|This article relies on references to primary sources. (October 2012)|
|Motto||Lives transformed. Hope restored.|
|Formerly called||Covenant Ministries|
Mercy Ministries is an international, Christian and charitable organization that offers a six-month residential program for young women aged between 13 and 28 who struggle with various "life controlling" issues such as eating disorders, depression, self-harm, abuse issues, and drug and alcohol addictions.
Mercy Ministries take a pro-life and anti-gay stance in their faith-based approach, and as such, extend their program to offer women with unplanned pregnancies with alternatives to abortion, as well as treat women who identify as lesbian or who have sexual identity issues. In 2010, Mercy Ministries extended their program to work with victims of sex trafficking.
History and locations
Mercy Ministries was founded in 1983 by Nancy Alcorn.
Nancy Alcorn had previously worked for eight years as an athletic director at the Tennessee Department of Corrections, a correctional facility for juvenile delinquent girls, then moved on to supervise foster-care placements, working with the Emergency Child Protective Services unit investigating cases of abuse and neglect. She then moved on to a Director of Women role at the Nashville Teen Challenge program for two years. Alcorn opened the first Mercy Ministries home in West Monroe In 1983 (which until 1987 was better-known as "Covenant Ministries"). A second home was opened in Nashville in 1996 followed by new corporate headquarters in 2001.
Mercy Ministries went international in 2001, opening two facilities Australia followed by further homes in the United Kingdom in 2006, New Zealand in 2007 and Canada in 2010. Following controversy and widely publicized abuse scandals, they announced the closure of the Australian homes. The Sunshine Coast facility closed in June 2008 followed by the Sydney home in October 2009.
Mercy Ministries also opened homes in St Louis, Missouri and Sacramento, California in 2005 and 2009 respectively,. To date, Mercy Ministries has disclosed anticipated homes to be opened in Washington, D.C., North Carolina, Los Angeles, Florida, Vietnam, Peru and South Africa.
While the Mercy Ministries website states they are a non-denominational Christian organization, Mercy Ministries are also considered to be evangelical, charismatic and fundamentalist, both as an organization and in their approach to treatment.
The Mercy Ministries website states that the founder, Nancy Alcorn, established the following three financial principles for the program:
- Accept girls free of charge;
- Give at least ten percent of all donations to other organizations and ministries; and
- To not accept any state or federal funding as it interferes with the freedom to share Christ.
According to the three guiding principles that founder Nancy Alcorn established, the Mercy Ministries website states that they do not accept government funding, and as such, are supported solely by donations from individuals, organizations and other ministries.
With regard to fund raising events, Mercy Ministries host gala dinners, Christmas donation drives and running marathons throughout the year, and invite visitors to their website to donate by becoming a financial partner or "sponsoring" a girl.
Mercy Ministries also sell resources to raise funds such as books and sermons by founder Nancy Alcorn, as well as an audio bible featuring the voices of Christian celebrities and testimonies of Mercy Ministries graduates.
In spite of Mercy Ministries principles of not accepting government funding and providing their program free of charge to their clients, Mercy Ministries Australia was investigated by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) and found to be in breach of the Trade Practices Act 1997 and guilty of "false and misleading advertising" of their services, including advertising that their program was free of charge when their clients were in fact required to sign over their government welfare benefits. The former directors were required to issue a written apology as well as undertake to partially compensate the former residents from whom they took monies.
Program structure and content
Individual counseling curriculum
Mercy Ministries state that their counseling curriculum "combines biblical principles of healing and unconditional love with best-practice clinical interventions".
According to their website, Mercy Ministries' current counseling curriculum is called "Choices That Bring Change" and deals with key components "Commitment to Christ", "Choosing to Forgive", "Renewing the Mind", "Generational Patterns", "Healing Life Hurts", "Freedom From Oppression" and "Principles for Life-long Success".
This curriculum was said to have "replaced" "Restoring the Foundations" in 2009 by one media source, and in another, was said to have been "renamed" Choices That Bring Change. This change occurred in June 2008, following revelations that "Restoring the Foundations" involved the practice of exorcism/demonic deliverance. However, as of October 27, 2012, the Mercy Ministries of America website states that "Mercy Ministries does not perform or endorse exorcisms as part of its treatment curriculum".
Modules of Restoring the Foundations, used by Mercy Ministries until June 2008, included "salvation", "forgiveness", "godly/ungodly beliefs", "generational curses", "soul/spirit hurts" and "demonic oppression".
