|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.
History and locations
Mercy Ministries was founded in 1983 by Nancy Alcorn.
Nancy Alcorn had previously worked for eight years at the Tennessee Department of Corrections, a correctional facility for juvenile delinquent girls, as an athletic director, 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.
In 1983, Nancy Alcorn opened the first Mercy Ministries home in West Monroe (which until 1987 was better known as "Covenant Ministries"). In 1996, a second Mercy Ministries home was opened in Nashville followed by new corporate headquarters in 2001.
In 2001, Mercy Ministries went international, opening two facilities Australia followed by further homes in the United Kingdom in 2006, New Zealand in 2007 and Canada in 2010.
In 2009, Mercy Ministries announced the closure of the Australian homes following controversy and widely publicized abuse scandals. The Sunshine Coast facility closed in June 2008  followed by the Sydney home in October 2009.
In 2005 and 2009 respectively, Mercy Ministries also opened homes in St Louis, Missouri and Sacramento, California.
Whilst the Mercy Ministries website states they are a non-denominational Christian organisation, 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 (see Ethos), 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 fundraising 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 at 27 October 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 (14 March 2012). "Mercy Ministries needs more than the Bible for its treatment methods". Lincoln News Messenger. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
- Capone, Alesha (14 November 2007). "Borders passes the hat for anti-gay, pro-life charity". Crikey. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
- Mercy Ministries website
- Hannan, Caleb (2 October 2008). "Jesus RX". Nashville Scene. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
- Croft, Margaret (19 October 2012). "Mercy Ministries". The News Star. Retrieved 19 October 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 2010-03-12. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
- Transformed Magazine. "Bring Increase to Your Life - The Power of Giving". Retrieved 22 July 2012.
- Waters, Jen (8 August 2003). "Mercy Not Strained; Christian Mission Nurtures Young, Distressed Women". The Washington Times (Washington DC).
- "Mercy Ministries Canada - History". Retrieved 4 November 2012.
- Mundi, Rex (7 June 2008). "Mercy Ministries to close Coast home". Sunshine Coast Daily. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
- Pollard, Ruth (28 October 2009). "Mercy Ministries to close". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 5 November 2012.
- Pollard, Ruth (17 December 2009). "Mercy Ministries admits claims were false". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
- Hannan, Caleb (2 October 2008). "Jesus RX: The untold tale behind Mercy Ministries one-size-fits-all prescription for recovery". The Nashville Scene. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
- Zwartz, Barney (18 March 2008). "Cult-rescue group concerned about Mercy Ministries". The Age. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
- Mercy Ministries. "Who We Are". Retrieved 22 July 2012.
- "Mercy Ministries of America - Run for Mercy". Retrieved 12 November 2012.
- "Mercy Ministries of America". Retrieved 12 November 2012.
- "Undertaking to the Australian Competition and Consuming Commission". Retrieved 12 November 2012.
- Dumm, Stephanie (14 March 2012). "Mercy Ministries responds to its critics". Lincoln News Messenger. Retrieved 27 October 2012.
- "Mercy Ministries - Our Program". Retrieved 27 October 2012.
- Bannerman, Lucy (7 September 2009). "The problems with therapy". The Times. Retrieved 27 October 2012.
- "Nancy Alcorn admits problems at Australian Mercy Ministries". The Tennessean. 3 August 2008. Retrieved 27 October 2012.
- Tim, Brunero (26 November 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 27 October 2012.
- Mercy Ministries. "Our Program". Retrieved 28 July 2012.
- Hannan, Caleb (2 October 2008). "Jesus RX: The untold tale behind Mercy Ministries' one-size-fits-all prescription for recovery". The Nashville Scene. Retrieved 9 January 2013.
- Feineman, Carol (14 March 2012). "Mercy Ministries needs more than the bible for its treatment methods". Lincoln News Messenger. Retrieved 9 January 2013.
- "'Exorcisms, cruel techniques'". Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). 17 March 2008. Retrieved 9 January 2013.