Gloria Jean’s Coffee reponds to allegations of abuse

In the comments section to my post from yesterday, the Global Marketing Manager of Gloria Jean’s Coffee says:

Hi, Alexandra Deakin, Global Marketing Manager for Gloria Jean’s Coffees. Read your comments & just wanted to share what we think about all of this. You can get our view from our website, here’s the link:

To save you downloading the PDF, I’ve pasted it here (with my commentary, of course):
18 March 2008

Gloria Jean’s Coffees response on Mercy Ministries

Gloria Jean’s Coffees has issued the following statement in relation to current media coverage of the company’s sponsorship of Mercy Ministries:

We are deeply concerned with the recent media coverage related to our
sponsorship of Mercy Ministries and association with the Hillsong Church and feel it is not reflective of what our business is all about.

I don’t think the media coverage is worried about how you sell coffee. It’s concerned with the “charity” you support, Mercy Ministries, and the fundamentalist religious cult it is associated with, Hillsong Church, and the allegations of psychological abuse of young women at their hands. Let me quote from the Sydney Morning Herald: “Counselling consisted of prayer readings, treatment entailed exorcisms and speaking in tongues, and the house was locked down most of the time, isolating residents from the outside world and sealing them in a humidicrib of pentecostal religion.”

Gloria Jean’s Coffees is a company built on family and community values with the vision: “To be the most loved and respected coffee company in the World.”

Well you aren’t doing a very good job of that right now, are you? Sticking to selling over-priced, overly-sweet coffee and staying away from the religious fundamentalists might help your reputation.

Our responsibility is to our Franchise Partners and our guests.

We are not religiously affiliated, or affiliated to any other beliefs or preferences.

But that isn’t quite true, is it? The founders of Gloria Jean’s, Peter Irvine and Nabi Saleh, are both board members of GJC (Saleh is the Chairman) as well as members of the Hillsong Church. In fact, Saleh is listed on Hillsong’s website as an “Elder” of the church. 

We are non-discriminatory and accept staff, franchise partners and guests from all walks of life.

We believe as a truly responsible corporate citizen, that we should have a
positive impact on the communities from were we source our coffee and the
communities we serve. Our values include: “Belief in people, building and
changing lives”.

And I think that’s admirable. Do you think that giving money to organizations that practice Bronze Age rituals to please supernatural deities is really having a positive impact on the community?

Our sponsorship of many international and local charities including Mercy
Ministries is based on giving back to the communities who have helped us
become the brand we are today, there are no hidden agendas.

We assessed Mercy Ministries along with many other potential charity partners several years ago now and found that their work transforming the lives of young women in crisis was a good fit with our vision, mission and values.

Our corporate donations amount to approximately $150,000 – $170,000 per annum plus the donations made by the public through the money boxes in stores.

And how much is the latter? How much money have you taken from your “guests” and given to Mercy? And how much do the founders of GJC tithe to the church on a regular basis from their salaries and company dividends?

Since then we have seen many young women’s lives transformed for the better.

“Better” in whose judgment? Gloria Jean’s? Mercy Ministries? A qualified psychiatrist’s?

We have regularly visited Mercy Ministries’ homes to meet with the residents.

And you’re only now finding out about the exorcisms and speaking in tongues? Did you get the “look over here! look over here! – don’t look over there – look over here!” tour?

All our Franchise Partners in Australia have the opportunity to do this as well as all our Master Franchise Partners from the 29 other countries in which we serve coffee. We have several Mercy Ministries’ graduates working in and making a positive contribution to Gloria Jean’s Coffees both in our stores and support office.

By “graduates”, do we read “young women who, at a time in their lives when they were at their most vulnerable, were brainwashed by a fundamentalist cult”?

We have been in direct discussion with Mercy Ministries and we will be working with them to understand what elements of their program could have given rise to these very concerning claims.

Which of the claims do you find concerning and what about them concerns you? Which practices of Mercy Ministries were you not familiar with before you started working with them? You obviously knew of their relationship in Australia with Hillsong and that Hillsong were an extreme sect of Christian fundamentalists whose founder Brian Houston’s father, Frank Houston, had engaged in homosexual and paedophilic acts as a minister in New Zealand. This didn’t bother you?

We would encourage any member of the public
that is concerned to review their response to these allegations on their website at

Many of the issues facing these young women are not easily fixed. While the vast majority of young women succeed in the program, there are those few for which this program is not the answer. Clearly they have the right to give their views.

We believe this however should not outweigh the positive impact Mercy
Ministries has had on the lives of many young women.

Where is the measurement of the “positive impact”? Have qualified professionals in the field of psychiatric care had a chance to review the treatment these young women have received?

By removing our sponsorship without due diligence, we would be removing our support for the many young women dealing with eating disorders, unplanned pregnancies, abuse and other life controlling issues that are in desperate need for help to turn their lives around.

We have no relationship with the Hillsong Church.

As started above, the founders of Gloria Jean’s, Peter Irvine and Nabi Saleh, are both board members of GJC (Saleh is the Chairman) as well as members of the Hillsong Church. So I don’t think you can credibly say you have “no relationship”.

Gloria Jean’s Coffees is an Australian-owned private company and there are no financial or legal ties between Gloria Jean’s Coffees and Hillsong Church. This remains unchanged.

While this may be true, the founders and current board members of GJC *do* have financial ties with Hillsong Church.

The religious affiliation of our management, staff, Franchise Partners, charity partners has absolutely no relevance to how we operate our company. Our responsibility is to our Franchise Partners, our guests and the quality of our coffee.

