Saturday 13 July 2013

Mercy Ministry coming to Carmarthen

One of the controversial issues concerning the relationship and between the evangelical Towy Community Church and Carmarthenshire Council, and documented on this blog and elsewhere was the church's link with the Mercy Ministries. Particularly as the council saw the Church as a 'social enterprise' which could ease the pressure on the social care budget.

Back in 2011 concerns were raised that the global Mercy Ministries, which offers courses for young 'fallen women', had been accused of performing exorcisms as a treatment for eating disorders, self-harm, depression etc and the organisation also takes 'a pro-life and anti-gay stance in their faith-based approach, and as such, extend their program to offer women with unplanned pregnancies with alternatives to abortion, as well as treating women who identify as lesbian or who have sexual identity issues' (Wikipedia)

Given that the Council has so far stumped up £1.4m in land, grants and a loan, towards the 'bowling alley' the association with the Mercy Ministries was worrying, not least of all with equalities legislation.

The link from the Church website was suddenly removed around the time when MP Jonathan Edwards spoke out in November 2011, he said;

“Having read about Mercy Ministries, I am concerned to learn that Towy Community Church intends to establish a base for the organisation in Carmarthenshire.There should be no relationship between public authorities and such a fundamentalist organisation. The Welsh Government and the county council have provided substantial sums of money to the Church. It is therefore a legitimate question as to whether public funds have been used to fund, directly or indirectly, Mercy Ministries.
Carmarthenshire county council must urgently investigate this situation and ensure taxpayers money has not been funnelled into this extreme group”.
(Daily Post;  Church linked to exorcists is given Council cash)

Anyway, all went quiet, and Mark Bennett, the Pastor of the Church, (which, along with Mercy Ministries UK, comes under the umbrella organisation, the Evangelical Alliance) said that the vision to establish a Mercy Ministry in Carmarthen was a 'seed that never grew'. Carmarthenshire Council have not made a comment to date.

Well, that seed looks like it's now very much growing. A couple of short weeks after the grand opening of the bowling alley attended by the great and good of Carmarthenshire Council, the link has now reappeared on the website, not just a link but an article with the statement that;

It is the vision of Towy Community Church to set up a Mercy Ministries house in Carmarthen to meet the needs of the community.

(This pic links to the Towy Community church website)

I'm speechless and there are a few urgent questions which now need addressing;

1. Given the forthcoming cuts to services, described by the Council Leader as of 'Biblical proportions', and also the intention to deliver services in an 'entirely different' way, could we have reassurance that this will not be one of those 'alternatives'?

2. Given that the links from the Towy Community Church to the Mercy Ministries was present when council funding was being allocated, then removed, only to reappear once the bowling alley was complete, will any councillors be suggesting that the matter be independently investigated?

3. Will the Council, and the Welsh Government, who have also stumped up a small fortune, now be reviewing their position with regard to funding?

Please search google for more information, there is also considerable criticism of this organisation, not least of all here; RH Reality Check, The Truth about Mercy and Mercy Survivors,

Mercy Ministries UK is an 'International Affiliate' of the global Mercy Ministries, based in the USA. The Towy Community Church, when challenged over the link decided to play down the connection and accused the 'two bloggers', MP Jonathan Edwards, Wales on Sunday and BBC Dragon's Eye of running a 'smear campaign'. The Pastor of the Towy Community Church and the senior officials of Carmarthenshire Council who were invited, all refused to appear on the programme.

(For a summary of the development of the 'partnership' between the council and the Towy Community Church, I wrote a post for Secular Wales last year.)

(2nd August; More recent posts; Is there an evangelist in the house? and Mercy Ministry - questions need to be asked. At some point in the past week, the article and link to the Mercy Ministries mysteriously disappeared again from the Towy Church website. Given the enthusiasm expressed in the article, this 'vision' of setting up a MM home certainly hasn't disappeared with it. Can only assume it was removed after advice from person, or persons unknown. I took the precaution of saving the page though) 


Anonymous said...

Yet again the council is fooled by these christian fanatics. Firstly booze in the bowling alley now a home for "fallen women". What next!

Anonymous said...

I always knew Carmarthenshire was a dark place. Very creepy. Time for the Government to step in.

caebrwyn said...

@Anon The links on the Church website to the Mercy Ministries were apparent to anyone from the council who cared to look, prior to being removed late in 2011. The Council's support had begun long before that.

In addition, when asked, in 2011, via FOI whether the Council had carried out an Equalities Impact Assessment in respect of their support for the bowling alley, they said they 'did not hold the information'. In other words, there wasn't one.

Anonymous said...

I just want to remind Children's Services of their duty to safeguard vulnerable young people.

Anonymous said...

Am I correct to assume that any financial aid that the council gives to Carmarthen Women's Aid will now be redirected to the Towy Community Church's Mercy Ministry as the latter will claim they are doing the same work? Perish the thought.

caebrwyn said...

Most Unbelievable Quote of the Week;

“It is important that the position of the council as a secular institution is preserved.”

(Carmarthenshire County Council quoted in a report by 'Christians in Parliament' June 2013 when local authorities were asked for their views on working with faith groups in the community)

Anonymous said...

They make it sound like local politics is the new religion! How many of these hypocrites have taken the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience?

towy71 said...

re unbelievable quote, is this the council that starts its meetings with a prayer? Sheer hypocrisy!