The ACCC (The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) has released its findings on Mercy Ministries and Mercy Ministries Executives have admitted that have engaged in false and misleading conduct. I can understand now why Pastor Bryan Huston could not back on the door fast enough, if he got wind of this early. Hillsong overcame revelations of Pastor Frank Houston’s sexual abuse of young men and boys, but financial misconduct be a number of high profile members might be a bit hard to stomach.
Nah, who am I kidding. They have already been forgiven haven’t they.
Here, take a gander the release itself:
UNDERTAKINGS REMEDY MERCY MINISTRIES MISLEADING CONDUCT
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has obtained court enforceable undertakings, which includes payment, from seven former directors of Mercy Ministries Incorporated and/or Mercy Ministries Limited in relation to misrepresentations by those entities.
The undertakings include an apology and a voluntary payment of $1050 to those people affected by the conduct. These are made by former directors Mark Zschech,Peter Irvine, Mark Caldwell, Stephen Crouch, Young Pil (Phil) Sohn, Darlene Zschech and Clark Pearson.
Mercy Ministries is a not-for-profit Christian based charitable organisation which offered a residential counselling program to young women affected by issues such as eating disorders, depression, self harm, unplanned pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse and the effects of sexual or physical abuse. The program was offered whilst the young women resided in a Mercy Ministries home.
The ACCC was concerned that in a period between January 2005 and June 2008, Mercy Ministries misrepresented in brochures and on its website that its services were provided for free, when the majority of residents were required to assign their Centrelink payments to Mercy Ministries for the duration of their stay.
The ACCC was also concerned that during this period, Mercy Ministries misrepresented that it offered professional support from psychologists, dieticians, general practitioners, social workers and counsellors, when the level of professional support was not available as represented. Mercy Ministries did not employ this range of professionals. It did facilitate access to external professionals upon request from residents.
To address these concerns, as part of the undertaking, the former directors:
- acknowledge that they were persons ultimately responsible for the conduct of
Mercy Ministries, and admit its conduct was false, misleading and deceptive,
and likely to contravene sections 52, 53(aa) and 53(e) of the Trade Practices
- signed a joint letter of apology to past residents in the relevant period
- offer a payment of $1050 to each of the past residents in the relevant period, and
- undertake to attend annual trade practices compliance training for three
Mercy Ministries operated its program in two homes, one located on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, and the other in Sydney. Both of these homes have now closed. Mercy Ministries has ceased trading and has advised the ACCC it is in the process of being wound up.
The media release from the ACCC is quite damning, not that this will have any effect on Nancy Alcorn’s true believers, despite that fact that several of the directors named in the court enforceable proceedings were heavily involved in Mercy Ministries on an international level and were close friends and confidantes of Nancy herself. It is also interesting to note that 4 out of the 7 directors have strong ties to Hillsong.
Mark Zschech – High profile Hillsong member, previous director of Mercy Ministries International, current director of Compassion Australia, close friend of Nancy Alcorn.
It was actually while we were at GMA that we heard about Mercy and we asked whether we could go and visit. So we went, and Mark and I met Nancy Alcorn in the foyer and it was as if we had known each other all our lives. Within 12 months Mercy was born in Australia, and we have two homes there now. Actually, Mark is now heading up Mercy International. And we have a home opening in the U.K., and one in New Zealand, and other homes in Australia. It’s very, very exciting.
Darlene Zschech – High Profile Hillsong worship leader and as you see above quite cosy with Nancy.
Peter Irvine – High profile Hillsong Member, director of both Gloria Jeans and Mercy Ministries
Stephen Crouch – Mercy’s accountant and Public Officer of LMI (Leadership Ministries Incorporated)
LMI is a separate entity from Hillsong Church through which the Houstons carry out their national and international ministry and make donations to the Hillsong Foundation and other charities.
So, not just church members but thise in positions of power and influence.
Ruth Pollard, Investigations Editor at the Sydney Morning Herald and the journalist who first reported the stories of three brave Mercy Survivors penned this short article :
FORMER directors of Mercy Ministries yesterday admitted the evangelical Christian organisation had engaged in false, misleading and deceptive conduct by wrongly claiming their residential care programs were free and included support from psychologists, dietitians, general practitioners and counsellors.
The admission is part of an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission ruling, after an 18-month investigation into complaints from former residents who were forced to undergo exorcisms and use prayer to treat serious health problems such as bipolar disorder and anorexia.
Targeting girls and women aged 16 to 28, Mercy Ministries also claimed - on its website and in advertising material distributed in Gloria Jeans cafes around the country - that its program was free, yet a Herald investigation revealed residents had to sign over their Centrelink benefits during their stay.
The ACCC ordered the former directors to pay $1050 to each of the 110 young women who took part in their programs from January 2005 to June last year, the total being $118,154. They have also agreed to attend annual trade practices compliance training for three years.
What is interesting to note is that figure that Ruth quotes – 110 women from 2005 to 2008. Far less than women than Mercy would have led you to believe and far below the thousands of women Mercy claim are saved by their program.