Monday 15 July 2013

Mercy Ministries and Towy Community Church

A little more on the news that Towy Community Church is once again planning to open a hostel with Mercy Ministries in Carmarthen.

Following the scandals which rocked Mercy Ministries, especially in Australia, the organisation has become much more media and PR savvy. Whenever accusations about its practices are made, Mercy issues either flat denials or says that this or that aspect of its programmes has been changed.

From time to time stories have emerged of young women who have left the programme claiming that it used exorcism or "recovered memory" therapy. Some parents of girls who have undergone Mercy Ministries programmes have been accused of physical and sexual abuse as a result of the "therapies" and lost all contact with their daughters. Mercy dismisses these accusations and says that it is inevitable that a minority will complain.

There are also persistent suggestions that the organisation regards lesbianism as a demonic condition which can be treated with therapy. Mercy Ministries makes no bones about its fundamentalist beliefs, but steers away from this particular subject by saying only that it loves everyone, and its website talks only about "inappropriate sexual behaviour".

In other words, we have a swirl of claims and counter-claims, accusations and denials which are well nigh impossible to prove either way. But there are some aspects of the Mercy Ministries story where there is less room for doubt.

The biggest scandal to have hit Mercy Ministries since it was founded was in Australia. The affair was extensively reported in the Australian mainstream media, including the Sydney Morning Herald and ABC (see here and here).

Last year a US women's organisation called Reproductive Healthcare Reality Check published an expose (here) detailing the experiences of two girls who had been through the programme in the US. This elicited a long denial from someone called E Williams, the Executive Director of Marketing at Mercy Ministries of America (MMOA), who wrote that Mercy Ministries Australia (MMAU) was nothing whatever to do with Mercy Ministries:

Although it shared the “Mercy” name, it was not founded by MMOA’s Founder & President, Nancy Alcorn. Simply put, MMAU was an independent charity with no oversight from MMOA and was solely responsible for its operations and actions. 

This appears to be at odds with what happened because Nancy Alcorn, the founder of the Mercy Ministries group, intervened in events down under in April 2009 to appoint Margaret Stunt to head up Mercy Ministries there:

God clearly showed me who was to be our new Executive Director of Mercy Ministries Australia. The Word says that everything should be confirmed out of the mouth of two or more witnesses, and there was unanimous consent from our Mercy Ministries Australia Board and our Mercy Ministries International Board, as well as apostolic and pastoral leadership that I am submitted to.

You can find a lot more in the same vein on Return of the Blogonaut, a blog devoted to chronicling the whacky world of sects and cults.

Oh, and Margaret Stunt also served on the board of Mercy Ministries UK.

Another claim, this time from Mercy Ministries itself (Program FAQs):

All counselors at Mercy Ministries are required to hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited university in social work, psychology, counseling or a related field, and more than 80% have master’s degrees.

When challenged as to why Mercy Ministries is not licensed by state authorities in the US which oversee residential homes and mental health practitioners, Mercy responds that it is not operating medical facilities (RH Reality Check again). Nevertheless, it treats young women with a wide range of conditions, including eating disorders.

Mercy Ministries is also adamant that it does not charge for its programmes, although it had to repay a large amount of money taken from girls in Australia. This is what the MM website has to say (note the "but"):

Our program is free of charge, but we do make sure that the girl applying to the program is fully committed to change in order to ensure that we are good stewards of the investments made by our contributors.

Another central tenet of Mercy Ministries is that it does not accept state funding because that would interfere with its freedom to practise. Its partner in Carmarthen, Towy Community Church, clearly has no such inhibitions.

It will be very interesting to see where the money comes from to pay for the proposed hostel in Carmarthen, in that case. Will Carmarthenshire County Council oblige as usual? Will MM therapies be a part of the chief executive's plan to provide "services in a different way"?

As has been pointed out on this blog and by Caebrwyn previously, the architect's plans for the new bowling alley, cafe, debt counselling, furniture recycling and "auditorium" also include a suite of therapy rooms.* Could come in handy, that!

Anyone wishing to find out more about Mercy's programme and the manuals used can find them here.

* The designs for the building were previously available on a website belonging to Pembroke Design Limited in Pembroke Dock. This website is no longer available.


Anonymous said...

