This article by Ruth Pollard originally appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald and can be viewed here.
The evangelical Australian based church Hillsong has been linked to claims of abuse against women, including allegations of emotional manipulation.
Fairfax Media reports that both the Hillsong Church and Gloria Jeans Coffee are linked to the organisation Mercy Ministries, which has been accused of emotional manipulation when treating women.
Three women have now blown the whistle on a program operated by the Ministry, including allegations they entered as “independent” people, however came out of the program as “broken” and “suicidal”.
The women say as part of the program they were taught to believe that they were possessed by the devil, and have since been forced to receive years of professional psychiatric treatment.
The program includes signing over any welfare benefits to the Ministry, with the program alleged to contain little actual psychological assistance, and mostly prayer and “expelling demons”.
The Church has denied that the program is forceful, saying that it is a voluntary program and has a 90% success rate.
“Mercy Ministries staff address the issues that the residents face from a holistic client-focused approach; physical, mental, emotional,” a spokesman told Fairfax.
“The program is voluntary and all aspects are explained comprehensibly to the residents and no force is used.”
The program is believed to be sponsored by the Hillsong Church Group, based in the western suburbs of Sydney. The program is also reported to be funded by Gloria Jeans, which despite significant public criticism, has continued to fund the Mercy Ministries program.
Hillsong, often dubbed a McChurch for its size, reach and overall culture, is a Christian belief organisation that is frequently accused of being only for profit, and if often seen to target younger people.
The church also uses large concert style productions and music to attract a younger demographic.
[Note: It was earlier reported that the coffee retailer Gloria Jeans was owned by the Hillsong Church. This was incorrect. Gloria Jeans is instead alleged to be a significant benefactor to the Hillsong Church, and the Mercy Ministries group. The company has now denied they are providing any official financial funding to Hillsong, other than assistance for fundraising activities. Gloria Jeans are now assessing their assistance of the Mercy Ministries Group].