According to the Sydney Morning Herald, former clients of Mercy Ministries — an antigay residential program serving Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom — say they were denied professional psychotherapeutic or counseling services and granted only occasional, program-monitored visits to a general practitioner.
Instead of professional care, residents were dictated Bible verses, prayed at, and “exorcised” — and then denied support for appropriate follow-up care. Some residents say they required years of professional care to recover from abuse suffered in the program.
Mercy is a residential program for 16- to 28-year-old women that claims to offer “Christian counseling” to women who struggle with abuse, depression, eating disorders, unplanned pregnancy, and sexuality. Residents are monitored during their trips outdoors and denied access to family and friends for four to six weeks at a time. Some participants reside on-site for months.
Ex-transgender and former Exodus North America executive director Sy Rogers was reportedly featured often in the program’s in-house videos. Former clients who experienced no same-sex attraction say they were disturbed by the program’s preoccupation with stamping out “lesbianism.” Program rules forbid hugging and any other physical contact among clients.
Despite harsh rules and inordinate repetition of ex-gay rhetoric, “Mercy Ministries denies it runs an ‘ex-gay’ program,” according to the Herald.
New Zealand government agencies have allegedly subsidized the abuse:
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.
Deeply felt ties bind Mercy Ministries, Gloria Jean’s and the Hillsong Church, connected through a complicated chain of directors and former directors – as well as donations.
More from the Sydney Morning Herald:
- God’s cure for gays lost in sin, March 19
- No mercy for transgressions, March 19
- The business of giving Mercy, March 18
- Corporates move quickly to cut ties, March 18
- Why Mercy Ministries was godsent for Hillsong, March 18
- Hell or a godsend: women tell their stories, March 18
- Ethics, financial probity for review, March 18
- They prayed to cast Satan from my body, March 18
- They sought help, but got exorcism and the Bible, March 17
- Women ‘mistreated’ by secretive ministry, March 17
- Lives at risk when vulnerable patients taken in by cult-like groups, March 17
Bene Diction Blogs On explains Mercy Ministries’ close ties to Hillsong, Australia’s largest pentecostal church, and finds the ministry planning to expand in Canada and the United States.
Ongoing coverage: Religion News Blog
Thoughtful religious analysis: One Salient Oversight
Hat tip: GayNZ