If Cneifiwr has the information as
he obviously has, councillors of
CCC must also be aware of an extremely sinister plan waiting to be put into operation.If they are then I would be asking under whose spell are they.

Anonymous said...

I have just looked at the Tawe "church" website.
They are the sort of unreconstructed and offensive fundamentalists who, where the Jesus they talk of alive today, he would refuse to get on the cross for them!
Symptomatic of a number of alleged christian bodies that practice their bigotted ideological beliefs in this region.
There have always been misguided people suffering from a form of religious mania - mostly we hope they will go away and hopefully get the right medical treatment.
When we need to get worried is when a bunch of risible believers get so much assistance from the various arms of local governmant to establish themselves.
What is going on here? How can Carmarthenshire be promoting the type of "church" that this is and condoning their horribly oppresive ideological attitudes to women and any other person perceived to be outside their "normal" spectrum?
Just awful.

Anonymous said...

Social engineering of the worst kind!

Anonymous said...

The responsibility for this lies wholly with the councillors.What on earth were they doing when the wheels were set in motion to allow money to fund a cult.You can call it whatever you like but a cult it is.Councillors- gullible or already members?

Anonymous said...

A Letter to Mark James would be in order to ask is he's going to continue his financial aid to this sect?

Cneifiwr said...

Anon @15.30 There were some councillors who clearly had doubts at the last meeting where this was discussed (Dec 2011), but they were all subjected to a sustained PR drive and assured that everything was OK. I've got a funny feeling that this will eventually cost several scalps.

TCC's acrobatics on this and the sale of alcohol are absolutely deplorable. It must also make councillors think about the wisdom of allowing the council to outsource more social service activities to an outfit which acts in this way.

Anonymous said...

As a new county councillor I have my serious doubts about right wing Christian Sects preaching Homophobic crap trap& other Fundamentalist preachings It is a bit like Fundamentalist Islamic sects - believe only a fraction of the holy book . I will be certainly asking questions given the opportunity .Apart from CCC & Grants where else have they ahd the money ?

Anonymous said...

They will quite happily give the service to an outfit such as TCC as they have a social worker to refer to the service and hooray the need is met!
Anything after that is not their problem! Hands washed clean......

I'm amazed that the govt has said they are not reducing money for social care and yet TCC seems to be overtaking.

Councillors, if you do read this please do not continue to back this organisation, research things properly before you agree to fund them and others alike. I do hope womens aid will not be neglected due to TCC??

Anonymous said...

@ anon 21:38 According to Mark Bennett, TCC Pastor only three councillors out of 74 voted against their plans. Were you one of the 3?

Cneifiwr said...

Anon @2.11 - I am pretty sure that the pastor is right about the vote, although there were others who were persuaded to vote against their better judgment.

The vote took place at the end of 2011 before the council elections, which resulted in an intake of new councillors.

The episode certainly wasn't the council's finest hour. It was obviously stage managed and stitched up beforehand - this was after all the only time that the council leadership has ever decided to drop a proposed public interest exemption to allow a meeting to take place in public, a pretty clear indication that the chief executive knew what was coming.

Not only was the meeting stage managed, but the information provided to councillors left a lot to be desired as well.

m1books said...

Having recently spent many months trying to organise a care package for my disabled partner, and being told constantly by Bruce McLernon's minions that 'we have few staff' 'up where you live' - ie North Carmarthenshire, I am appalled at the money being allocated to TCC for these questionable activities. These resources should be being spent on more care assistants/qualified social workers to work with the elderly and vulnerable in OUR communities throughout the county.

Anonymous said...

If councillors are so easily persuaded on such a serious matter as this what hope is there inCarmarthenshire that they would bother to think for themselves about anything?
If they have been mislead by officers then that is a very serious matter indeed.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Cneifiwr for explaining the position.

@ anon 21:38 - Given Cneifiwr's explanation, please don't wait for an opportunity to present itself. This needs to be addressed sooner rather than later! Having surfed the net, I was horrified to learn that TCC is one of the agencies engaged by CCC to provide support to vulnerable children and families. Google search team around the family carmarthenshire and see for yourself. Look at the emotive picture on TCC's mercy ministries page and compare that with slide 9 of this powerpoint presentation. The caption "Well she's not my problem so she must be yours!" says it all really. I am sure the Children's Commissioner for Wales would not agree!

