The following article by Caleb Hannan was originally published in The Nashville Scene and is a follow up to the article published on 1 October 2008 (the previous day). The original of this article can be viewed here.
In March, Australian daily the Sydney Morning-Herald broke a story about the Mercy girls—ex-members of Mercy Ministries, a Christian counseling home headquartered in Nashville. The Mercy girls claimed spiritual and emotional abuse at the hands of inexperienced and unqualified counsellors. In every case, they said, Mercy’s “treatment” left them worse for wear. Four months later, the Scene was contacted by a man who’d enrolled his daughter in the Nashville home. After doing some digging, he’d found the Australian headlines and a handful of blogs from American graduates claiming the same abuse. It is their experiences that comprise the meat of this week’s cover story, “Jesus Rx.” Today we learn that the backlash against Mercy in Australia is growing. v”Madeline,” an anonymous blogger who runs a Mercy support group, called from Down Under to tell us that more than 30 girls, nearly 1/3 of the total who’d been treated in Australia, have reached out to her for help. It’s a number that promises to grow, both here and abroad, with increased scrutiny of Mercy. But unfortunately, it doesn’t mean everyone is getting help. vMadeline also called to tell us that one former Mercy girl had taken her life last week. One more thing we’d be loathe to leave out re: Mercy. The main thrust of “Jesus Rx” comes from Jennifer (now India) Wynne. Wynne graduated from the original Mercy home in Louisiana, worked in Nashville, and lived for a time with Mercy founder Nancy Alcorn in a Brentwood condo. She was eventually fired after admitting to kissing a girl in the home. For years afterwards, Wynne was counseled to sue Mercy. What they’d done was illegal, she was told. She should be compensated. But Wynne says she never took legal action because she still believed Mercy could help some girls. It’s a paradox that some ex-Mercyites are forced to deal with. While their own experiences were traumatic, they also know some who were indeed “saved,” an idea that’s backed up by a cursory search on Google or Facebook groups. It doesn’t change what happened to them, or the strength in their conviction that Mercy’s practices need to be overhauled. It’s just another example of life stubbornly refusing to deal in absolutes.