Archbishop of Canterbury withdraws Mike Pilavachi award

Mike Pilavachi founded Soul Survivor in 1993 and resigned after safeguarding allegations came to light in 2023.Soul Survivor/Facebook

The Archbishop of Canterbury has withdrawn an award given to Soul Survivor founder Mike Pilavachi after an investigation upheld safeguarding concerns.

Pilavachi received the Archbishop's Lambeth Award in 2020 in recognition of his "outstanding contribution to evangelism and discipleship amongst young people in the United Kingdom".

The Soul Survivor movement was founded by Pilavachi in 1993 and reached thousands of young people each year with its summer music festivals. 

Giving the award four years ago, Archbishop Justin Welby said Pilavachi had "shaped a spirituality and discipleship for generations of young people in which the primacy of worship, evangelism, provision for the poor, ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit and a love for scripture are non-negotiable".

"This award for evangelism recognises that, above all, Soul Survivor has been the place where tens of thousands of young people have found faith. What is more, Mike has exercised this ministry with exemplary humility, humour and self-sacrifice."

In April last year, a number of men came forward in a Telegraph investigation to allege inappropriate behaviour by Pilavachi, including lengthy wrestling matches, massages in underwear, controlling behavior, and spiritual abuse. 

Pilavachi stepped back from ministry while a safeguarding investigation was carried out into the allegations. He later resigned after the Church of England's National Safeguarding Team concluded that the claims were substantiated. 

Earlier this year, worship leader Matt Redman, who co-founded Soul Survivor with Pilavachi, spoke out about his experience under Pilavachi and said he had been "subjected to significant emotional, spiritual and physical abuse in a situation that I didn't know how to get out of".

"I've spent years trying to heal from that time. I've forgiven Mike, but I still feel the impact today," he said.

Commenting on the withdrawal of Pilavachi's award, the Archbishop of Canterbury's office said in a statement, "Following the conclusion of the internal Church investigation into Mike Pilavachi which substantiated safeguarding concerns against him and the powerful testimony from survivors, the decision has been made to withdraw Mike Pilavachi's Lambeth Award. The Archbishop of Canterbury has written to inform him of the decision." 

The announcement follows a petition launched in April on that had called for his award to be revoked.