This article by Tim Brunero was originally published on the Live News Australia website and can be viewed here.
Mercy Ministries kept saying there were no exorcisms.
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.
And now they believe they have hard evidence – documents, taken from a Mercy Ministries residence by a girl who “escaped” the program, that give instructions on how to exorcise demons.
The documents, provided to LIVENEWS.com.au, are highly disturbing.
Under subheadings like ‘Identifying Additional Demons’ and ‘What to do With Obstinate Demons’ detailed instructions are given on how to rid a possessed person.
“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. 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,” says the book.
Megan Smith (not her real name) told me in March after her condition worsened at the group’s Sunshine Coast residence and she began self-harming she was exorcised.
“The whole time I was there, all I heard was that I’m demonic,” she said.
“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.”
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 tone 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.
At the end of the day, you can’t blame Mercy Ministries for trying to deny there were exorcisms at their centres.
But when people start coming forward with exorcism handbooks, you’d think you’d admit the game is up.
LIVENEWS.com.au contacted Mercy Ministries for comment. They are yet to respond.