Group counseling consists of working through resources such as "The Bait of Satan" by John Bevere, "Boundaries" by Henry Cloud and John Townsend and "The Battlefield of the Mind" by Joyce Meyer.
In addition to individual and group counseling, other aspects of the Mercy Ministries program include praise and worship, bible reading, listening to sermons and Christian teachings (both during scheduled class times as well as for prescribed counseling homework), cooking, cleaning and recreational time.
During class time, residents are exposed to resources from preachers such as Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Jordan Rubin, Joyce Meyer and Dave Ramsey.
The Mercy Ministries website states that they also facilitate "life-skills training", "nutritional care" and "financial management instruction".
Since early 2008, Mercy Ministries have attracted considerable media attention in Australia, followed by the United States and the United Kingdom, drawing criticism of their employment of unqualified staff, overall medical negligence, and the use of demonic deliverance in their approach to treatment.
- Feineman, Carol (March 14, 2012). "Mercy Ministries needs more than the Bible for its treatment methods". Lincoln News Messenger. Retrieved October 19, 2012.
- Capone, Alesha (November 14, 2007). "Borders passes the hat for anti-gay, pro-life charity". Crikey. Retrieved October 19, 2012.
- Mercy Ministries website
- Hannan, Caleb (October 2, 2008). "Jesus RX". Nashville Scene. Retrieved October 19, 2012.
- Croft, Margaret (October 19, 2012). "Mercy Ministries". The News Star. Retrieved October 19, 2012.
- "Mercy Ministries and The Home Foundation partner to provide residential care for US victims of sex trafficking". FOX Business - PR Newswire. Archived from the original on March 12, 2010. Retrieved October 23, 2012.
- Transformed Magazine. "Bring Increase to Your Life - The Power of Giving". Retrieved July 22, 2012.
- Waters, Jen (August 8, 2003). "Mercy Not Strained; Christian Mission Nurtures Young, Distressed Women". The Washington Times (Washington DC).
- "Mercy Ministries Canada - History". Retrieved November 4, 2012.
- Mundi, Rex (June 7, 2008). "Mercy Ministries to close Coast home". Sunshine Coast Daily. Retrieved October 23, 2012.
- Pollard, Ruth (October 28, 2009). "Mercy Ministries to close". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved November 5, 2012.
- Pollard, Ruth (December 17, 2009). "Mercy Ministries admits claims were false". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved October 23, 2012.
- Hannan, Caleb (October 2, 2008). "Jesus RX: The untold tale behind Mercy Ministries one-size-fits-all prescription for recovery". The Nashville Scene. Retrieved October 23, 2012.
- Zwartz, Barney (March 18, 2008). "Cult-rescue group concerned about Mercy Ministries". The Age. Retrieved November 4, 2012.
- Mercy Ministries. "Who We Are". Retrieved July 22, 2012.
- "Mercy Ministries of America - Run for Mercy". Retrieved November 12, 2012.
- "Mercy Ministries of America". Retrieved November 12, 2012.
- "Undertaking to the Australian Competition and Consuming Commission". Retrieved November 12, 2012.
- Dumm, Stephanie (March 14, 2012). "Mercy Ministries responds to its critics". Lincoln News Messenger. Retrieved October 27, 2012.
- "Mercy Ministries - Our Program". Retrieved October 27, 2012.
- Bannerman, Lucy (September 7, 2009). "The problems with therapy". The Times. Retrieved October 27, 2012.
- "Nancy Alcorn admits problems at Australian Mercy Ministries". The Tennessean. August 3, 2008. Retrieved October 27, 2012.
- Tim, Brunero (November 26, 2008). "Mercy Ministries exorcism books leaked". LIVE News, Australia.
- "Mercy Ministries of America - FAQs". Retrieved 27 October 2–12.
- "Comprehensive description of Restoring the Foundations". Retrieved October 27, 2012.
- Mercy Ministries. "Our Program". Retrieved July 28, 2012.
- Hannan, Caleb (October 2, 2008). "Jesus RX: The untold tale behind Mercy Ministries' one-size-fits-all prescription for recovery". The Nashville Scene. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
- Feineman, Carol (March 14, 2012). "Mercy Ministries needs more than the bible for its treatment methods". Lincoln News Messenger. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
- "'Exorcisms, cruel techniques'". Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). March 17, 2008. Retrieved January 9, 2013.