking at this from a northern hemisphere perspective, I would say that however strong (or weak) the links are between Hillsong and MM, it is certainly true that the press want to have a go at Hillsong.

    Hillsong does generate income through gifts and tithes like other churches. The proportion of gifts compared to other churches will probably be very similar. Facelift is no doubt correct there. However, it is also certainly true that Hillsong merchandise in the form of CD’s, books, etc will also generate a large amount of money. I am not saying this is right or wrong for them to do this … they are very large, they are big enough to make this marketing viable. The fact they sell outside their immediate church community is also to be noted.

    Whish pot this sales revenue goes into … I don’t know. Does the church, Brian or whoever make the money as part of their remuneration? I don’t know.

    The point is, that the idea being put forward of Hillsong being a ‘money making machine’ is reasonably correct. That’s not actually a problem.
    How that money is spent is of course up to them as stewards of the money that God has graciously allowed them to generate from Christians world-wide.

    The wider point about MM, and the way they seem to have hidden a large part of what they do is not a good advertisement for Christianity.

    Jesus said “let your yes be yes and your no be no”. A decision to conceal some activities must be a marketing decision rather than a biblical one. That is a clear problem.

    The article is a total rant. Done enough of them myself to know that. Therefore, this cannot be read as a professional peace of journalism. It is not written impartially … it is an opinion peace.

    MM doesn’t look good from a purely biblical perspective and I am not now interested in money as a key problem. It is about their integrity for honesty and transparency. Everything we do in public must be above board or we say sorry and stop.

    It’s a real black eye in my honest opinion.

  12. It would behove MM to be seen to revise their methodology and publish the basics of what they do so the inquisitive public can have e better understanding of their mandate and aims.

    This is in the realm of possibility, can and should be done, even in the interests of a good repartee with the general public, and will give a greater degree of accountability, especially if it is seen that some valid criticism has been taken on board, but the media and other critics would then have to look at them from the aspect of renewal, not of past failures. I’m not convinced the media is equipped to do this.

  13. I really think MM have pused it far beyond that now. Even if they did come grovelling and apologise for their dishonesty to the public and their mistreatment of clients, it would seem to be too little far too late. They really are a blight among our many legitimate, honest Christian charities.

  14. I dunno. They seem to be operating across the globe quite unfettered. You can even ask questions of their psychologist online. I was under the impression there were no psychologists working for them, and this was one of the apparent alleged deceptions:

    Ask away yourself, if you want:

    http://www.mercyministries.com.au/pages/default.asp?pid=46

    ‘1. Can someone suffering from an eating disorder really recover?

    Yes. The journey to recovery is often a difficult and painful process that takes time and commitment but it is definitely possible. If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder it is important that professional support is found. While recovery is possible it can’t be done on your own. The support of family, friends and professionals are all essential elements in someone’s process to recovery.

    While recovering from an eating disorder is different for each person there are common steps and processes that anyone recovering will face such as:

    Time, commitment and will power

    Achievements and set backs

    Difficult decisions to make daily, often hourly

    Need for support

    Physical symptoms and other underlying issues contributing to the onset of the eating disorder

    Recovering from an eating disorder may seem difficult or even impossible, but as a young woman who recovered from an eating disorder said, “Don’t ever let someone tell you it’s not possible to recover from your eating disorder. I suffered from both Bulimia and Anorexia for over 6 years and am now completely recovered. Food has no control over my life and I have learnt to love myself as I am.”’

    Do they hide the fact that they are Christian Based? Apparently not:

    ’12. What method of Counselling is used at Mercy Ministries?

    Mercy Ministries uses a Christian based counselling program.

    Together with her counsellor a young woman will establish goals for what she would like to achieve during her time at Mercy Ministries and the direction she would like to take after her time in our program. The counselling process works through a staged structure addressing topics such as forgiveness, family issues, conflict and other topics related to the young woman’s specific issues.

    Once per week young women participate in group counselling where they work through general topics such as anger management, healthy boundaries in relationships and developing general life skills.’

  15. Yes, that was one of their other false advertising speils, that psychologists treated the young women. They did have a psychologist working in the Sydney office (not the treatment centre) for a few hours one day per week. She did not treat the young women. Her duties were around writing speils for their website and other publicity. Those same “questions/answers” have been on their website for years.

    As you have pointed out, unfortunately the website is set up in a way so as to encourage people to believe otherwise, which is part of what propelled their whole scam.

  16. I had a look at the website and saw that MM have totally removed her name from their website.

    I wondered if her being involved, even on just a publicity front, was going to have some sort of backlash on her professionally, I suppose it’s hardly surprising after the professional associations spoke out against the methods used. It’s not surprising her any reference to her name has been removed.

    I have heard they also lost the backing of Hillsong, who want nothing more to do with MM, and have removed MM from their Ministries page.

  17. A friend of mine went to Mercy and came out much worse then she went in. She told me about some of the processes and procedures she was subjected to – which in a lot of cases were more restrictive then even a serious impatient treatment facility would impose on patients.

    They are a cult, pretending to be a Christian treatment centre. No matter what I think of Hillsong, I strongly believe you can’t be Christian and support abuse, so it’s great to hear they have totally pulled their support from Mercy. The fact that they lied about the qualifications of their staff and the methods they use until they were caught out by so many people coming forward – that says a lot in my opinion.

  18. “The support of family, friends and professionals are all essential elements in someone’s process to recovery.”

    The testimonies of the MM girls that have been published indicate that they were isolated from family, friends, and even professionals, despite this piece of marketing.

    “…I strongly believe you can’t be Christian and support abuse,..”

    I agree. It doesn’t matter what church or group it is, or what the justification is. The trouble is that some Christians seem unable to recognise abuse in a church endorsed setting.

  19. Facelift, yes they do claim that its Christian counselling. What they don’t tell girls before they go there, or their doctors for that matter, is that the counsellor is not qualified and the counselling is this http://www.phw.org/phwrtfm.htm

    It’s funny how they “accidentally” left out the part about casting demons out when describing their counselling methods too.

    It is one size for all counselling and individual issues are not addressed. Every girl has the exact same counselling from the book, no matter what their issues are. Girls are taught that their issues are caused by demons that need to be cast out. That is not the idea of Christian counselling that most Christians would have or expect after reading ther advertising. These girls were promised care by professionals like psychologists but they were subjected to these sorts of things instead.

  20. Sarah having worked in a hospital under the Health Act everyone has a “duty of care” principal which they must adhere to. I know someone who spoke a little harsh to a patient (who was repeatedly making bad choices for themselves) and they were sacked.

    These laws are to protect the vulnerable and sick. That psychologist could have been struck off if they were involved in any of MM’s dubious practices.

  21. I am so glad there has been an ACCC ruling.

    Just shows how important it is not to just dismiss the victims when they raise issues. These women were effectively called liars, by the people who were supposed to be looking after them. Now they have been vindicated.

    I hope that they can still know Christ, knowing that Mercy did not really represent Him, no matter what MM thought. I hope that those who were so quick to dismiss the allegations will think twice before doing so another time. That kind of dismissal perpetuates the system that allows abuse to occur.

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