Hillsong In Trouble Over Mercy Ministries

Hillsong hit the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald this morning with an exposé of Mercy Ministries.

In an article entitled, “They sought help, but got exorcism and the Bible”, it was said:

A SECRETIVE ministry with direct links to Gloria Jean’s Coffees and the Hillsong Church has been deceiving troubled young women into signing over months of their lives to a program that offers scant medical or psychiatric care, instead using Bible studies and exorcisms to treat mental illness.

Government agencies such as Centrelink have also been drawn into the controversy, as residents are required to transfer their benefits to Mercy Ministries. There are also allegations that the group receives a carers payment to look after the young women.

Read the SMH article on Hillsong for more.

I then took a peek over at the Mercy Ministries website which said:

Mercy Ministries is a national non profit organisation dedicated to providing homes and care for young women suffering the effects of eating disorders, self harm, abuse, depression, unplanned pregnancies and other life controlling issues.

Mercy Ministries is a structured residential based program that provides professional support from psychologists, dieticians, general practitioners, social workers, career counsellors and daily education from program staff to support the young women in our care.

We provide a holistic program that addresses all aspects of a young woman’s well being; physical, spiritual and emotional. Mercy Ministries is a faith based organisation dedicated to the support of young women in crisis.

I am left wondering what to make of this. There has been a lot of scare mongering about Hillsong in the past which, in the fullness of time, turned out to be grounded in only the loosest of facts in a sea of innuendo.

In fact (and this is pure co-incidence) only last night I was having a laugh with my brother-in-law, a Hillsong member, about the Today Tonight’s last exposé on Hillsong’s alleged manipulation of Australian Idol votes. This exposé turned into a farce once it became apparent that no Hillsong members were actually in the competition – hence my mirth.

So, despite some misgivings that I do have about the way Hillsong operate (I am no apologist for them by any stretch of the imagination) I have learnt not to take these journalist outings at face value. For instance, how “secretive” is a ministry that has a flashy web page? And, would a “holistic” ministry pushing New Age style spirituality have coped the same flack as one pushing Pentecostal style spirituality? So I am left wondering what the real truth of this matter is.

57 Comments

  1. Vanessa, no worries, I have a fairly open moderation policy here. I allow links as long as the content is relevant to the thread and allow even fairly robust discussion as long as its kept civil. To put it in a nutshell, as long as there’s no flaming or spamming I allow pretty much anything. The other girls are welcome to pop by too, it certainly helps to broaden the picture.

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  2. my comment is specific to the press release that Hillsong Church put out in reference to Mercy Ministries where they state
    “We (Hillsong) have made an annual contribution to the work of Mercy Ministries, however we are not involved with the operational aspects of the organisation”
    ……what a load of bull, I attend Hillsong Church and can tell you right now that Darlene and Mark Zscheck are the founders and ones responsible for opening that mercy ministries house in Glenhaven in corporation with Nancy Alcorn. Darlene Zscheck has preached more than once from the Hillsong Church pulpit about her vision, her passion and her DIRECT involvement with the running of that mercy household….i have heard stories from her mouth about her and Bobby Houston and Donna Crouch (all leaders at Hillsong Church) visiting, counselling and spending time with the girls at Mercy Ministries……90% of the staff and the unqualified students that the girls refer to in their stories are from the Hillsong Church…..if this isn’t direct involvement….what is?
    Lets be honest though….this kind of dishonesty and corruption in releasing such a blatant lie to the press is quite typical of Hillsong, does “Family First” the political party that apparently had “no link to the church” ring any bells??? whilst yelling this from the roof tops and claiming this statement to be fact….the truth all along was that Family First was organised and based on beliefs and teachings by the pentecostal church.
    Hillsong and many pentecostal churches like it are corrupt, money hungry, and manipulative organisations and it sickens me that they even call themselves “christians”
    I really feel for these poor girls that have been traumatised by their time at Mercy Ministries, I wish them well in their recovery, and sincerely hope that the Government does a full investigation into the Mercy Ministries organisation and that they are fully exposed for what they are

