Mercy Ministries or How Not to Help People

Posted: March 28, 2008 in Atheism, Australia, News, Religion

mentalillness.jpgSometimes people run into problems in life.  Drug use, unexpected pregnancy, abuse issues and so on.  Most people tend to pick the tried and true method of seeking qualified medical professionals to assist them, which is fantastic.  The success rates for such are extremely high and the only real thing holding back even greater success is general lack of funding.  Some other people, however, choose an alternative method such as heading to organisations such as Mercy Ministries (Wiki).  This is a very poor choice indeed and some rather disturbing stories have come out of it.

The story broke with the Sydney Morning Herald’s story “They prayed to cast Satan from my body“, which includes testimony from one of the attendee’s of the program named Rhiannon Canham-Wright.  The story she tells is a troubling one, with completely unqualified people attempting to treat mental illness through unproven and potential very dangerous means.

The ABC picked up on the story with a story called ‘Exorcisms, cruel techniques’ part of Mercy Ministry treatment, noting the the girls were told that their problems were because they were possessed by demons.   Similarly, the Mercury from Tasmania also ran with their story Women ‘mistreated by Mercy Ministries’, which can be summed up by the storys introduction:

Three former ministry residents have blown the whistle on the program, claiming they were independent young women when they entered, but came out broken and suicidal, believing – as ministry staff had told them – that they were possessed by demons and that Satan controlled them.

Certain Cult-Watch groups have been watching Mercy Ministrys for some time and been quite concerned about what has been observed there. Cult Counselling Australia, as reported by The Age, has many misgivings about the way that Centrelink payments are taken by Mercy Ministrys and that completely unqualified people are placed in charges of residents.

Raphael Aron, director of Cult Counselling Australia, said Mercy Ministries was not a traditional guru or disciple cult but its exploitation of vulnerable people put it in the cult spectrum.

To gain more information on this story, other news agencies that have run stories on this subject include:

This last story contains what is another very disturbing aspect of Mercy Minstry’s, wherein they take the opportunity to impose their beliefs upon very vunerable young women in two aspects.  Pro-life and anti-homosexuality:

a social worker who grew up in Hillsong Church and wrote a book about her experiences, Tanya Levin, says Mercy Ministries is, “… completely anti-gay and completely pro-life. That’s why it was established.”

Mercy Ministry’s, it seems, has links to other organisations within Australia.  Most notably, there is the Hillsong Church and also Gloria Jean’s Coffee.   The connection with Hillsong is by far the most troubling with their very fundamentalist approach and numerous claims of being no more than a cash collecting cult-like organisation. Tanya Levin, a former member of Hillsong, writes on some of the more disturbing of Hillsong beliefs and their links to Mercy Ministrys in her piece ‘Why Mercy Ministries was godsent for Hillsong’.  For Hillsong’s part, they claim to be in partnership with Mercy Ministrys, so there is extremely little room for doubt that the two organisations are closely tied together – especially when you throw in that directors or Hillsong and Mercy Ministrys serve on the boards/leadership teams of both organisations.

The same complex web (for lack of a better term) of current and former directors, as well as financial support, strongly links Gloria Jeans Coffee to both Hillsong and Mercy Ministrys.  The Age reports on these links in their story The business of giving Mercy.

One of the best places for a much more indepth examination into this story is blog of Sean the Blogonaut who seems to be investigating this with everything he’s got. The stories he’s running with, at the time of this entrys publishing, are:

The Blog of Matt Stone also has some entries of interest, where people tied closely to the story (have attended the program or personally know people who have) have left comments.  Specifically, try here..

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Comments
  1. Thanks for the Hat Tip. I have another story coming out later today.

  2. chillinatthecabstand says:

    I did a post on this a month ago titled “Church Torturing Children.” It got a lot of hits as I recall.

    It’s hard to believe that in this day and age people still think Satan causes mental retardation.

  3. tinyfrog says:

    A while back, I had a post about a Christian ministry that tried to “cure” a lesbian of homosexuality. At first, I thought maybe we were talking about the same group. But (after checking) that group was called “Hope Ministries”, not “Mercy Ministries”. It’s somewhat similar, though.
    http://tinyfrog.wordpress.com/2007/04/30/lesbian-christian-ministry-trouble/

  4. ... says:

    “Approximately 40 girls live at Mercy for up to a year, coping with everything from drug abuse, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, unplanned pregnancies and lesbianism. “We do have girls who have a history of lesbianism, and that’s definitely an issue that we deal with,” says Scantlen. “We are cautious to make sure that we’re not putting them in an area where there’s going be more struggle or temptation because this is a girls’ home. In dealing with it in counseling, they have been able to walk in freedom from that.”

    – Scantlen, Assistant Programs Manager at Mercy Ministries USA

  5. Matt says:

    I’m unclear why you posted that quote. Either it was posted to show that the group is anti-homosexuality and, ignorantly, thinks homosexuality can be treated like a disease … or to show that it isn’t ant-gay. Which that quote goes right against.

    Clarification, please.

  6. Matt Stone says:

    Thanks for the hat tip. Actually, two of the girls who left comments were the original whistle blowers.

  7. ... says:

    To show that Mercy Ministries are anti gay.
    Sorry, I should have been clearer with my original post.

  8. Ayisha Grace says:

    Please be aware that there are some lies to the story Rhiannon tells and that she is a self admitted pathological liar. Yes Mercy ministries was extremely abusive and destructive but Rhiannon had an extremely easy time there abusing other residents and getting away with it. She also lied about them and got people kicked out. The other whistle blowers are telling the truth but Rhiannon is not a credible spource and has recently caused more harm than good on another forum for Mercy survivors

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