Mike Pilavachi safeguarding concerns are 'substantiated'

Mike Pilavachi founded Soul Survivor Watford.(Photo: Soul Survivor)

The investigation into Mike Pilavachi has concluded and found that the safeguarding claims into the Soul Survivor founder are substantiated.

The concerns relate to an abuse of power in his ministry and spiritual abuse. 

"It was concluded that he used his spiritual authority to control people and that his coercive and controlling behaviour led to inappropriate relationships, the physical wrestling of youths and massaging of young male interns," the Church of England said. 

The investigation was conducted by the Church of England's National Safeguarding Team (NST) and the Diocese of St Albans.

The claims against Pilavachi span 40 years from his time as a youth leader through to the present day. 

The NST is still investigating a safeguarding concern that relates to the time after his ordination in 2012.

The Bishop of St Albans, Alan Smith, said: "This has been a painful process for everyone involved, going back over years.

"I am sorry on behalf of the Church for the hurt caused and would like to acknowledge the courage of those who came forward to share their lived experience.

"I am aware there will be further contact with individuals about a more personalised response."

Soul Survivor has apologised in light of the findings.

"We are grateful to all those who have contributed to this process, who by coming forward have brought Mike's abusive behaviour into the light," it said.

"We are deeply sorry to all those people who have been victims of spiritual, emotional and psychological abuse, physical wrestling and massage under Mike's leadership. There has been a systematic pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour.

"We are saddened that these behaviours happened in a context that should have provided safety and spiritual support. We are committed to learning lessons from what has happened and to put in place further practices and procedures that will seek to ensure this kind of behaviour does not happen in the future."

Soul Survivor Watford has launched a separate independent review into Pilavachi and will publish its findings in due course. 

Soul Survivor Senior Pastor Revd Andy Croft remains suspended under HR processes while the Church of England process runs its course.

The suspension of Assistant Pastor Ali Martin is being lifted after the NST investigation concluded that safeguarding concerns about her were unsubstantiated.

Counselling is being made available to people affected by the investigation. 

Anyone with concerns relating to the investigation can contact safeguarding@stalbans.anglican.org or safeguarding@churchofengland.org or call the Safe Spaces helpline on 0300 303 1056.