tip off

Borders passes the hat for anti-gay, pro-life charity

Employees of the bookseller’s chain Borders are expressing concern that they were required to promote a Christian charity which is allegedly anti-gay and pro-life.

Gloria Jean’s coffee shops are located inside several Borders’ stores. Last month, Borders’ employees were asked to page customers, every hour, about the coffee emporium’s ‘Cappuccino for a Cause’ day in which 10 cents from every Gloria Jean’s cappuccino was donated to the charity Mercy Ministries.

Mercy Ministries helps young girls and women with eating disorders, unplanned pregnancies and mental health issues. It was launched in Australia by Darlene Zschech, who is a worship leader at Sydney’s Hillsong Church. The managing director of Gloria Jean’s, Peter Irvine, is also also the executive director of Mercy Ministries. He is also a member of the Hillsong Church. Mr Irvine’s co-founder and partner in Gloria Jean’s, Nabi Saleh, sits on the church’s board of directors.

So the part-owner of Gloria Jean’s was using his businesses to raise money for a charity he is affiliated with - as long as Mercy Ministries does good work, is there really a problem?

Perhaps Borders might be interested in digging into Mercy Ministries’ background before they plug it over the PA.

Mercy Ministries’ website says:

A young woman who is pregnant will attend a basic decision making course which equips her to make an informed decision about the future of her and her baby… our staff will assist a pregnant resident who chooses to parent her baby in making an individualised plan that will prepare her to effectively parent in a safe environment. Young women who choose to place their child for adoption or alternative care return to Mercy Ministries to complete the program.

In other words, although it isn’t spelled out, abortion doesn’t seem to be offered to the girls as an option.

On the anti-gay front, the founder of the charity, American Nancy Alcorn said in 2005, that the church counsels girls to help overcome homosexuality:

We do have girls who have a history of lesbianism, and that’s definitely an issue that we deal with… We are cautious to make sure that we’re not putting them in an area where there’s going be more struggle or temptation because this is a girls’ home. In dealing with it in counselling, they have been able to walk in freedom from that.

Although there is no suggestion the Australian Mercy Ministries’ groups run this kind of diversion program, a social worker who grew up in Hillsong Church and wrote a book about her experiences, Tanya Levin, says Mercy Ministries is, “… completely anti-gay and completely pro-life. That’s why it was established.”

Ms Levin says she has seen an application form the charity sends to girls who wish to be admitted to its treatment program. She says the application asks if the girls have “ever been involved in witchcraft or lesbianism”.

She says the girls who receive treatment Mercy Ministries’ in-patient program have to attend three Hillsong masses a week and sit in a “special section, where everyone points to them and says, ‘Look at the Ministry girls, aren’t they special and blossoming into a life like Jesus’,” Ms Levin said.

While growing up in Hillsong, she said the Church wasn’t overtly homophobic, but referred to same-sex attraction as “a lifestyle we wouldn’t agree with”.

Borders was approached for a comment but did not respond before Crikey’s deadline.

UPDATE: Following publication of this story, a tipster told Crikey that many people were donating to the Gloria Jean’s appeal for Mercy Ministries because they were confusing it with another charity —  the Sisters of Mercy, which helps people in poverty, sickness or with a lack of education. We also hear that The Sisters have not trademarked their name but wanted the confusion cleared up. Apparently, they approached Gloria Jean’s but got nowhere. We left a message with the Sisters to confirm this but have not yet heard back.

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  • 1
    Philip Brookes
    Posted Thursday, 7 February 2008 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    After reading this article, & the responses of many readers, I’m truly horrified at the sensationalism and the incredible leaps in logic! To not agree with homosexual practices is completely different to “gay-bashing”. Mercy Ministries does a great job.

  • 2
    Ryan
    Posted Friday, 16 November 2007 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    What a load of bollocks.

    You just have a crack at Borders, because one employee of the store may have decided to do pages on the request of the Gloria Jeans manager. Sensationalistic writing at its best, when you should be the voice of reason! Poor!

  • 3
    Sarah
    Posted Friday, 7 December 2007 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    I’m one of the girls who went to Mercy Ministries in Australia for help. While there I experienced extreme emotional and spiritual abuse Some were physically abused They also kick a lot of girls out They didn’t help me Questions? firefly70707 on youtube

  • 4
    Ryan
    Posted Friday, 16 November 2007 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

    What a load of bollocks.

    You just have a crack at Borders, because one employee of the store may have decided to do pages on the request of the Gloria Jeans manager. Sensationalistic writing at its best, when you should be the voice of reason! Poor!

  • 5
    Cindi
    Posted Wednesday, 24 September 2008 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    If it walks looks like a cult, and waddles like a cult. Then its a cult. I personally believe all organised religion is cultesc, however its some what difficult to undo thousands of years of brainwashing and ground in religious dogma. Hillsong is the new kid on the block and is merely a business trying to pass itself off as a authentic Christian church. Go away Hillsong, we don’t need another cult. Intelligent design my ass.

  • 6
    Sarah
    Posted Monday, 17 March 2008 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    I have heard enough! Mercy Ministries needs to be investigated immediately. Exactly how many girls have been abused while in their ‘treatment’ program? My bet is that a lot of them are not able to speak up for themselves also.

  • 7
    Matthew
    Posted Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    I have seen a “Mercy Ministries” brochure on the counter & also mistaken it to just be the Sisters of Mercy, who have been around for a good while longer and do excellent work. Anti gay and anti women’s rights is anti-Jesus - time to find real gospel!

  • 8
    Ryan
    Posted Friday, 16 November 2007 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    What a load of bollocks.

    You just have a crack at Borders, because one employee of the store may have decided to do pages on the request of the Gloria Jeans manager. Sensationalistic writing at its best, when you should be the voice of reason! Poor!

  • 9
    dan
    Posted Thursday, 15 November 2007 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    Thank you crikey for exposing this little bit of duplicity.

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