Controversial ministry treated anorexia with exorcism
The documents, obtained clandestinely by a girl who “escaped” the group’s clutches, shows counsellors how to rid ‘demons’ from girls struggling with anorexia, depression and drug addiction.
Mercy Ministries’ activities hit the headlines in March this year when former residents claimed they were subjected to exorcisms, were cut off from friends and family and had to sign over their Centrelink payments to the group.
Some of the young women say they had little or no access to the promised psychologists and other mental health professionals but were instead counselled by bible studies students whose solution to all problems was prayer.
Earlier this year the then head of Mercy Ministries, Peter Irvine, said exorcisms were not practised at the residences. Mercy Ministries has been forced to shut their Sunshine Coast residence.
“There’s no exorcism, no driving out of spirits it’s not how the program works,” he told Today Tonight’s Marguerite McKinnon earlier this year.
But the handbooks tell a different story and corroborate accounts given to LIVENEWS.com.au by former residents of Mercy Ministries.
In the handbook, under a section entitled ‘Identifying Additional Demons’ those practising the exorcism are advised to ask the demon’s name, but not for any more details.
“They sometimes talk: they may threaten the person or you. They have been know to say, ‘I am going to kill you,’ and other unsavoury phrases. Command them to be quiet in the Name of Jesus,” the book advises.
Later, the book, Restoring The Foundations, published by an American Christian group, warns those exorcising demons to be firm.
“The minister’s attitude is one of commanding,” it reads.
“He needs to be firm and prepared to press in. He does not need to be loud. (Demons are not deaf.) The ministers’ commanding attitude resembles that of a person speaking to a little “yappy” dog commanding him to go home and stop barking.
“We also want the ministry receiver to set his will to resist and then command the particular demon or grouping of demons to leave him, in Jesus’ name. This is repeated until the demons are gone.”
Later in the book, those performing the exorcism are given more complex techniques in a subheading called ‘What to do With Obstinate Demons’.
Later a list of ‘Scriptures that Demons Hate’ is provided.
“But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you,” is one such passage singled out.
The emergence of the exorcism handbook lends weight to other claims made by girls who went through the Mercy Ministries program.
Megan Smith (not her real name), who spoke to LIVENEWS.com.au earlier this year, said her panic attacks only got worse.
Finally, she was subjected to an exorcism.
“The counsellor gave me a list of different demons – demon of anger, demon of unforgiveness, demon of pride, there were lots of them and I was told to go away and circle the demons I had in me or around me,” said Smith.
“I was really scared… they cast demons out of me, one by one, and they became quite excited and animated during the process, and spoke in tongues.
“Even after the exorcism, when I had the next anxiety attack, I was told that they had already cast the demons out, so therefore I was obviously either faking it, or I had chosen to let the demons come back, in which case I was not serious about getting better.
“They kept telling us that the world can’t help us, professionals with all their ‘worldly qualifications’ can’t help us, only Mercy could because only they have God’s power.
“So when I was kicked out for being ‘demonic, unable to be helped, not worth a place at Mercy’ and because I had taken too long to pray to become a Christian… it left me worse than I had ever been before in my life.
“They told me I would never get better now because I had blown my chance. I started cutting my arms and wrists more than ever, with their voices echoing in my mind as I did it.”
Hillsong: Exorcism in the suburbs
The Hillsong backed group seemed prepared to cop the charge that they forced sick girls in their Mercy Ministries residential program to sign over their Centrelink payments.
They seemed comfortable admitting that while they advertised girls would have access to psychiatrists and other health professionals, in fact, the only treatment they were really offered was housework and bible study.
But they didn’t want to own up to the medieval practice of exorcisms.
And you can’t blame them. Who would want to admit they had been trying to cure anorexia, drug addiction and other problems with such hocus-pocus?
They’d already lost high-profile sponsors like Rebel Sport, Bunnings and LG after news of their activities broke earlier this year.
But the girls I spoke to earlier this year when the scandal hit the headlines were unequivocal – they had been exorcised.
It sounds unbelievable that this group funded by a large influential church could be so irresponsible to think they could cure serious illness with prayer.
It’s one thing to con your flock to tithe a chunk of their income to the church, to pass off concerts as worship, to be browbeaten by charismatic preachers like Pastor Brian Houston, and to finish each service by laying hands of the sick and speaking in tongues.
It’s another to endanger vulnerable young women.
You might find it hard to believe.
But having grown up in the Hills district when Hillsong was just getting its patter down you can be assured this church is as crazy as it sounds.
Having been to one of their ‘HSC Hype’ study camps for Year 12 students, where they tried to brow-beat kids into becoming born again and stories about exorcism were de rigour – I have no doubts these stories are quite true.
Knowing as I do that Brian Houston’s first book was the decidedly un-Christian tome You Need More Money I find it easy to believe the claims of the many girls I have spoken to.
I believe former residents, who refer to themselves as “Mercy survivors”, when they say the group has recently attempted to remove their critical clips from YouTube and has attempted to remove references on Wikipedia to the recent controversy.