And yet here you are, getting loads of negative press, because of the relationship your company has with a fundamentalist cult, which also happens to be the church that your Executive Chairman and his company co-founder belong to, and a charity the church is associated with. I’d say it is pretty relevant to how you operate your business right now.

Alexandra Deakin
Global Marketing Manager – Gloria Jean’s Coffees

While I appreciate that fact that you took the time to respond to the post Alexandra, I think the media release isn’t a very good attempt at trying to dampen down what is a very real issue for many of our readers and listeners. If you’d be interested in coming onto the show for discuss this is more detail, you’d be most welcome.

16 thoughts on “Gloria Jean’s Coffee reponds to allegations of abuse

  1. Hi Cam,

    I have to admit that in a role with a previous small family business I arranged sponsorship of Mercy Ministries without realising the affiliation. The sponsorship occurred because we saw the chance to benefit the women involved and did not look very deep into Mercy’s affiliations.

    For us it was a chance to give back to the community for what appeared to be a very legitimate charity organisation.

    Next time I see you I’m sure we will have a fun chat about it

  2. Yeh, and if you had listened to the Radio Lab pod cast recently recommended by Cam, you would have also learnt two interesting items resulting from research into lying.

    1. People are quite able to ‘honestly’ hold two simultaneous contradictory thoughts (‘streams of consciousness’). One which they consciously (want to) believe to be true, and another they subconsciously know to be false.

    2. People who habitually lie are happier people, possibly because they don’t need to worry overly much about the accuracy of their statements.

  3. Lindsey, that second point is interesting, isn’t it? People who can lie to themselves and others are happier. I think that explains the appeal of most traditional religions. They give people license to lie to themselves. Atheists, on the other hand, try to face the truth.

  4. Anon, whomever you might be, I applaud any business that is willing to donate to charity and helping young women under duress is certainly a good place to put your dollars. Mercy is a bit of a worry though. My big issue with all of this though, isn’t so much Mercy Ministries themselves, it’s the involvement of a large corporation like GJC backing Mercy but then saying they have no religious affiliations, when their Chairman is a senior member of the Hillsong Church. They are trying to spin the truth. If they came out and said “Hey, yeah, we believe in this bronze age mumbo jumbo and we’ll put our charity dollars anywhere we damn like” I’d have a lot more respect for them. I still wouldn’t buy their coffee, but I would at least think they were being up-front.

  5. Nice one Cam – loved the crack about Bronze Age rituals. I normally avoid GJ coz their coffee plain sucks and drinking it (or Harbucks) in Melbourne is tantamount to grabbing a maccies croissant in Paris but yesterday I actually got kinda mad when I passed one of their musty looking chain stores in Malvern and was reminded of those cool ‘christianity is stupid – give up’ t-shirts that Negativland ( sell on their website. Am bummed they’re out of stock – I wonder if they’d serve me coffee if I was wearing one. Hopefully not.

  6. Alexandra Deakin your words do not match what I have heard.

    I have spoken to a franchise owner and know that the Mercy Ministries issue has been of great concern for a while now. You and the other management have just refused to listen to the people who buy into your franchises.

    Your current position is very foolish, and not one I would expect from a professional truly concerned about Gloria Jeans PR. I suspect you are quite influenced by fundamentalist ideology and are hence refuse to listen to the people that run your business. Quite arrogant really.

    This should be a clear warning to anyone considering taking out a Gloria Jeans franchise! Your word and livelihood means nothing to these extremists.

  7. As an ex-franchisee (yes, if you will pardon the pun I “saw the light” and got out) it disturbed me that we were given Targets for our “voluntary contributions”. In fact, we were required to audit the donations from our Mercy “box” on the counter and explain why were not at our required target every month. Everything this franchise stood for was, in one word, MONEY; and they would do anything in an effort to make more. It’s easy to feel Christian when you can screw your franchisees over 6 days a week and then go to Hillsong on Sunday and get absolution. This franchise is the single most evil facade masquerading as a Christian “feel good” company we ever encountered. Stay away.

  8. “You obviously knew of their relationship in Australia with Hillsong and that Hillsong were an extreme sect of Christian fundamentalists whose founder Brian Houston’s father, Frank Houston, had engaged in homosexual and paedophilic acts as a minister in New Zealand. This didn’t bother you?”

    Er … look, I agree most if not all of your other criticisms of Gloria Jean’s – and Hillsong . But, here you seem to be saying that anyone who has had the bad luck to have a paedophilic father are themselves tainted without any chance being their own person and doing good in their own right. We shouldn’t have any dealings with anyone who is in that unfortunate situation. It’s automatic, a given. And is there anything wrong with homosexuality ? Let me know.

    Gloria Jean’s are worth criticising. But take care you don’t lose your objectivity over it. Don’t lose the moral high ground with loose talk.

    OK, maybe this is pedantic – assuming you’re not as intolerant as a cursory reading of your commentary would make you appear – but it riled me up enough to comment.

    John August.

  9. John, good point, in re-reading my comments it isn’t relevant at all. Thanks for picking me up on it. I was referring to Brian Houston as a founding elder of Hillsong and certainly not suggesting that his sins are a reflection of the son. But yeah, thanks for making the point. You’re totally correct.

  10. dude, if you want to donate church then buy GJ coffee. if you’re against it then DON’T BUY IT!! you’re no better than those religious fanatics..pushing other person to accept your opinion

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.