A Church of England safeguarding investigation into a Watford reverend has uncovered evidence of spiritual, emotional, and psychological abuse.
Reverend Mike Pilavachi MBE founded the Watford-based Christian charity Soul Survivor in 1993, with its youth festivals drawing crowds of up to 30,000 people.
A series of concerning allegations led to an investigation being launched into Rev Pilavachi in April of this year. He was suspended from Soul Survivor and officially stepped away from the church in July.
On September 6, details of the Church of England inquiry, which examined Pilavachis’s conduct both before and after he was ordained in 2012, and spanning 40 years from his time as a youth leader in Chorleywood through to current day, were finally shared with the public.
The investigation found 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 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.”
A spokesperson for Soul Survivor said: “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. 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.
“We are aware of the hurt many individuals have and continue to experience as a result of Mike’s abuse and are truly sorry for the part Soul Survivor has played.”
Soul Survivor senior pastor Reverend Andy Croft remains suspended under HR processes while the Church of England process runs its course, whilst allegations against assistant pastor Ali Martin have not been substantiated. Ali’s suspension will therefore be lifted, and she will be reintegrating back into her role over the coming weeks.