Mercy Ministries bills itself as a Christian-based rehabilitation home for “young women who are seeking freedom from life-controlling problems.” It was founded by Nancy Alcorn in 1983.
There is a riveting untold story about the ministry in the Nashville Scene, focusing on Jennifer Wynne, one of the girls admitted into the house.
How bad was the place?
Entrusting their recovery to untrained counselors barely out of Bible college, the Mercy girls said that exorcisms and speaking in tongues took the place of treatment, that expulsion was the punishment for peeing without permission, and that DVDs featuring the testimony of former gays were peddled as a cure for lesbianism.
Instead of the psychiatric treatment that was needed, Mercy offered prayer.
The girls suffered as a result.
In 2000, Oklahoma native Jodi Ferris entered Mercy’s Nashville home. She’d spent most of her college life battling bulimia, binge-eating at night and exercising six hours the next day to burn it off. A Mercy graduate suggested that Christian counseling might benefit Ferris more than the secular treatment she’d tried in the past.
Upon entering, Ferris was forced to give up her doctor’s prescribed nutritional guidelines. Stripped of the tools she’d previously relied on, Ferris struggled to restrain herself during her first week when Mercy hosted an all-you-can-eat buffet for the Super Bowl. In place of her dietary how-to, Ferris’ counselor—a woman she’d later find out had no experience with eating disorders—suggested an alternative to the scientific care that helped control her urges.
“She told me to let the Lord determine my meal plan,” she says. “Which was hard the night we only had jalapeno poppers for dinner.”
For treatment, Mercy gave Ferris a binder called Restoring the Foundations (RTF), a scripture-based doctrine associated with charismatic Pentecostalism. Her first assignment was to write down the sins of any relatives or ancestors. According to RTF, a lapse in conduct, such as premarital sex, could invite in an evil spirit that might curse a bloodline for generations.
The final step was to cast out the demons, a process that sometimes involved the bedrock of charismatic Pentecostalism: speaking in tongues.
For Mercy, there is no nuance between bulimia, depression, self-mutilation, and unplanned pregnancies. It is all just symptomatic of the Devil’s work.
And don’t even think about being gay:
Alcorn admonished girls for wearing their hair short, despite keeping her owns locks in a shoulder-length bob. If girls got too close they were forced to sign a separation contract that prevented them from being alone together. Mercy didn’t advertise itself as a gay-repair ministry, but some girls enrolled to be cured of their “disease.”
It’s really an incredible, shocking story. How this place is still allowed to exist is baffling to me when they abuse women on a regular basis in the name of Christianity.
By the way.
Alcorn is a lesbian.
(She denies it, of course.)
Wynne has a blog of her own where she is trying to expose Mercy for what it is and show real support for the women in the program.
The Scene gives an update on what she did after she left Mercy:
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.
I’ll try to get an interview with Wynne so you can ask her your questions directly.
(Thanks to Sean for the link!)