Anonymous said...

M1books.... If they haven't got the staff ask them for an alternative bespoke service, they spend thousands on that every year according to their accounts!!they have numerous services that they could use or access to offer support! Make an official complaint, this is not acceptable from social care dept!

County councillor.... If you look at your paperwork, you will see CCC match funded the money that some of the committee members have loaned interest free to their sick establishment. Check their charity accounts from last year, you will find it all on the net. As previously said, RESEARCH is desperately required as both a new or old councillor!!! Would also like to say thank you new councillor for taking the time to reply to the blog I do hope you are given the opportunity to voice your concerns!

Would send the link for you but I really can't be bothered, public opinion should be enough to stop CCC funding this TCC crap!

Anonymous said...

I see from the minutes that Local Plaid County Councillors & the Town Council have supported the Bowling Alley Project
2. Local Member(s)
Councillors A.D.T. Speake, P.Hughes Griffiths have been consulted on the scheme
3. Community / Town Council
Towy Community Church has attended Town Council meetings and received support for its proposals. Is that correct?

Cneifiwr said...

Anon @23.44 Correct, and personally I think that was wrong. I'm not sure where blaming the opposition for a scheme hatched and developed by the ruling Labour/Independent group and their officers gets us though.

m1books said...

Thank you Anon @22.51. Oh Yes I did, sustained and angry, to CCC and my local CoC. They did not want to use expensive local agencies but I did get funding through Direct Payments and we now employ our own personal care workers. My concern is for all those without the info. or the ability to scream as we did, and who are often then left alone for hours on end or with relatives who also become ill under the strain.
Social care services are overworked and drowning in paperwork. No wonder they want to outsource to anyone else, credible or not. Serious reappraisal needed.

Anonymous said...

Change if management Structure desperately needed in social care! Lost all confidence.

Anonymous said...

M1books 11.50

'We have few staff up where you live'. - What is going on in this dept?

Money being ploughed into social care needs to be spent differently.
Far too many middle Managers not enough hands-on. It seems there are several tiers between care staff and Director. Why do we need them all? Do we need 2 or 3 middle Managers telling one person what to do? It seems that many of the care staff are more competent than some of the Managers who are on crazy money for what they do. Change at the top well overdue!

Anonymous said...

m1books 08.02

From what I have seen, the Managers are certainly not overworked. Cut them down by two-thirds and that will release more money to recruit a lot more carers.

Anonymous said...

Lets not blame lets just move on from TCC being approved and find out how on earth we stop this shit from overtaking the county! Any useful suggestions?

Anonymous said...

Cneifwr - Still it has the support of Plaid County & Town Councillors in Carmarthen town - they supported it !!! its on record

Anonymous said...

Change at the too extremely overdue, especially in social care. Some decent social workers that know what they are doing and will stand up to the management would help too! They tend to back down and cover up even when they know its wrong to do so!!, all sucks!!

Surely emails and letters to each county councillor to lobby against TCC could be sent Cneifiwr? Is there anything we can do to stop this takeover???

Anonymous said...

The way to stop this is to hold those responsible for promoting and funding TCC to account e.g. CEO, Cllrs, Directors, Managers etc! I am sorry but given the amount of publicity i.e. BBC News, Unison, Bloggers, Plaid MP, AM, Jo Public etc, warning them about this cult, they cannot now plead ignorance. Yes, heads should now roll!

We can do our bit by raising awareness in our communities, speaking/writing to Cllrs, media Children's Commissioner etc.

Cneifiwr said...

Many thanks Anon @08.13. I think you are right, but my legal adviser waved a red flag.

This blog will be returning to this subject shortly. Many thanks to everyone (well almost) for your comments.

If anybody wishes to contact me confidentially, please use the e-mail address at the top of the blog.

Anonymous said...

I hope you do return to it. In my opinion it's facilitating a network where the most vulnerable in our society can be manipulated and exploited by the rich and powerful.
It troubles me deeply to see that even after so much has come to light recently, there for everybody to read in the headlines. Yet it seems that CCC are quite prepared to ignore the warning bells to ensure the same structures are cemented in to place. This is a real step backwards on SO many levels.