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  3. Dear sisters, I am so sorry for your pain, for the retraumatization you experienced, whatever the cause. I am so very very deeply sorry for any who have been through this in any form, whatever your spiritual practice. I am proud of you for continuing, staying alive, getting help. You are BRAVE!
    I am a trauma survivor who was r*ped by the public mental health system, but by God’s grace finally received help from some grassroots Christians, and a secular trauma recovery center, who both “got it” about brokenhearted people.
    Both the Christians and the psychology-oriented center “got it” that what is called mental illness very often is better thought of as injury (trauma definition, anyone?). ( A note: At the center it was not about whether you needed meds or not; these were provided if your doctor had ordered them, with excellent medical support).
    The Christians got it that–whether or not one believes that spiritual darkness can be part of one’s terror or torment, whether or not any kind of deliverance is OFFERED (!)–you cannot “cast out” an actual part of your personality/soul/heart, and that to try to do so is horribly retraumatizing!
    The center got it that believing the survivor and giving her skills to recognize or sense danger, set and practice boundaries, be able to know and “hear” her own heart (YIKES!:-))and know her own Self, recognize safe people, get grounding skills and MORE, and at the same time find her own relationship with a loving God, this is all a gift of life.
    These were the ones who nurtured my healing.
    Trust your gut (God gave it to you!).
    Elizabeth
    eeemiller@hotmail.com

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  4. http://mattstone.blogs.com/journeysinbetween/2008/03/hillsong-in-tro.html?cid=107650046#comment-107650046
    Mercy Ministries, humanly speaking, offered our best hope for our daughter.
    On paper MM scores 98%. In our experience they score 2%, if that.
    MM has a worldly success orientation. It has a secular concept of stewardship. Their philosophy is: we run on donations therefore we will not waste our resources on hopeless cases. It does not demonstrate compassion through unconditional love.
    In our experience MM’s admissions process lacked the love, compassion and mercy of Christ. Judging by the admission in one of their own books that they get many complaints about their admissions process, if it were a publically accountable body they would have been sued many times (under discrimination legislation, application basis, etc). Its message is that ‘when you have healed yourself we will accept you so that our stewardship statistics will look good and we can boast of a high success rate’.
    The intake co-ordinator consistently displayed judgmental attitudes. She called our daughter judgmental, but did not give her a positive or encouraging word. Some people think that telling somebody to do something is encouragement. Did the admissions officer listen to our daughter? To me it sounded like interrogation by question and judgment. I guess she had heard it all before, but I suspect that she judged and blamed our daughter when she said that no other girl was so resistant to cooperation and change.
    From day one I was not aware that our daughter had ever been able to talk ‘with’ the admissions officer. Yes, I heard their phone conversations. The admissions officer did most of the talking and it was mostly demands, reprimands, criticism, judgment, condemnation. She did not appear to know how to actually talk with our daughter as a human being, let alone in love and without sending the message “Snap out of it. It is all your fault!” No respectful person speaks to a person with a broken leg in this way, or even to a person with depression.
    When MM demanded perfection from our daughter, she felt condemned. No amount of talk can make legalist demands sound like loving engagement. What would the admissions officer say that our daughter had done right? I do not mean give her token acknowledgements such as that she actually handed in an assignment. Here is a fact: our daughter could not sit around home and do nothing, so at the time of applying to enter MM she was doing 2 uni subjects and struggled to do them with incredible pain. When she had to do a book reflection for MM at that time, she was told that her review was not good enough and she was told to focus on nothing else but her application to enter MM. I read the book reflection and it was what they asked, an honest personal reflection not a book review. Yet she was criticised for her honesty in stating how she struggled with her faith and reflected on how a non-Christian friend’s cult faith was unhelpful to her. Wake up: she has a problem that she needs help with. Her conditions are OCPD and AN. OCPD is a disorder in which every aspect of life and living is regimented to the nth degree of perfectionism in a way that few disorders come close to. You do not have to be an expert in rare disorders, though. You only need to ask questions such as ‘how are you coping with…?’, or ‘Has anyone given you helpful insight as to why these things are so hard for you?’ The strange thing is that every conversation MM had with our daughter re-enforced extreme perfectionist demands, not to mention their contradictory expectations.
    Does to say what I feel about MM negate my incessant prayers? I love the frankness of the Psalms and so do not believe that my expressing my thoughts honestly equals un-forgiveness on my part. Gossip is a very serious sin, one that I wish to avoid.
    Saying all of this does not win friends, but that is not what this is about. Difficult as MM’s task is, I am prepared to say it because their gatekeeper system is nigh on impregnable which places them above external accountability. Their gatekeeper system transfers an individual from one person to another on the phone and, in our experience, did not allow legal guardians to access information about the children in their care on their application process. That should not be so.
    Our daughter did not get off the phone and bad mouth the admissions officer, she only pleaded for help – does that sound like someone who does not want help? I listened in on phone conversations, which is how I can say what I am saying.

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