New Wine 'deeply troubled' by Mike Pilavachi developments

Mike Pilavachi (left) and Andy Croft (right).(Photo: Soul Survivor)

New Wine has issued a statement after the Church of England investigation into Soul Survivor founder Mike Pilavachi concluded that safeguarding allegations are "substantiated"

The evangelical network, where Pilavachi served as a youth leader from 1989 until 1993, when he founded Soul Survivor, said it was "deeply troubled and disheartened" by recent developments. 

"We want to express our sadness and empathy with the pain so many are feeling and recognise and commend the courage of the victims, those who have bravely shared their stories, and those seeking to make the church safer for all," it said. 

There have been some angry responses on social media, with some users questioning the statement and suggesting that it does not go far enough in addressing Pilavachi's links with the network. 

Earlier this week, Premier Christian News reported that a letter has been sent to people who contributed to the Church of England's investigation into Pilavachi.

According to the news website, the letter said that Soul Survivor senior pastor Andy Croft had "failed to act" when made aware of safeguarding concerns relating to Pilavachi on three separate occasions, and that allegations concerning Croft directly were "found to be substantiated". 

Croft said in a statement to Premier: "I am very sorry that my actions have contributed in any way to the pain others are experiencing.

"The last seven months have been extremely difficult for all those involved as they have come to terms with the damage caused by Mike Pilavachi's abuse over many years and I want to pay my own tribute to the courage of those who have come forward. I also have to acknowledge that I have been deeply affected personally by Mike's behaviour.

"I cannot comment further at this point because of ongoing processes but will at some point, I hope, be able to make a much fuller statement."

Pilavachi has been accused of creating a "toxic" atmosphere and engaging in full body oil massages and lengthy wrestling matches with young men.

The Church of England investigation 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".

He resigned in July during the investigation, saying at the time, "I have taken this step because the Church needs to heal and I have realised that my continued presence will hinder that process.

"I seek forgiveness from any whom I have hurt during the course of my ministry. I have, on advice, made no comment on the allegations and will not make any further public comment as I do not believe it would be good for anyone if I took part in a trial by media or social media."

He added: "I pray for God's blessing on the Church it has been a privilege and joy to serve these past 30 years."